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Raising the Special Education cap and increasing paraeducator staffing moves on

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As we work to move our legislation forward, this coming week is all about the budget. You’ll recall that the Governor, Senate, and House all propose draft budgets and then lawmakers come together to create a joint proposal. Our expert WEA lobby team will be looking over the proposals and sharing highlights.

Testifying to what our students need

In this sixth week of session, WEA members have testified to the need for:

  • Paraeducator Fundamental Course of Study (HB 1277; Mario Mejia, Olympia EA)
  • Increased paraeducator staffing (SB 5882; Justin McKaughan, Olympia EA)
  • Inclusive curriculum (SB 5462; Kristie Bennett, Issaquah EA)
  • Computer science graduation requirement (SB 5849; Lawrence Tanimoto, Seattle EA)
  • The interstate teacher mobility compact (SB 5180; Ryan Grant, Medical Lake EA)
  • Bleeding control in schools (SB 5790; Anna Leslie, Seattle EA)

More bills making it past cutoff

Tuesday was the deadline for bills to get out of their chambers of origin. We’re glad to say that this cutoff deadline wasn’t a big barrier for our remaining priorities. Passing off their chamber of origin’s floor this week:

  • Raising the cap on Special Education funding (HB 2180)
  • Protecting students’ freedom to learn diverse curricula (HB 2331)
  • Fentanyl and substance-use education (HB 1956)
  • Unemployment insurance for striking workers (HB 1893) passed with amendments

The bills we supported to include Holocaust and genocide education in schools (SB 5851 & HB 2037)  did not make the cutoff deadline.

Budgets and more hearings this week

  • Senate and House budget proposals (SB 5950 & HB 2104) are expected to be released on Sunday and Monday respectively, with hearings on Monday. We’ll be looking closely at what funding is included for ESP staffing and pay, for Special Education, for educator Cost of Living Adjustments, and for other key education budget items.  (Gov. Inslee released his proposed budget in December.)
  • The Senate Capital Budget was released this week and includes a number of strong investments in school building construction, increases in the state per foot construction allocation funding, and, notably, a $40 million WEA-requested allocation for indoor air quality-related improvements in HVAC retrofits and assessment.  The House Capital Budget is expected mid-week next week.
  • Policy committee cutoff next Wednesday, Feb. 21, means bills need to be passed out of committee in their second chamber. At this point, most of the narrowing to priority bills has happened in past cutoffs, but we’ll keep a close eye on anything that needs a nudge to make the deadline.
  • Legislator town halls are a great opportunity to raise our voices for ESP staffing and school funding in general. WEA is collecting a list of upcoming town halls; let us know if there’s one we should add! Talking points and tips here.

Revenue corner: Revenue in the 2024 Legislative Session

New revenue options are few and far between this session.  Affordable housing measures HB 2276 and SB 6191  are still “alive.” We hope either or both will be scheduled for hearings in the remaining days of the session as a possible revenue option. As a reminder this policy would provide Housing to our most vulnerable populations through the revenue generated. The policy if passed has the potential to raise about $300 million.

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