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Fighting for a student-centered budget

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To make a long story short, the Senate and House released their proposed budgets this week; the Senate had $50 million for paraeducator staffing while the House had $0.  That’s right, zero. I testified in both chambers about the crisis our schools are facing with low Education Support Professional wages, insufficient staffing, and more and more students with unmet needs.  WEA members have sent nearly 2,000 emails to our legislators calling on them to meet the Senate’s proposed funding level for paras. We need to keep being loud.

Several priorities have passed!

  • Protecting students’ freedom to learn by creating clear processes and procedures required before book removal (HB 2331) passed the Senate floor on Thursday and awaits signatures.
  • Adjunct faculty access to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (HB 1950) passed on the Senate floor on Monday and has been signed by the House Speaker and Senate President. It awaits the Governor’s signature to become law.

Priorities continue moving forward

Along with budget negotiations, legislation continues to move through both chambers. The next cutoff deadline is Monday, Feb. 26, when legislation needs to be passed out of the fiscal committee of its second chamber. Most of the narrowing of legislation has already happened and the last of this session’s hearings will happen in a flurry of last-minute activity over the weekend.

  • Raising the cap on Special Education funding (HB 2180) passed out of Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education on Wednesday and has a hearing in Ways & Means tomorrow. Sign in PRO.
  • Promoting inclusive learning standards and materials (ESB 5462) passed in the House Committee on Education on Tuesday and has a hearing today in Appropriations, with exec session for a vote on Monday.
  • Fentanyl and substance-use education (HB 1956) also passed out of Senate Early Learning & K-12 education this week and is scheduled for a hearing in Ways & Means on Saturday. Sign in PRO.
  • Paraeducator staffing (SB 5882) is scheduled for an executive session vote in House Appropriations on Monday.
  • Retiree Plan 1 Cost of Living Adjustment (HB 1985) passed in the Senate Ways & Means Committee today and is included in the House budget proposal. We hope to see this up for a strong floor vote in the senate next week.
  • Allowing digital signatures/digital cards for public-sector union organizing (SB 6060) awaits a vote on the House floor.
  • Protecting workers from forced meetings about political or religious matters (ESSB 5778) passed out of the House Committee on Labor & Workplace Standards and is in Rules awaiting a floor vote in the House.
  • Unemployment insurance for striking workers (HB 1893) passed out of Senate Labor & Commerce on Monday and is in Rules awaiting scheduling for a Senate floor vote. The Senate companion to this bill died in the Senate earlier this session and this bill will require a big push to get passed in the Senate. 

What to expect next week

  • Budget negotiations between House and Senate happen this week.  If you haven’t already, email your Representatives and Senator now.
  • Capital budget negotiations are also underway. The Senate proposal has significant investments in the school capital construction assistance program; House blows up the current school capital investment process and has a competitive grant process instead, without having consulted districts, OSPI, or other stakeholders. Also, there's $55 million in the House and $40 million in Senate capital construction budget for indoor air quality improvements in schools. We’ll be watching closely as they negotiate.
  • Deadlines are looming; fiscal committee cutoff for the second chamber is on Monday, Feb. 26, and the cutoff for passing off the second chamber floor is Friday, March 1.
  • Several priority bills have executive sessions for votes this week; we’ll send updates if hearings on our issues are scheduled.

Revenue corner: Last chance for revenue this year

Our state needs more revenue to support high-quality public schools and services, and we need the ultra-wealthy to pay what they owe. Affordable-housing measures HB 2276 and SB 6191 would generate about $300 million for affordable housing by taxing the sale of properties worth more than $3 million just 1%. HB 2276 was moved out of House Finance today.

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