2019 Legislative Session

Budget passes and session ends

As normal, once the Operating Budget was approved, the legislature concluded the session.  Though a fix to school levies was also necessary to get out, the $52.4 billion operating budget is the final step.  With the exception of paraeducator training only coming in at two days rather than the four we wanted, it was a tremendous session for PSE members.  Here are the most significant gains this legislative session:

  • SEBB (School Employees Benefits Board) agreement fully funded,
  • WWU (Western Washington University) and CWU (Central Washington University) contracts fully funded,
  • PEBB (Public Employees Benefits Board) agreement fully funded,
  • Union membership laws that responded to Janus by updating laws to reflect among other things, new technology,
  • SERS (School Employees Retirement System) / PERS (Public Employees Retirement System) new employee default option changed to Plan 2,
  • Two days of paid paraeducator training.
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Once levy bills pass session can end

In a not so surprising turn of events, legislators had such a difficult time coming up with a last minute fix to school levies, leaders resorted to public threats they were prepared to go to special session.  The last minute threats made the difference.  Soon after they were made, an agreement was reached.  Two bills, one from the Senate – HB 2140, and one from the House – SB 5313, contained the ingredients for a solution. Both bills passed on partisan votes and are now headed to Governor Inslee for his approval.

SB 5313

  • School districts with less than 40,000 students may levy the lesser of $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed value or $2,500 per pupil starting in 2020…currently all school districts are limited to the lesser of $1.50 per $1,000 or $2,500 per student.
  • School districts with more than 40,000 students may levy the lesser of $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed value or $3,000 per pupil starting in 2020.
  • Local effort assistance (LEA) changed…districts with a levy rate less than $1.50 will be provided pro-rated LEA based on their levy rate divided by $1.50.  Districts with a levy rate of $1.50 or greater will receive their maximum LEA that will not be pro-rated.
  • Provides additional local effort assistance to Vancouver and Evergreen school districts.

HB 2140

  • Allows unrepresented ESD (Educational Service District) employees to be exempt from SEBB until December 31, 2023.
  • Each ESD would be funded for one FTE to support career connected learning opportunities.
  • School districts will set up “subfund” for school maintenance.

 

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Other budget details important to classified employees

🙂  SEBB funding: $329 million

🙂  Special education funding increase:  $155 million

🙂  Levy equalization increase: $62 million

🙂  Don’t deduct federal forest revenue from state allocation (affects school districts with federal forest lands within district boundaries):   $26 million

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Final budget funds nearly all PSE priorities

House and Senate budget negotiators just released the final budget.  This budget document may be too dense and confusing so if you want more detail, go here (start with page 177).  Sorry but they have not yet published a good short summary of the budget.  When they do, I will include it…here is a summary.

With only one hiccup, PSE’s priorities were fully funded!

🙂 Central and Western Washington University agreements funded.

🙂 PEBB insurance agreement funded.

🙂 SEBB insurance agreement funded.

🙁 Two days per year of paraeducator training – this is the one shortcoming of the budget.  PSE wanted four days per year.

Other important notes:

….2% salary increase effective 9-1-19

….2.1% salary increase effective 9-1-20

 

 

 

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Working late to make levy changes

After several late night sessions, the Senate completed their debate and voting last night on their levy bill, SB 5313, at 11:00 pm.  That sounds late, right?  Well, the House started their debate on HB 2140 nearly 4 hours later at 2:40 am this morning and finished around 5:00 am.  Though the elements of the bills are similar, and one of them is expected to pass, you can tell it isn’t easy.

SB 5313 passed on a 25-23 vote – doesn’t get much closer than that.  HB 2140 passed on a vote of 54-42.  I expect legislators will iron out their differences over the next 36 hours.

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Increased investment in higher education suddenly appears likely

In the last two days of session, there is renewed enthusiasm to try to significantly improve funding for higher education.  New B&O (Business and Occupation) taxes are the source of nearly $300 million annually funding increases for higher education if, as appears likely, HB 2158 passes.  The bill passed the House late last night on a partisan vote of 52-45.  It now heads to the Senate where it appears to have the democratic support necessary to pass it before tomorrow’s last day of the session.

Though a lion’s share of that funding is for student need grants, there are a variety of other spending plans.  Here’s how the taxes will be spent:

…$162.7 million to close the State Need Grant waitlist by one-third in the first year and then the remaining two thirds in the second year and expand eligibility under the Washington College Grant program;

…$60.8 million for increasing nurse educator salaries and high-demand program faculty salaries at the community and technical colleges;

…$32.1 million for implementing Guided Pathways at the community and technical colleges;

…$17.1 million for new degrees and expanded enrollments in high-demand programs;

…$62.3 million for foundational support in community and technical colleges and public baccalaureates;

…$14.4 million for WSU medical school completion and expansion;

…$11.5 million for career connected learning initiatives;

…$2.3 million for student support services; and

…$2.0 million for the student loan refinancing program.

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Default pension plan going to Governor

One more step left on the bill to put new employees who don’t make a pension decision when they are hired into Plan 2.  The Senate, on a 36-13 vote, has approved SB 5360 and sent it to Governor Inslee for his signature.

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Bills, Recap, Next Week (maybe nothing)

Recap

With yesterday’s announcement of a budget agreement, a variety of measures are starting to move – most of them being the taxes necessary to pay for the budget.  One in particular that we are paying close attention to, that hasn’t moved much, are the school levy bills: HB 2140 or SB 5153.

Bills

With only three days left in session, we are near the end of bills being introduced.  However, Senator Mullet defied common sense and logic by introducing two bills, SB 6011 and SB 6020 to reduce classified employees insurance benefits.  Here is the near to last K 12 and Higher Education bill reports.

Next week

Hopefully there is no next week.  If there is, that means they didn’t finish on time – Sunday, April 28.

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Paraeducator standards on social, emotional learning skills

Since paraeducators work with many students with social or emotional difficulties while in school, it is great to see the legislature include them in this year’s social emotional learning bill, SB 5082.  This bill will first of all set up a SEL (Social, Emotional Learning) committee.  This committee will among other things adopt standards and benchmarks for social, emotional learning.  Those standards and benchmarks that affect paraeducator (teachers and principals as well) training will be incorporated by the PESB (Professional Educator Standards Board) by January 1, 2020, into paraeducator standards and competencies.  Competencies must include the following:

…. trauma-informed practices,

….adverse childhood experiences,

….mental health literacy,

….antibullying strategies, and

….culturally sustaining practices.

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Budget deal is announced – session expected to end on April 28

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.

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