House and Senate budget negotiators just announced they reached an agreement. Their agreement will be released on Saturday with an expectation they will finish on time on Sunday! It’s going to be a busy weekend. Here’s their press release:
Rolfes, Ormsby announce tentative deal on 2019-21 operating budget
OLYMPIA — Sen. Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island), chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee, and Rep. Timm Ormsby (D-Spokane), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, released the following joint statement announcing a tentative agreement on the 2019-21 Operating Budget:
“We have reached a tentative budget agreement between the two chambers and look forward to finishing our work on a final budget by the end of the legislative session on Sunday. We will continue to work with our fiscal teams in the Legislature to complete final details on a responsible budget that puts people first and meets the pressing needs of our state.”
Once details are finalized, Senate and House budget leaders anticipate releasing the final budget on Saturday.
When a budget agreement is announced we are a day or two away from the end of session. So the next question is, when will they reach agreement? Though there are “signs” that progress is being made, none of those signs definitely point to finishing session by April 28.
Senator Mullet is continuing his efforts to weaken SEBB but now he is focusing on reducing benefits for part-time classified employees. With his recent bill, SB 6020, he gives up on trying to merge SEBB and PEBB, but he continues his attack on classified employees who work between 630 to 1,040 hours per year. First, he takes them out of SEBB, and second, he proposes to reduce their insurance funding below what they currently receive.
Yesterday, he joined with the Washington School Administrators Association (WASA), WSSDA (Washington State School Directors Association), Washington Association of School Business Officials (WASBO), and others, on a conference call with the Association of Washington Business (AWB) to explain why they should join him in supporting his recent bill. In the call, he even acknowledged that it would decrease some employee’s insurance benefits.
Here’s the disturbing lobbying message these same organizations sent to legislators (notice the focus on reducing benefits of classified employees):
April 24, 2019
Honorable Members of the Washington State Legislature, Thank you for the time and consideration you devoted to education funding and policy issues this legislative session. We know that finding solutions which work for all 295 school districts is difficult.
Regarding school employee healthcare benefits, we hope that any solution will maintain the established intention of the original SEBB statute. As you work toward assuring consistent, sustainable, and affordable healthcare for all school employees, we respectfully request your support of the policy objectives outlined in SB 6020:
Eligibility Threshold: Please support a threshold to qualify for full health benefits at 1,040 hours worked. The current threshold of 630 hours (3.5 hours per day for 180 workdays) to qualify for full health benefits is not affordable or sustainable for school districts without an increasing reliance on local levy funds. School districts routinely employ numerous part-time positions in order to meet a variety of needs such as transportation, nutrition services, and student supervision. If a goal of the legislation is equity in the provision of health benefits to all school employees, we believe SB 6020’s provision of pro-rated benefits between 630 and 1,040 hours provides such equity.
Adopt the SEBB Collective Bargaining Agreement with these changes contained in SB 6020:
For 2020, we also request that the Legislature allocate short-term funding to school districts to provide a pro-rated benefit to employees working between 630 and 1,040 hours while the HCA makes necessary system changes and procures affordable plans for employees receiving a pro-rated benefit.
Adopt a Solution for Educational Service Districts: The SEBB imposes a disproportionate unfunded mandate on ESDs. Washington’s nine ESDs are not funded for employee health benefits by staff units like school districts. They receive a very small portion of State core funding, have no access to local levy funds, and have limited options to fund all employees’ movement to the SEBB. SB 6020 would delay implementation of the SEBB for non-represented ESD employees and permit those ESDs currently providing health benefits through the Public Employees Benefits Board to continue doing so while a more careful study of ESD healthcare benefits and funding options is completed. This delay will sustain many ESD services school districts rely on like School Nurse Corp and early learning programs.
Thank you for your consideration and support of the policy goals of SB 6020. Sincerely,
AESD Network/ESD 113
With unanimous votes in the House and Senate, HB 1658 heads to Governor Inslee for his signature. This technical amendment bill became more helpful by requiring the paraeducator board to provide the legislature by December 2019 their recommendations on “reducing barriers to school districts and educational service districts using paraeducators on limited teaching certificates in teacher roles or to supporting paraeducators to become fully certificated teachers.”
Other changes were:
Modifies timelines for the paraeducator fundamental course of study and requires that at least one day of the course be provided in person.
Encourages school districts to provide at least one day of general paraeducator certificate courses on standards of practice as a professional learning day.
Requires candidates for the Pipeline for Paraeducators Conditional Scholarship to have at least one year of classroom experience and to complete their associate of arts degree in no more than four years
Legislators have passed a school safety measure that takes several approaches to improve school safety. HB 1216 has strong bipartisan support and should be on Governor Inslee’s desk soon after the House votes on a Senate amendment. Though none of the measures are likely to make significant impact, they address some structural changes that may improve safety in the future. Here’s what it does:
….Requires school districts to establish school-based threat assessment programs.
….Adds safe school plan and safety drill requirements.
….Tasks the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee with completing a study on the first responder building mapping information system.
….Requires school districts that choose to have a school resource officer (SRO) program to adopt an agreement with local law enforcement and confirm that a SRO has received training on specific topics.
The following may/may not occur if there isn’t money in the budget to do them:
….Establish a statewide network for school safety with a state center, regional centers through the educational service districts, and an advisory committee.
….Direct the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to monitor safety plans and threat assessment programs.
….Create a grant program to fund SRO training and requires the state school safety center to make training materials available.
Currently, only five school districts with student enrollment of less than 500, can waive the 180 day school days law (based upon efficiency reasons). With near unanimous passage of HB 1803, up to ten school districts can waive the 180 day school year. Because this increases the likelihood that a PSE chapter could be in one of these five additional school districts, PSE members should be prepared to make sure they are not adversely affected by any reduction in the 180 day school year.
House and Senate leaders appear to have agreed that SB 5360 will be the favored bill to conclude the debate of putting new employees into Plan 2 not Plan 3 if they can’t or won’t make a decision on which retirement plan is best for them. 5360 passed on a strong 73-22 vote and now heads back to the Senate for approval of minor changes made in the House.
When a potential threat occurs at one school, other schools in the vicinity may not now about the threat so that they cannot pro-actively protect their students. SB 5514 requires agencies with the potential threat information to notify all schools, including private school schools in the vicinity of the threat (as long as it doesn’t reduce their abilities to address the initial threat). The bill sailed through the legislature and will be signed by Governor Inslee in the coming days.
Despite our hopes that transportation contractors would be held responsible for providing their employees affordable insurance, HB 1813 came close but failed to make it past yesterday’s deadline. Oh well, it made good progress this year which may give it more momentum when it is brought up next year.
In their attempts to fill the teacher shortage, the legislature is on the verge of passing HB 1139 (it passed the House 92-2 and the Senate 26-22). Making it easier for paraeducators who want to become teachers is one element of the bill (it’s a 62 page bill covering numerous topics). These conditions are related to giving paraeducators more time to attend college in order to qualify for the conditional scholarship.
A surprising feature of the bill is the return of the retire-rehire option for SERS (School Employees Retirement System) members. This would allow classified employees (not just paraeducators) to retire, collect their retirement, and then be rehired into a non-administrative position they can work in up to 867 hours.