Budget proposal funds PSE priorities

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.

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Dyslexia bill attracts PSE Intern interest

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.


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Senate approves paraeducator fixes

Earlier today, in a nearly unanimous 46-1 vote the Senate sent to the House SB 6388Senator 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.

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TBIP paraeducator study approved in House

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.

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Committees approve Paraeducator bills

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.

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Paraeducators in TBIP bill

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.

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Education committees to hear Paraeducator bills

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.

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Paraeducator fixes in the works

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.

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Day 1 starts with hopes of early conclusion

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.




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Change is in the air…

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?

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