In a 400 page document (that is the typical size of a budget) there are always small details to note after the big issues are covered. Here are three small but important details…
The House budget released yesterday met only one of our 3 goals for this session. What they got right was fully funding SEBB implementation by adding $20 million for the HCA (Health Care Authority). This is critical to getting the SEBB airplane off the runway in time for its January 1, 2020, start date. The good news is that the House, Senate, and Governor Inslee have all released budgets supporting full funding of SEBB implementation.
I fully expected the House to follow the Senate’s lead by meeting demands of the Washington State Supreme Court to move classified employee salary allocation increases forward one year (effective September 1, 2018). Instead, the House ignored the Court and left in place the salary allocation increases over the next two years rather than the one year required by the Supreme Court.
One additional PSE measure they missed out on was funding for development of special education and TBIP (Transitional Bilingual Instruction Program) training modules for paraeducators. Fortunately for us, the issue is not dead because the Senate included it in their budget.
A confusing aspect of their budget was their proposal to add a .5 FTE family involvement coordinator to every elementary school at a cost of $28 million (interesting to note that this is scheduled to increase to 1 FTE in the 2020-21 school year). This position is a classified employee position but the budget puts them in the certificated employee funding allocation. This distinction becomes more important when you take into account another bill, HB 1618, which requires that this funding must be used to hire family involvement coordinators (in other words it can’t be used for any other purpose).
Looking closer at the Senate budget proposal, I found a couple of small items worth noting. First, they proposed raising insurance funding starting September 1, 2018, by $5.18 per month from $840 to $845.18. As a result of this change the retiree carve out will increase ninety cents from $68.67 to $69. 57. Finally, the September 1, 2018, minimum salary increase will be 2.3% (as a reminder, the maximum increase is still under debate).
Senate Ways and Means chair, Senator Christine Rolfes, just introduced her supplemental operating budget, SB 6032. In it she funded the one year earlier salary increase for K 12 as required by the Washington State Supreme Court, development of paraeducator training modules, and, fully funds the continued implementation of SEBB (School Employee Benefit Board).
As explained in an earlier entry, the Senate funds a significant increase in salary allocation (average 36.5% increase) to each school district for classified employees starting September 1, 2018. As explained in that entry, we are also limited in how much of that salary allocation increase we have access to in our 2018 negotiations.
On another subject, we asked for $500,000 for development of special education and ELL (English language learners) training modules but we got $250,000. This is a good start but we may need to come back next year for an enhancement to finish the job.
Finally, the Senate added an additional $20 million to the $8 million previously provided to the Health Care Authority (HCA) to implement SEBB.
The Senate agreed with the Supreme Court’s demand that the legislature move funding for K 12 salaries one year earlier by approving SB 6362 last night. It now heads to the House after receiving a narrow 25-22 vote.
Since salary and salary increases is one of the most important issues to any classified employee, please note that my description below about the impact of 6362 is not final and may undergo changes when it is considered by the House. Here is what the impact of 6362 would have on salaries:
…the salary allocation to school districts would rise to $46,912 starting September 1, 2018. Since the current salary allocation for nearly all school districts is $34,180, this would amount to a 37.2% increase in State funding for salaries. Before you get too excited about that, please note that the legislature has also limited what we can negotiate for salary increases next year.
The minimum salary increase will be based upon the consumer price index (the current estimate is 2.4%) as it has been for the last several years. The maximum will depend upon each school district’s average total classified staff salary, step increases and staffing increases. We will be able to negotiate:
… Annual experience and education salary step increases according to the salary schedule specified in the agreement.
…Salary changes for staffing increases due to enrollment growth.
…The average total classified staff salary for the district may be increased up to the state salary allocation for the district (including the regionalization factor).
This complicated formula is only for the 2018-19 school year. Though this is going to be very difficult to calculate, it will be worth the time and effort if it gives us the ability to negotiate a higher salary increase for classified employees we represent.
Lynda Ford, Cheney School District paraeducator, is a PSE intern this week and is following a subject of interest to her. Here’s her report:
E2SSB6162 is a Senate bill that came to the Senate floor on Wednesday. This bill defines Dyslexia as a disability and now allows school districts to screen for Dyslexia and requires them to provide interventions and support for these students. This bill also directs OSPI to determine which screening tools are to be used. I am very excited about the unanimous passage of this bill. As para educators we all know and work with children with learning disabilities. I am hopeful this will give us more tools to help our children. Although E2SSB6162 has passed the Senate it now has to go to the House. Hopefully, it will be brought to the floor next week and voted on. I will definitely be following it closely and I hope you will too.
Earlier today, in a nearly unanimous 46-1 vote the Senate sent to the House SB 6388. Senator Mullet, bill sponsor and staunch PSE supporter, has been a strong advocate for paraeducators as we worked together to improve upon the paraeducator bill approved last year. 6388 gives paraeducators one additional year to meet minimum qualification standards, gives school districts an additional year to train paraeducators (if the 4 day course is funded next year), and refines the pathways to teacher certification if the paraeducator wants to become a teacher.
We continue to work with Senator Mullet and Senate Ways and Means Committee chair, Senator Rolfes, on a budget proviso to provide $500,000 for the development of special education and TBIP (Transitional Bilingual Instruction Program) training modules. Here is the proviso we are working on:
The sum of five hundred thousand dollars, or as much thereof as may be necessary, is appropriated for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2019, from the general fund to the state of Washington professional educator standards board to provide overall oversight and procure or develop professional development for specialty certificates and align courses with general certificate professional development, including any necessary changes or edits to general certificate online modules.
The House strongly voted to support a study of the use of paraeducators in the TBIP (Transitional Bilingual Instruction Program). HB 2590, sponsored by Representative Lillian Ortiz-Self, requires schools to report how many teacher vacancies there are, how many paraeducators are filling in for teachers, and the training of paraeducators by school districts. Further, there is additional reporting from community and technical colleges what they are doing to train TBIP paraeducators.
PSE supports the legislation in the hopes it will shine a light on the need for the State and school districts to better support the instructional role paraeducators play with students who need additional help to succeed in school.
Both the House and Senate Education committees approved their respective Paraeducator bill this week: 2698 in the House, 6388 in the Senate. Differences between the bills are small but important. Education committee members in the House changed the agency responsible for developing the special education and TBIP (Transitional Bilingual Instruction Program) training modules from the PESB (Professional Educator Standards Board) to OSPI (Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction). PSE supports the PESB but doesn’t believe it important enough to derail the bill.
Senate committee members changed the bill by eliminating state funds to develop the training modules. Senator Christine Rolfes, chair of the Senate Ways and Means committee, wanted this change but promised that she would be adding it back into the upcoming state budget proposal.
Next up for the bills: 2698 goes to the Appropriations committee, 6388 to the Ways and Means committee.
Representative Lillian Ortiz-Self has visited many schools over the last year with an eye on the employees providing instruction in the Transitional Bilingual Instruction Program (TBIP). What she found worried her so she introduced HB 2590.
So what worried her? The heavy reliance on paraeducators providing language instruction. As a result, she proposed, among other things, to limit the use of paraeducators. Her bill also requires TBIP paraeducators to get their specialty certificate before they can instruct students.
I testified that students in this program deserve highly qualified educators, and by that I meant paraeducators as well as teachers. I asked them to consider paraeducators similar to paralegals, paramedics, etc. Employees who are trained and supported so they can deliver high quality services to students.
I also reminded them that 63% of the hours of instruction, 1.5 million hours, to students in the TBIP program are delivered by paraeducators. Instead of limiting them, they should focus on supporting them.
Finally, I reminded them that this same issue is occurring in special education: 62% of instruction which equals 15 million hours of instruction by paraeducators.
Representative Ortiz-self has found a legitimate problem, now we need her to work with us to find a legitimate solution.