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.
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.
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.
Earlier this week, the House education committee heard HB 1303, a bill that addresses a variety of changes to the law on deaf and hard of hearing paraeducator standards and assessment of abilities. The bill has two parts to it, additional time to reach the standards and assessment of interpreter skills.
PSE supports the additional 12-18 months current interpreters have to meet the standards. On whether or not to add another assessment, the ESSE (Educational Signed Skills Evaluation), to determine interpreters capabilities, PSE supports the PESB (Professional Educator Standards Board) recommendations (since they are the body that made the decision not to include it in the past.)
This issue has been a showdown over the last couple of years between the ASL (American Sign Language) supporters and the SEE (Signing Exact English) supporters. ASL won the original fight in 2013 to ensure that interpreters would have to pass the ASL approved assessment known as the EIPA (Educational Interpreter Performance Assessment). Since that time, the SEE community has been trying to get their assessment (ESSE) to also be approved by the PESB.
Since the hearing is in two parts, here is the first part of the hearing on 1303 (the second part is in the next blog entry):
On a unanimous vote, the Senate education committee passed SB 5070. It will be heard next in the Senate Ways and Means committee (most likely next week). This continues our streak of earning the Senate’s strong support of paraeducators for the last 4 years.
In a touchy debate last night, Senate Republicans passed SB 5607, their McCleary solution, on a 25-24 vote. This close vote was expected and not surprising. What was surprising is how quickly they passed the most sweeping, some would call it “radical”, change to K 12 in decades. As dramatic as the funding changes were, the policy changes were equally dramatic. Policy changes which included prohibiting teacher strikes, clearly describing how to fire poorly performing teachers, or making it easier to hire paraeducators (and others) as teachers (as long as they are supervised by a teacher.) With the passage, they also approved the paraeducator bill, SB 5070.
While there is a great deal of data about the levy proposal and funding elements, it is also safe to say that there is considerable debate about the impacts. That shows you how complicated their solution is. Here’s the tax impact, state budget impact, funding impact by school district, funding by student, taxpayer impact, and another taxpayer impact.
What has to be noted is that the Supreme Court demanded that the State should reduce their reliance upon local levies to pay for basic education. They also noted that there is a significant problem with levy equity (rich school districts provide more funding for basic education that poor school districts). 5607 successfully solves these difficult problems.
Another issue they addressed was K 12 health insurance. The bill requires school districts to begin offering insurance benefits that require employees who need full family insurance coverage to pay $3 for each $1 an employee who signs up for employee only coverage pays. PSE prefers that they stagger this implementation over a 3 year period starting at $5:$1 in the first year, $4:$1 in the second year, and, $3:$1 in the third year.
Of further interest and equal concern is the elimination of the current funding mechanism for salaries, staffing and insurance. What I like about their proposal is they fully fund classified employee staffing ($168 million). What I don’t like is the inflation factor (National IPD) – I prefer the Seattle CPI. I also prefer that they add an insurance inflation factor in their formula. I also don’t like the 80% threshold for school districts to spend on compensation. With that in place, it will be very difficult for classified employees to negotiate improvements if districts have already given funding capacity to teachers.
Here is the debate on the Senate floor on the bill:
Just a couple of minutes ago, the Senate Ways and Means committee passed SB 5607; the Senate republican’s response to the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision. When I walked into the hearing, I was surprised to learn that Senate republicans were planning to amend the bill to include PSE’s entire paraeducator bill (SB 5070) to SB 5607. Though the bill passed on a partisan vote, I am pleased that the House will have to consider this issue in conjunction will all the other major issues in 5607. I expect the entire Senate to vote on 5607 within the next couple of days.