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Educators had a busy week 1 of legislative session

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The beginning of legislative session is always chaotic, with so many proposals on the table, but together in WEA we help raise the profile of the legislation that our students, schools, and colleges urgently need so that they rise to the top of the stack.

A busy first week for education and educators

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

  • Increased ESP staffing (SB 5882; Justin McKaughan, Olympia EA; Robbi Reed, Northshore EA),
  • Simple majorities to pass school bonds (SB 5823 and SJR 8207; Brady Vallala, Fife EA), and
  • School meals for all elementary students (HB 2058; Rebecca Beck Mathews, Bethel EA), and
  • Staffing, supports, clear guidance and training around student behavioral health (Martha Patterson, Central Kitsap EA; Roni Cook, Mukilteo EA; Crystal Armstrong, Clover Park EA).
  • Epi pens in schools (HB 1608; Krissa Cramer, Arlington EA; Taylor Mason, Wenatchee EA; Liz Pray, Moses Lake EA)

Hundreds of us signed in with our support on these critical issues. We also made our voices heard on key issues to our students and our families:

  • Workers’ rights issues like unemployment insurance for striking workers and a prohibition on coercive anti-union meetings (HB 1893, SB 5777;  HB 1940, SB 5778)
  • Expand public service loan forgiveness to include adjunct faculty (HB 1950, SB 6035)

Additionally, ESHB 1277 from last session that would clarify the Paraeducator fundamental course of study passed on the House floor and is now headed to committee in the Senate.

Special Education funding, contingent faculty benefits on the schedule for next week

  • Special education funding cap: The Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education committee hears  SB 6014 on Monday at 1:30pm that would increase the cap on the percentage of students eligible for Special Education support funding from 15% to 17.25% on Monday at 1:30pm. Sign in PRO here!
  • Contingent (adjunct) faculty benefits: Right now only “academic” work is used to calculate whether  contingent faculty qualify for benefits, which is only part of what faculty do. HB 2125 would amend that to include nonacademic work in the calculation, allowing more contingent faculty to fairly access state benefits, and is being heard by the House Postsecondary Education & Workforce committee on Tuesday at 1:30pm. Sign in PRO here.
  • Retiree Plan 1 COLA: Because Plan 1 doesn’t have a permanent, ongoing Cost of Living Adjustment like other plans, each year retirees must secure a COLA through legislation. House Appropriations will hear the bill, HB 1985, on Monday at 4:00pm. Sign in PRO here.
  • Regionalized levy funding: Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education is hearing SB 5956 on Monday, a bill that would regionalize levy funding caps for districts with fewer than 40,000 students.

ESPs speak out for respectful wages

School support staff are critical to our students and schools yet most don’t get paid enough to support their families. We’re taking action to change that and this week I joined nearly 100 Education Support Professionals (ESPs) from five unions all across the state to talk with legislators about the urgent need to raise wages. By sharing our stories about how low wages are forcing ESPs to get second jobs, to commute long distances, or even to leave the field, we’re moving one step closer to winning the respectful wages ESPs need and deserve.

Revenue corner: Funding for our schools and colleges

To fully fund our student needs, our state needs adequate revenue. WEA members have come together to form the Revenue Learning Lab, a team diving deeper into how we can reshape our state’s tax system to get the funding our students need and to ensure the ultra-wealthy pay their fair share.  This week the House Committee on Finance is hearing a bill on Thursday at 1:30pm (HB 2276) that would bring more than $300 million into state coffers through the development of a Real Estate Investment Trust. Sign in PRO here.

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