Convention 2019 Countdown
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.
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.
Each year PSE pays all expenses, including release time, for PSE members who want to come to Olympia to experience the legislative process. This real life learning opportunity gives members an opportunity to see how important legislative decisions are to their work life and personal life. It’s a tremendous investment in our members personal growth that also has the potential to encourage their continued involvement in PSE political activities.
With the near completion of the 2019 legislative session, it’s a good time to recognize the many legislative interns who helped me out while they were in Olympia this year. Whether it was handing out materials, meeting with their legislators, testifying during hearings, attending hearings that went on forever, or participating in strategy meetings, they were a welcome addition to the PSE lobbying team!
Thank you interns for your interest and participation:
Heather Bartomeu – Wenatchee School District paraeducator
Heather Christianson – Western Washington University office of registrar employee
Jose Eduardo Mares Dominguez – Othello School District paraeducator
Tammy Oommen – Mount Vernon School District paraeducator
Cheryl Pirozok – Central Valley School District paraeducator
Rebekah Posey – Othello School District paraeducator
Jessica Rose – Cheney School District child nutrition employee
Jennifer Saladis – Auburn School District paraeducator