Yesterday, the House Education committee heard SB 5070, PSE’s paraeducator bill. After hearing from bill sponsor, Senator Ann Rivers, supporters and opponents continued the debate that has been going on this session (as well as the last two sessions). Arguments from both haven’t changed. Supporters like Cassandra Sage from the Washington State PTA and Arzu Forough from the Washington Autism Advocacy Association explained how paraeducators who provide daily instruction needed state standards and training because of the critical role they play helping students succeed, especially students who need additional assistance to succeed in school and life.
Opponents continued to argue of their fears that paraeducators would not be able to pay for training and were likely to be fired.
I responded by saying if anyone would be fired it would be me for setting paraeducators up for failure. Instead, I explained that if the training was too expensive or took too much time, we would gladly extend the three year timeline just like the legislature is doing with an 18 month extension for deaf and hard of hearing interpreters in SB 5142, which is passing easily this session.
Next Monday, at 1:30, the House Education committee will be hearing SB 5070, PSE’s paraeducator bill. This gives us another opportunity to convince the House to support the comprehensive paraeducator development program in 5070: mandatory standards, training to meet the standards, a career ladder that includes an advanced paraeducator position, improved pathway for paraeducators who want to become teachers, and training for teachers and principals who supervise paraeducators.
Whew! What an eye-opening adventure and learning experience my Legislative Internship has been so far. Thankfully, I have Doug’s wisdom and Ehren’s personal connections to guide and lead me to some pretty surprising experiences, one of those being a personal, 1:1, after-hours sit-down with one of our biggest champions, Senator Ann Rivers my first day here.
As Doug blogged last week, the Para Educator Bill (SB5070) passed 37-12 after a bewildering and mind-boggling series of events. However, this doesn’t mean we’ve hit a homerun yet and there still is lots of hard work to do to counteract very strong opposition by some of our lobbying friends to ensure its passage.
How do we do this you ask? Well, one of my biggest takeaways yesterday was that trust and money + highly involved membership often times far outstrips long and hard work at developing relationships. However, the little guys can overtake the big guys if they bank on trusting relationships and step up and get their voices heard.
This is where Senator Rivers and meeting with her comes into play. She is our champion, we have a STRONG relationship of TRUST with her and she is fiercely passionate about seeing our Para Educators have the opportunities to develop professionally to best assist our students and teachers. She needs our help NOW to get the message through to our Legislators that this bill is vitally important to us and for our schools and we, PSE, support its passage. We, as PSE members in solidarity, can help her by making our voices heard. My PSE Brothers and Sisters, I humbly ask that you contact your Legislators NOW by calling (Leg Hotline 800-562-6000)or email them to ask for their support of SB 5070. We may be the “little guy” on the field but if we come together – our voices can be incredibly loud and mighty.
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.