News Blog

Republican levy proposal looks good

One key component of any McCleary solution has to be the State taking responsibility for funding basic education.  Currently, school district’s rely upon their local levies to fund among other things, 5,000 classified employee FTEs that should be funded by the state.  Additionally, levies fund a portion of basic education salaries that should be funded by the State.  With that in mind, it is clear that local levies have to go down (only remaining use would be for “enrichment”) and State funding would have to go up.

As you can see from this document, the Senate levy proposal accomplishes that goal, fully funding all 5,000 FTEs and basic education salaries.  And it goes one step further: it equalizes all school district levy funding across the state.  In other words, no longer is there the property poor / property rich school district issue since all will be treated the same.

While there still are some problems with other features of the Republican’s McCleary solution that we are trying to change, at least they got this one right!

 

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1 minute on Senate Budget

With over 100 people wanting to testify, everyone was limited to 1 minute of testimony  (I think I did it in 45 seconds)…
This is what I said:
We like:
  1. Funding paraeducator bill
  2. Pension contributions including the $700 million from rainy day fund
  3. Funding the union coalition health care agreement
  4. Levy equity proposal
  5. State funding for 5,000 locally funded basic education classified employee FTE staff 
  6. State funding for the portion of basic education classified employee salaries that are locally funded
We urge them to consider or reconsider:
  1. Fully funding the PSE higher education contracts
  2. Seattle CPI as future inflation index starting in September 2018
  3. Funding Insurance Inflation with separate index or better yet…move classified employees into PEBB.
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Senate budget appears

It’s only a couple minutes old but as with any Budget there are positives and negatives.  Unfortunately, there appear to be more negatives than positives.

Regarding state employee and higher education contracts, nearly all, except Teamsters correction contract and Washington State Patrol, were not funded.  Instead higher education employees will be provided a $500 per year salary increase effective July 1, 2017, and July 1, 2018.  On the other hand, the union coalition bargaining agreement on health insurance was fully funded.

On the bleaker K 12 side, the Senate budget repeals the Initiative 732 salary increase instead providing a 2.3% salary increase effective September 1, 2017.  Further, insurance funding would not change staying at $780 per month for the 2017-18 school year.

What’s important to realize is that there isn’t funding for a salary or insurance increase the second year of the budget since this is the year when the Senate republican McCleary solution, SB 5607, takes effect (see my previous entry about the bill).  Sorry to get complicated but starting September 1, 2018, school districts would receive increased state funding based upon the National IPD (implicit price deflator).  The IPD usually runs about 1% below the Seattle CPI (consumer price index) – the current measure for our annual salary increases. The way their proposal works is that when this IPD increase goes into effect in September 2018, we will have to negotiate with the school district how much of this increased funding goes for salary or insurance benefit increases starting September 1, 2018.

One positive with their proposal (looking hard for a silver lining), really not this proposal, but their McCleary solution: the state will be funding the additional 5,000 classified employee FTEs that are currently funded by local levies.

And another good point is that the pension plan was fully funded with an additional $246 million set aside to pay for the unfunded liability.

As I spend more time on this proposal, I will update as needed.

Update #1 – Good news…The Senate fully funded PSE’s paraeducator bill, SB 5070 at a cost of $2.3 million!

Update #2 – Good news…they used $700 million from the “rainy day” fund to buy down the PERS 1 unfunded liability.

 

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House hears comprehensive paraeducator development bill

Yesterday, the House Education committee heard SB 5070, PSE’s paraeducator bill.  After hearing from bill sponsor, Senator Ann Rivers, supporters and opponents continued the debate that has been going on this session (as well as the last two sessions).  Arguments from both haven’t changed.  Supporters like Cassandra Sage from the Washington State PTA and Arzu Forough from the Washington Autism Advocacy Association explained how paraeducators who provide daily instruction needed state standards and training because of the critical role they play helping students succeed, especially students who need additional assistance to succeed in school and life.

Opponents continued to argue of their fears that paraeducators would not be able to pay for training and were likely to be fired.

I responded by saying if anyone would be fired it would be me for setting paraeducators up for failure.  Instead, I explained that if the training was too expensive or took too much time, we would gladly extend the three year timeline just like the legislature is doing with an 18 month extension for deaf and hard of hearing interpreters  in SB 5142, which is passing easily this session.

 

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Inslee signs levy cliff bill

With a crowd of school district supporters observing, Governor Inslee signed the levy cliff bill, SB 5023.  In addition to delaying the levy cliff one year (to calendar year 2019), it adds in “accountability measures” designed to ensure local levies do not fund basic education costs.

Here is the accountability language: “Beginning in calendar year 2018, to ensure M&O levies are not used for basic education programs, school districts must provide a report to OSPI detailing the programs and activities that will be funded through the proposed levy.  OSPI must approve the report before a ballot proposition can be submitted for voter approval.   
Enrichment beyond the state-provided funding in the omnibus appropriations act for basic education programs is a permitted use of M&O levies.”

Now we wait to see if the legislature can come up with a McCleary solution that will permanently take the pressure off local levies to fund basic education.

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House to hear paraeducator bill again

Next Monday, at 1:30, the House Education committee will be hearing SB 5070, PSE’s paraeducator bill.  This gives us another opportunity to convince the House to support the comprehensive paraeducator development program in 5070: mandatory standards, training to meet the standards, a career ladder that includes an advanced paraeducator position, improved pathway for paraeducators who want to become teachers, and training for teachers and principals who supervise paraeducators.

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$740 million found

This morning, the Economic Revenue Forecast Council (ERFC), approved an updated forecast of state revenue.  And it’s all good news because the Washington State economy is performing better than expected.  Since the last forecast 3 months ago, the State is expected to receive an additional $247 million through June 30, 2017, $303 million through June 30, 2019, and $188 million through June 30, 2021.

With that final forecast, the House and Senate budget writers can finish up their work and present their budgets.  The Senate is expected to introduce their budget next Monday, the 20th, and the House the following Monday, the 27th.

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Paraeducator bill needs your voice of support

Whew! What an eye-opening adventure and learning experience my Legislative Internship has been so far. Thankfully, I have Doug’s wisdom and Ehren’s personal connections to guide and lead me to some pretty surprising experiences, one of those being a personal, 1:1, after-hours sit-down with one of our biggest champions, Senator Ann Rivers my first day here.

As Doug blogged last week, the Para Educator Bill (SB5070) passed 37-12 after a bewildering and mind-boggling series of events.  However, this doesn’t mean we’ve hit a homerun yet and there still is lots of hard work to do to counteract very strong opposition by some of our lobbying friends to ensure its passage.

How do we do this you ask? Well, one of my biggest takeaways yesterday was that trust and money + highly involved membership often times far outstrips long and hard work at developing relationships.  However, the little guys can overtake the big guys if they bank on trusting relationships and step up and get their voices heard.

This is where Senator Rivers and meeting with her comes into play. She is our champion, we have a STRONG relationship of TRUST with her and she is fiercely passionate about seeing our Para Educators have the opportunities to develop professionally to best assist our students and teachers. She needs our help NOW to get the message through to our Legislators that this bill is vitally important to us and for our schools and we, PSE, support its passage. We, as PSE members in solidarity, can help her by making our voices heard.  My PSE Brothers and Sisters, I humbly ask that you contact your Legislators NOW by calling (Leg Hotline 800-562-6000)or email them to ask for their support of SB 5070. We may be the “little guy” on the field but if we come together – our voices can be incredibly loud and mighty.

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Levy cliff waiting for Governor Inslee signature

With an uncharacteristic bending of the rules, the House ignored all the steps of the legislative process and approved ESB 5023, the levy cliff bill on a 87-10 vote.  What’s unusual is that the Senate approved the bill last night and 15 hours later the House approved it.  Normally, it takes at least a day to assign the bill to a committee, have a public hearing, vote in committee, etc., which usually takes a couple of weeks.  It shows how important it was to get the issue resolved as quickly as possible.  I expect Governor Inslee to sign the bill within the next couple of days.

I wish they would treat PSE’s paraeducator bill or insurance bill the same way (just dreaming).

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We’re not going over levy cliff

The good news on Wednesday was that, as Doug announced, the paraeducator bill (SB 5070) passed the Senate without amendments. As well, in an odd turn of gamesmanship, the levy cliff bill (ESB 5023) was brought forward by the Republicans; but more on that in a moment.

What was most interesting was watching the battle for status quo play out over the paraeducator bill. What many may not know is that not all education stakeholders are on board with SB 5070. In fact there are two very powerful lobby groups, one education labor union and one state wide labor union, that are working in direct opposition of our efforts and interests. Status quo is about power, those who have the power fight for status quo, those who don’t work for change. I admire those senators who resisted in the fight for status quo and stood up for paraeducators across our state. Doug and I watched this battle play out right in front of us when several senators changed their votes from “Yay” to “Nay” after receiving a sign from the opposition labor unions observing the debate. Fortunately there was strong bipartisan support and the effort was thwarted.

ESB 5023 was an entirely different situation, remember the gamesmanship earlier. In the proverbial eleventh hour the Republicans brought forward the levy cliff bill, a Democrat bill. By all appearances the Democrats were caught off guard by this maneuver. Then it got weird. While all 10 pages of the bill were being read out loud each party left the floor to caucus and were gone for an hour. Doug had warned me that odd things were often done at the last minute but even he had not seen this before. By all appearances this was a move by Republicans to extend an olive branch to Democrats and end the session in a strong bipartisan manner by bringing up the Democrat’s bill. In the end it provided a great PR moment and a necessary bill passed 48-1.

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