Convention 2019 Countdown
Yesterday, the House released their 2019-21 operating budget. On our priority issues, it only fails in one area: paraeducator training. First the good news:
—It funds our WWU (Western Washington University) and CWU (Central Washington University) contracts;
—It funds the PEBB insurance coalition agreement;
—It funds the SEBB insurance coalition agreement;
—It funds a 2% and 2.1% salary increase for the next two school years.
The disappointing news is that instead of funding four days per year of paraeducator training, they funded two days. We have put together a variety of lobbying efforts (including code blue members yesterday were in town) to convince House members that the bill we passed in 2017 that required four days per year of funding should be honored.
On another note, PSE strongly supports the new revenue sources that will be necessary to fund our contracts and insurance agreements.
This week was a series of committee hearings with the highlight being last night’s Senate Ways and Means Committee hearing on changing local levies (SB 5313).
Fewer and fewer K 12 and Higher Education bills to focus on but we are happy that 1575 – union rights, 1658 – paraeducator, 1308/5360 – pension default, continue to work there way through the process.
The House will be presenting and voting on its Budget starting on Monday. PSE will be closely watching for full funding for our higher education agreements, paraeducator training, and, the SEBB agreement.
Cheryl Pirozok, Central Valley special education paraeducator, just finished her one week Frank J. Warnke legislative internship. This unique opportunity is sponsored by PSE because it gives members a better understanding of the legislative process. This year nine PSE members were awarded this internship. Cheryl is the first of the year. Here is her report on her experience…
What an exciting week to be in Olympia! I have had an incredible un-extinguishable fire spurred with in me to go forward.
This is such a tremendous mentoring opportunity that PSE offers giving interns the opportunity to experience first-hand how our government works, the unending work of the lobbyists and the vital importance of communication with our legislators help them connect with the regions voice, given the volume of bills being addressed during a session.
It’s great to see that there is significant momentum this session for additional special education funding. It is too early to tell how much or which formulas will change but there will be a positive change. Here are the special education bills under consideration (an * means the bill is alive):
HB 1093* / SB 5312 – several formula changes intended to increase funding
HB 1910 – several formula and program changes intended to increase funding
SB 5091* – removes federal funding from safety net formula and allows federal funds to train paraeducators
SB 5262 – program changes to increase effectiveness
SB 5532* – changes to program and increasing parent participation
SB 5736* – increases special education excess cost multiplier
PSE’s advocacy efforts over the last several years to convince State legislators and education leaders that paraeducators are a critical member of the instructional team appear to be making progress. There are no less than 15 bills introduced this year that does just that; several have made it past the first major deadline. Here are the bills (bills with * are alive):
HB 1130*/SB 5606 – language access training for paraeducators and front office staff
HB 1139* – encouraging paraeducators to become teachers
HB 1322*/SB 5607 – encourage bilingual paraeducators to become teachers
HB 1454* – training paraeducators in inclusion practices
HB 1468* / SB 5070 – bilingual paraeducator bonus
HB 1479* / SB 5777 – social emotional learning training of paraeducators
HB 1658* – technical changes to upcoming paraeducator training (if State funds four days of training)
HB 1914 / SB 5908 – paraeducator cultural competency training
SB 5091* – use of federal special education funding to train paraeducators
SB 5413* – encouraging paraeducators to become teachers
Since there was little if any access to the Capitol because of the over foot of snow, the legislature had no choice other than to cancel hearings on Monday. They were back at it on Tuesday but even then it was a late start. It is very unusual for the legislature to close down during session (some legislative veterans couldn’t recall it happening over the last couple decades). That’s because they are on tight deadlines to get their work done on time.
They are back at it putting in a couple extra hours here and there to get back on schedule.
There are a couple paraeducator bills; SB 5413 – improving paraeducator ability to become a teacher and HB 1658 – perfecting upcoming paraeducator training under consideration. Also being considered are a couple of school transportation bills; HB 1057 – cameras and seat belts on busses, HB 1813 – requiring transportation contractors to provide SEBB like benefits to employees, SB 5263 – reducing hiring restrictions and training of bus drivers.
Requiring school districts to purchase new (big) busses with shoulder and lap seat belts and installing stop paddle video cameras on all busses was an issue I was most interested in this week (read an earlier blog). In the hearing there wasn’t much opposition (PSE signed in with concerns). The high costs of the bill is likely to slow down HB 1057 in future debates.
Another major issue I was closely tracking (read a previous entry) was changing state law to recognize the recent US Supreme Court Janus decision. HB 1575 received positive support from unions and not surprisingly hostile opposition by the Freedom Foundation.
Next Week’s Hearings
There are numerous hearings next week that bring up a variety of issues that we like and don’t like (I think democrats are giving courtesy hearings to republican bills that bring up issues important to them but hostile to us). On the “like” side are the rights of workers bills HB 1575/SB 5623, ensuring employer neutrality while employees exercising their rights (SB 5169), bilingual teacher and paraeducator bonus (HB 1468), updating paraeducator training requirements (HB 1658), requiring subcontractors provide their employees same insurance benefits as are provided by SEBB (HB 1813), paraeducator conditional scholarship improvements (SB 5413), sign language interpreter supports (HB 1623), and, simple majority passage of bonds (HJR 4203).
On Monday, it was great to see 350 PSE members and staff who attended legislative conference lobbying their legislators for our funding priorities this year: Funding for our Higher Education Agreements, Funding the SEBB Agreement, and Funding Paraeducator Training. Additionally, there was a great hearing on SEBB in the Senate Ways and Means Committee that I will cover in a separate entry.
After yesterday’s House hearing on Governor Inslee’s budget, the Senate Ways and Means Committee took public comment on the same Budget. This gave me the opportunity to deliver the following remarks about PSE’s financial priorities for this session:
PSE enthusiastically supports Governor Inslee’s budget proposal because it responds to our 4 highest priorities this legislative session.
….our Central Washington University and Western Washington University Collective Bargaining Agreements
….the Union coalition agreement on PEBB funding
….the Union coalition agreement on SEBB funding (something PSE has sought for 24 years)
….Paraeducator training. However, we look forward to working with the legislature to provide funding for each year of the Budget.
We can’t thank Governor Inslee enough for his leadership on SEBB and Paraeducator training. His Budget makes Washington State a National leader for its recognition of and respect for the important work of classified employees in education. We hope you will join him in supporting classified employees.
Yesterday, PSE’s President, Charlotte Shindler did a great job representing PSE’s financial objectives for this legislative session. Here is what she had to say: