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.
In a strong bi-partisan vote, the Senate approved a comprehensive paraeducator development program. SB 5070 passed on a 37-12 vote and will require standards, professional development, a career ladder, an easier path to teacher certification, and, training for teachers who supervise paraeducators.
What’s next? It goes to the House for consideration. And not to confuse you too much but the Senate will now consider the watered down House version – HB 1115. We are encouraging the Senate to amend 1115 to look like 5070; and in the House we are encouraging them to approve 5070 without amendments.
You’re at the big game. Your team is looking solid. Barring any mistakes they stand a good chance of pulling it off. All of a sudden you see the other team set up a play that sets your team back on its heels, the momentum shifts and BAM! it’s over.
That is a bit how today felt. Doug, Ehren, and I spent our entire day meeting with legislators, keeping the interest of PSE members at the forefront of their minds and working to make sure Paraeducators get the training and recognition they deserve. We had received word that the Senate’s version of the paraeducator bill (SB5070) would be coming up for a vote. Doug and I settled into the gallery to watch how the vote unfolded when there was a ruckus on the floor, adjournment was called, and BAM! they were done for the day. Talk about whiplash.
Wednesday is the cutoff for bills to make it through to the next step. Missing the cutoff is not necessarily a death sentence for a bill but it does put it on very tenuous footing. Given that the prime sponsor is Republican Senator Ann Rivers, and the Republicans control the Senate, there is still a good chance there will be a vote on this bill. We will be watching very closely over the next couple of days.
In a vote of 93-5, the House approved HB 1115, PSE’s paraeducator bill. Before doing so, they added another amendment to give districts more flexibility when they will provide the required training to paraeducators. Paraeducators hired on or before September 1 must be trained by September 30. For paraeducators hired after September 1 in a district that has more than 10,000 students, the district must train the paraeducator within 4 months. School districts with fewer than 10,000 students would have until the next September 1 to train paraeducators hired after September 1.
The bill now heads to the Senate for it’s consideration.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.