Both the House and Senate Education committees will be discussing their respective Paraeducator bills, 2698 in the House committee and 6388 in the Senate, next week. Unlike previous years, these bills have been jointly worked on by the PESB (Professional Educator Standards Board) and WEA (Washington Education Association). The most difficult part will be convincing the legislature to fund development of Special Education and TBIP (Transitional Bilingual Instruction) paraeducator training modules.
PSE is working with the Professional Educator Standards Board (PESB) and the WEA (Washington Education Association) on a bill to make positive changes to the first in the nation Paraeducator bill passed in the 2017 legislative session. The bill, HB 2698, sponsored by Representative Steve Bergquist and Representative Dick Muri was just introduced and does the following:
…Gives paraeducators one additional year to meet the minimum employment standards (until September 1, 2019)
…Gives school districts an additional year to train paraeducators to meet the four day course (if the course is funded), and,
…Asks the state to provide $500,000 each year for 2018 and 2019 to develop special education and TBIP (transitional bilingual instruction program) training modules for paraeducators who work in those programs.
I expect to have a bill number for the Senate bill, sponsored by Senator Mark Mullet, in the next couple of days.
With democratic control of the House and Senate, leaders of both chambers are expressing hopes that they will not only finish on time (March 8) but will finish early. Since the last several years have seen one if not up to three extra special sessions, everyone hopes they are right.
Yesterday, I testified in support of Governor Inslee’s supplemental budget. I supported his effort to comply with the Washington Supreme Court’s demand that the State start funding their substantial increase to basic education salaries starting September 1, 2018, not September 1, 2019. Further, I highlighted his addition of $13 million to implement the new SEBB (School Employee Benefit Board) insurance plans for K 12.
Additionally, I highlighted two areas that PSE will be advocating for this legislative session:
—Add $500,000 each year of the two year budget to update general paraeducator training modules and develop special education and transitional bilingual paraeducator professional development training modules.
—Clarify what the legislature meant last year when they passed EHB 2242 with the direction that we can negotiate “district average salary for classified employees” up to the amount of the school district’s state allocation for those salaries. How this is calculated is critical to determining how much we have available to negotiate “market based wages”. For instance, will the average salary be calculated for all classified employees or just basic education employees? If its all classified employee, in most circumstances, we should be able to negotiate higher salary increases.
By now it shouldn’t be news to a paraeducator in the state of Washington. In case you haven’t heard, change is in the air. I’m not talking about seasonal change, like leaves changing color or the temperature dropping; although that would be true.
No, the change I am talking about is more of a sea-change or maybe even a paradigm shift. One that will forever change the course of public education in every community in Washington. Melodrama aside this is big and the change has already begun. While the direct effects have yet to be felt at the local level, it is safe to say that by September 1, 2018 we will begin to feel them.
Earlier this month the Paraeducator Board met for our second full-board meeting and the actions we took set the wheels in motion to have several key parts of the Paraeducator Bill (HB 1115) in place by the beginning of the 2018-19 school year.
First, we approved the Basic Paraeducator Standards of Practice originally developed by the Paraeductor Workgroup. These standards will guide the board’s work in developing the four-day fundamental training and 10 day professional development for the Paraeducator General Certificate. These trainings will be piloted by several districts beginning next school year. After the pilot period the General Certificate will become a requirement for all new and current paraeducators (if the Legislature provides funding for the training days). If they don’t provide the funding, then training will be voluntary.
Second, we approved the Special Education and ELL Standards of Practice developed by the Paraeducator Workgroup. These standards will also be used to develop the 20 hours of professional development for these two voluntary subject matter certificates.
Third, we approved the Teacher and Administrator Professional Learning recommendations of the Paraeducator Workgroup. These recommendations will be used to create training modules made available to teachers and administrators for their professional development.
Finally, we approved the “Paraeducators: What We Do Matters” training modules based on the recommendations of the subcommittee review. These online modules will become a component for meeting the training requirements for the General Certificate. The modules are already active so feel free to explore them (click here and create an account) and provide feedback to the Para Board (click here).
There is one concern that I have heard expressed by Paraeducators at every opportunity I have had to meet with them. “Will the ‘Initial Hiring Standards’ apply to paraeducators already employed by a district.” The short answer is “YES.”
ALL paraeductors in the state of Washington will be required to meet the Initial Hiring Standards on September 1, 2018. Please check with your human resources department about whether you meet the hiring standards. What we need to remind you is that these standards are the same standards that have been in place for Title I paraeducators, Title I schools, or Title I school districts. I confirmed this with the OSPI consultant that has been part of the development of the paraeductor standards from the beginning of this process. Dr. Adams explained that the Legislature was very clear that there was NO “grandfathering” allowed. So, if you are not sure that you will meet this standard September of next year, do not wait. Talk to your HR department, talk to your union representative, talk to your co-workers; find out what you need and how you are going to accomplish it. My chapter has been telling its members for years that this was coming. My chapter was also just informed that our district will be making a formal announcement to our members by January. If need be, talk to your district about doing the same thing.
Change can be difficult, even good change. Remember, you can be part of the change.
Change is in the air…are you ready?
This is it. After several months of behind the scenes work by OSPI, the newly appointed Paraeducator Board convened this week. We have our work cut out for us thanks to the guidance provided by the recommendations of the Paraeducator Work Group, the one PSE’s own Doug Nelson participated in. This is what we have been waiting and hoping for going back many years. This is the recognition that paraeducators specifically, and by extension all education support professionals, have been asking for.
A little reminder on how we got where we are. Way back in May, seems like a lifetime ago now that school is back in session, the Paraeducator Bill was finally signed into law. The culmination of at least six years of hard fought effort by stakeholders across the state. The new law directed OSPI to create the Paraeducator Board for the purpose of taking the work group’s nine recommendations and writing the policies to implement them. The new nine-member board, including PSE members Laura Rogers and myself, was appointed in July and will meet every other month for the next two years. During that time we will be taking input from all stakeholders with an interest in the education of children in Washington, which includes PSE members.
It is critical that paraeducators take an active role in helping to inform the work of the Paraeducator Board. The three paraeducaors on the board cannot know all the needs and interests of Washington’s paraeducators and their diverse communities. Your input and participation in the process will be invaluable. At the very least follow the progress of the board so that you can share with the members of your chapter. The Paraeducator Bill is for us and those who will come after us. This will be our legacy to the next generation of Washington students and the professionals who support them.
You can follow our progress, contact the board for public comment, and view the proceedings live via webinar. In keeping with Washington sunshine laws all board meetings and materials are open and available to the public.
Get involved – We Own It!
Just a couple minutes ago, legislative leaders released the budget. At that site you can click on different displays of the budget documents. Plenty of good news!
If I find more details in the 617 page budget, I will update in a future blog.
This morning, Governor Inslee signed ESHB 1115, PSE’s paraeducator bill. Inslee’s action puts an end to PSE’s five year effort to convince the legislature that paraeducators need to be recognized by the State as a critical member of the instruction team. However, there is plenty more to be do as the paraeducator board is formed and the Board starts to work on developing the standards, training modules, career ladder, and, advanced paraeducator standards.
Additionally, we will be seeking state funding for the board and training ($23 million) in the next budget cycle two years from now.
I expect Governor Inslee to sign ESHB 1115 sometime over the next two weeks. If we are lucky, we will get 12-24 hours notification that he has decided to sign it. Then we drop everything so we can attend the signing ceremony and thank him for his support.
Governor Inslee has signed into law SB 5142, the bill to give deaf and hard of hearing paraeducator interpreters additional time to meet standards. Dependent upon what stage the paraeducator is at, they will have an additional 12-18 months to meet the standards. At the latest, a deaf and hard of hearing paraeducator interpreter would have until February 28, 2019, to meet the standards.
Yesterday, the House gave final approval, (94-1 vote – okay Representative Klippert you wanted to be different), to PSE’s paraeducator bill, ESHB 1115. Governor Inslee will have a couple of weeks to determine if he will support the legislation. I’m not expecting any surprises but will let you know if there are any concerns.