News Blog

Robust paraeducator bill heading to Senate floor

The Senate Ways and Means committee just approved SB 5070, PSE’s bill to implement statewide paraeducator standards, professional development and career ladder.  With their action, it looks like the House and Senate will be considering paraeducator bills next week; the House will be considering the weaker version, the Senate the robust version.

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Paraeducators part of school facilities shortage solution

In yesterday’s debate of House democrats McCleary solution bill, HB 1843, Republican Matt Mannweller proposed an amendment to address K 3 class size.  His amendment would allow school districts who receive funds to reduce K 3 class-size may use that funding to hire other “school-based personnel who provide direct services to students” if they don’t have classrooms for teachers.   I was surprised when a democratic speaker said they would support the amendment and one reason why is because it would allow hiring paraeducators when classrooms were not available.  The amendment passed unanimously.

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Paraeducator board approved

Yesterday, the House Appropriations committee approved a watered down version of PSE’s paraeducator  bill, SHB 1115.  At least they kept the paraeducator board in place with responsibilities to among other things, develop “standards of practice”, specialty certificates, and awarding training grants.  The standards and specialty certificates are voluntary so it would be up to us to convince school districts to implement them.  There is a reference to 32 hours of state funded training to help paraeducators meet the “standards of practice” but that will depend upon the state budget. If the state doesn’t fund the training, it is unlikely school districts will provide the training.

1115 now heads for a vote on the House floor.  The companion bill, SB 5070, has yet to move out of the Senate Ways and Means committee.

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Paraeducator bills moving

Both House and Senate fiscal committees are hearing and scheduling the paraeducator bills in their respective committees.  Last Tuesday, the Senate Ways and Means committee heard SB 5070 with only two people testifying; one opposed, one supported.  I presented the pro position, WEA’s chief lobbyist, Lucinda Young provided the opposition testimony.  I was pleased with the continued support of the State PTA, the League of Education Voters, Stand for Children, and the ARC of King County.  Since this committee has already supported this bill the last two legislative sessions, I expect they will vote it out of committee next week.

Next week, the House Appropriations committee is hearing and voting on HB 1115.  However, they will be voting on the amended version that severely weakens the original bill.  Voluntary standards, voluntary training, and little state recognition for the critical instructional role paraeducators play, especially with students who need assistance to succeed in school, continues to be what our opposition prefer.


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Anti-union bills pass labor committee

In an almost cavalier meeting, the Senate Labor committee approved, on party line votes, five anti-union bills late last night.  Committee chair, Senator Mike Baumgartner, didn’t announce the bills in advance which didn’t improve democrats efforts to mount a vigorous defense.  The bills will not make it through the process since none of them are likely to get a hearing in the House.  Here they are for what it’s worth…

SB 5339 – granting religious objectors different charities to contribute to and allows increased ability to declare objection at any time.

SB 5371 – annual union financial reports sent to PERC (Public Employment Relations Commission) so they can be posted on PERC website.

SB 5550 – repeals current subcontracting law in order to make it easier to subcontract state and higher education employees jobs.

SB 5545 – making our collective bargaining negotiation sessions open to the public.

SB 5551 – certification elections every four years.


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Transportation – Efficient but still underfunded?

As the first legislative intern of this session I was sent to sit in on hearings on Monday. One that really caught my attention was Senate Bill 5367. This bill was introduced by my own Senator, Randi Becker.  As a senator in legislative district two she has many schools from rural areas. Yelm, Eatonville and Bethel to just name a few. This bill is asking OSPI to establish a transportation allocation adjustment process to help fully fund student transportation in districts that are operating efficiently.

The districts that testified at this hearing were all either very rural in nature or had a large number of McKinney/Vento students (Federally mandated and totally unfunded). Transporting students to and from school is a part of basic education and is supposed to be fully funded by the state.  Some of the concerns they had with the current funding allocation was it didn’t recognize their efforts to limit how long a student sits on a bus, being efficient when rural roads don’t have cross streets, or that many streets often lead to dead ends and turn arounds. There was no opposition to this bill and if and when it gets voted out of committee it could head to Ways and Means where it’s $8 million per year cost will be considered.

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Another McCleary solution surfaces

Senator Mark Mullet, along with Senators Takko and Hobbs, has sponsored their own solution to the McCleary Supreme Court decision.  SB 5825 is an attempt to be a midpoint between the House and Senate solutions (see earlier entries on HB 1843 and SB 5607).

According to Senator Mullet it would:

1)      Every district would have permanent local levies.

2)      Doubling of LEA (local effort assistance).

3)      Districts can go out for an extra $1,000 per pupil in excess levies but they must submit to OSPI a plan to ensure they are not for basic education.

4)      Per Pupil model that is a hybrid approach that still uses some prototypical school inputs.

5)      Starting teacher salary of $45k

6)      Universal hold harmless clause – nobody can go backwards.

7)      Guarantees $11,500 per pupil between state and local  (we exclude the federal part as we have no control over those dollars)

Though the bill may not get a hearing, it is likely to affect some of the discussions from this point forward.

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House weakens paraeducator development program, … again

The House education committee continued its 3 year tradition of weakening PSE’s paraeducator bill, HB 1115 yesterday.  They amended the bill by replacing all the recommendations of the paraeducator advisory workgroup (that’s what was in PSE’s bill) and replacing it with voluntary standards for paraeducators (other than the Title I current requirements) even in the special education and bilingual programs.  And the training program is dependent upon state funding for paraeducator professional development.  Which means, no state funding, no training.

Disappointed but hopeful that Senate Republicans will be able to help us by passing and sticking with a stronger version of the paraeducator development program.



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Housing allowance for classified employees?

As I mentioned in an earlier entry, Senate Republicans did something unusual that I can’t recall happening before.  Over the years, I have seen numerous teacher housing allowance bills.  When I would ask why they didn’t include classified employees, I would get a variety of responses but normally it was, “after we get it for the teachers, we will try to get it for classified employees”.   Well, right out of the gate, Senate Republicans included us in their housing allowance bill, SB 5534!  The bill would grant employees, certificated and classified employees, full time and part time (a pro-rated portion) a $10,000 housing allowance if the average residential value in the school district is above the statewide average.

Though this may affect only a couple school districts, and not that many classified employees, it is refreshing to see that Senate republicans think about classified employees while drafting a bill rather than an afterthought when I come to complain and it is too late to fix it.

The bill passed the Senate Ways and Means committee on a split vote and is next going to the floor for a full Senate vote.

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McCleary testimony – snowed in

I was unable to testify at last Monday’s House Appropriations committee hearing on HB 1843/SB 5607 because I was snowed in.  Below is what I sent to committee members after the hearing which captures what I would have said on behalf of PSE’s 30,000 classified employees had I been at the hearing:

PSE signed in support of both bills because each of them have positive impacts on classified school employees.

What we like in 1843:

• Increasing the classified employee salary allocation
• Professional development for classified employees

What we would like to see changed in 1843:

• Change the classified employee basic education funding formula so that the state, not local levies, are paying for 5,000 classified employee FTEs (see this chart).
• Change levy system to promote levy equity

What we like in 5607:

• The state will be fully funding classified employee services (5,000 FTE are currently funded by local levies)
• Implementing a comprehensive paraeducator development program
• More flexibility to hire paraeducators as teachers
• Housing allowance includes classified employees
• Implements the 3:1 insurance payment ratio so that employees with families pay $3 for every $1 a single employee pays
• Levy changes that promote levy equity

What we would like to see changed in 5607:

• 3 year implementation of 3:1 insurance ratio so that in the first year it would be 5:1, second year, 4:1, and third year, 3:1.
• Use the Seattle CPI (consumer price index) as the inflation index rather than the National IPD (implicit price deflator).
• Include an insurance inflation factor that reflect premium increases.
• The requirement that school expenses for compensation not go beyond 80% will harm classified employees since teachers will consume whatever capacity school districts have to spend money. Change this so that classified employees are not left out of staffing, salary, or benefit capacity.

Yesterday, the Appropriations committee voted 1843 out of committee on a partisan vote of 18-15.

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