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Speaking out for ESP pay and for students' freedom to learn

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Speaking out for our students

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

  • Raising the Special Education funding cap (HB 6014; Mindy Swedberg, Olympia EA)
  • Adjunct faculty benefits (HB 2125; Sue Nightingale, president, Bellevue College AHE)
  • Creating a Green Schools Program (HB 1935; Tyrell Hardtke, Kent EA)

And hundreds of us signed in with our support on these critical issues. We also saw some of our priorities pass out of committee this week:

  • Paraeducator staffing (SB 5882) passed in Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education and now heads to Senate Ways & Means
  • Increasing the Special Education funding cap (SB 6014)
  • Adjunct faculty benefits (HB 2125)
  • Free school meals (HB 2058)
  • LGBTQIA+ materials inclusion (SB 5462)
  • Protecting workers from forced meetings on political or religious matters, including anti-union meetings (SB 5778) 
  • Fentanyl education in schools (SB 5923) passed in the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee and is headed to Ways & Means. The companion bill (HB 1956) was heard in House Education Thursday, Jan. 18, and awaits executive action.

ESP pay, book bans scheduled for next week

  • ESP pay: The Senate Committee on Early Learning & K-12 Education will hear two bills on support-staff pay on Wednesday at 10:30am. SB 6082 would raise paraeducator pay allocations starting in the 2024-25 school year and then would set a minimum wage for paraeducators at $22.69 for 2026-27.  SB 6123 would separate how the state funds classified administrators from other classified, bringing more transparency to the allocations. Sign in PRO for SB 6082 & SB 6123.
  • Protecting students’ freedom to learn: The House Committee on Education and the Senate Committee on Early Learning and K12 education will both hear bills next week that would protect students from efforts to censor or ban books in schools by ensuring there is a fair process in place. (HB 2331 & SB 6208) Sign in PRO in the House & in the Senate.
  • Teaching about the Holocaust and genocide: This week the Senate Committee on Early Learning & K-12 Education heard SB 5851 to ensure students learn age-appropriate lessons about the Holocaust and other genocides. House Education will hear the companion bill (HB 2037) on Tuesday at 4:00pm.

Let us know if you’d like to testify!

Teacher Residency Program in the spotlight

Residents011824 low resStudents are more successful when the adult at the front of the class shares common culture or experiences with them, and now a partnership between the Washington Education Association, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Mukilteo, Federal Way, and Walla Walla school districts are removing barriers to create a more inclusive, diverse and better-prepared teacher workforce.  The Teacher Residency program provides aspiring teachers with professional and financial support to bridge from college through student teaching into certification. On Thursday, Jan. 18, dozens of supporters of the residency program including residents and mentors talked with legislators in Olympia about the program. We shared how critical this program is to the future of our schools and asked that they continue their funding support. We ended the day with a reception featuring Governor Inslee and Superintendent Reykdal.

Progress on student behavioral supports

WEA members have been talking about the challenge of educators not having the tools we need to support our students when they face behavioral challenges. A bill in the House in 2023 zeroed in on two specific modalities, isolation and restraint, without funding the training, staffing, or other options that could de-escalate or better address challenges. Senators are taking a new, more wholistic, more purposeful approach in SB 5966, which has helpful and supportive tools in it for educators grappling with the question of how to respond in tough situations. The Senate Committee on Early Learning & K-12 Education will hear the bill Monday at 1:30pm.

I-2081 certified

On Thursday, Jan. 18, the Secretary of State certified that I-2081 gathered enough signatures for the issue to be sent to legislators this session. Experts find I-2081 problematic for many reasons, among them that the initiative could expand access to previously protected student medical and mental-health records, that it could undermine inclusive schools and LGBTQIA+ youth safety, and that it could permit families to opt students out of any curriculum on any subject.

Revenue corner: US Supreme Court passes on WA capital gains tax case; Senate hearing on affordable housing

For our students to have what they need, the wealthy in our state need to pay what they owe for education and other public services. A few years ago, we passed a capital-gains tax that applies to very few Washingtonians but makes a huge difference for our schools. Our opponents have challenged this all the way to the US Supreme Court. This week the Court announced that it won’t take up the case, leaving the tax intact. This is great news for our students.

Next week, Senate Ways and Means will hear SB 6191, a bill that would raise $3 million in revenue to support affordable housing. We signed in pro for this program in the House last week – let’s do it again and sign in PRO for the Senate!

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