Convention 2019 Countdown
As normal, once the Operating Budget was approved, the legislature concluded the session. Though a fix to school levies was also necessary to get out, the $52.4 billion operating budget is the final step. With the exception of paraeducator training only coming in at two days rather than the four we wanted, it was a tremendous session for PSE members. Here are the most significant gains this legislative session:
🙂 SEBB funding: $329 million
🙂 Special education funding increase: $155 million
🙂 Levy equalization increase: $62 million
🙂 Don’t deduct federal forest revenue from state allocation (affects school districts with federal forest lands within district boundaries): $26 million
House and Senate budget negotiators just released the final budget. This budget document may be too dense and confusing so if you want more detail, go here (start with page 177). Sorry but they have not yet published a good short summary of the budget. When they do, I will include it…here is a summary.
With only one hiccup, PSE’s priorities were fully funded!
🙂 Central and Western Washington University agreements funded.
🙂 PEBB insurance agreement funded.
🙂 SEBB insurance agreement funded.
🙁 Two days per year of paraeducator training – this is the one shortcoming of the budget. PSE wanted four days per year.
Other important notes:
….2% salary increase effective 9-1-19
….2.1% salary increase effective 9-1-20
Since paraeducators work with many students with social or emotional difficulties while in school, it is great to see the legislature include them in this year’s social emotional learning bill, SB 5082. This bill will first of all set up a SEL (Social, Emotional Learning) committee. This committee will among other things adopt standards and benchmarks for social, emotional learning. Those standards and benchmarks that affect paraeducator (teachers and principals as well) training will be incorporated by the PESB (Professional Educator Standards Board) by January 1, 2020, into paraeducator standards and competencies. Competencies must include the following:
…. trauma-informed practices,
….adverse childhood experiences,
….mental health literacy,
….antibullying strategies, and
….culturally sustaining practices.
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
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.
A small technical amendments bill, HB 1658, that describes how paraeducator training will be conducted, e.g., in person training for at least one day., passed unanimously after an amendment by Senator Keiser (Burien). Keiser’s amendment made it easier for paraeducators who want to become teachers to qualify for a conditional scholarship.
Next up is negotiations between House and Senate on differences between the bills they passed. I expect they will reach agreement without much problem.
With the release, amendment, and final debates on Thursday, the Senate budget has been approved. With the approval, House and Senate budget negotiators go behind closed doors to iron out the differences between the budgets. Attempts to undermine SEBB failed (what a relief) – as a result SEBB was fully funded, PSE higher education contracts at Western and Central Washington Universities were funded, the PEBB coalition agreement on insurance funding for calendar years 2020 and 2021 were funded, and four days per year of paraeducator training were funded. Now we have to encourage Senate negotiators to hold their position in final negotiations.
Monday and Tuesday are the last committee hearings of the session (the only additional hearings will be when bills to implement the budget are heard at the end of session). Starting on Wednesday, legislators will spend the remaining days of the session on the floor voting on the bills that are still alive.
What a great sight to see…the just released Senate budget meets all of PSE’s priorities. Whether it is fully funding our WWU (Western Washington University) and CWU (Central Washington University) contracts, the PEBB (Public Employees Benefits Board) coalition insurance agreement, the SEBB (School Employees Benefits Board) coalition insurance agreement, and, fully funding four days of paraeducator training, this budget was as good as it gets.
Two other features of the budget important to PSE were:
…increasing special education funding by $156 million;
…funding a 2% and 2.1% increase over the next two years.
If you are a glutton for even more details about the budgets, go here.
Jose Mares, Othello special education paraeducator, with only a couple hours to prepare, did a great job representing PSE and all paraeducators at last night’s House Appropriations Committee hearing. He did such a good job I am providing you his testimony in writing and as he gave it. Thanks Jose for stepping up!
Here’s his reaction and testimony:
Does increasing your word count really make you sound more convincing? Sometimes, but not typically. Finding the right words to articulate your opinions is a lot more important than trying to fill empty silences. But being concise and still managing to hit all your marks can prove to be an uphill struggle. Even more so when you have to testify before a committee of elected officials. I find myself reading and rewriting everything, to refine my words. I aim to leave only the vital pieces of information that are necessary to convey my point of view. Everything else is excess, unnecessary and can be cut out. Yesterday I had the honor of speaking before the House Appropriations committee to share my thoughts on funding 4 days of training every year for Paraeducators in the state of washington. Iencourage everyone in Washington and in our communities to share their own stories. Your testimony has the power to support legislation impacting the lives of Washingtonians directly. Below is my testimony:
“Hello Mr. Chair and Members of the committee, my name is Jose Eduardo Mares Dominguez. I am a Special Education Paraeducator from Othello, WA. I was excited to see that Washington was putting forward legislation to get 4 days of training each year for paraeducators in our state. I am disappointed to see that this is no longer the case because I feel that training is something that our Paraeducators need. In a district where we have a population where 89% of students are hispanic latino, 41% are english language learners, and 14% have some form of learning or cognitive disability, extra hands in the classroom are necessary to adequately engage students and provide them with the support necessary to succeed. Certified teachers are already struggling to engage every student. Without proper training Paraeducators, struggle to help carry that burden. They have not been trained on how to handle difficult situations when dealing with students who have disabilities like Autism or Down’s syndrome. People are being hurt all the time and it is because they lack the training to deal with difficult situations. When I started working as a Paraeducator, there was a lot that I was left to figure out on my own. Providing 4 days of training a year for our Paraeducators will allow them to be better instructors in the classroom and will help our students succeed in areas where they, otherwise, would fall through the cracks. Thank You.”