Student Mental Health Takes the Spotlight
Taking Action in Olympia, Session Week 1
Educators from across the state shared the dire need for more nurses, counselors, psychologists, and social workers in House and Senate education committee hearings this week and we’ll continue talking to lawmakers and telling our stories until increased funding for mental health supports passes.
“My student caseload is 375 this year but next year will increase to 400 with increased enrollment. The recommended caseload average is 250,” school counselor and Seattle EA member Sam Pacampara testified to the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education committee. “Doing the math, with 180 school days and roughly 4 available hours per day, I have just under 2 hours per student per school year.” Read more testimony from WEA members.
The support for HB 1664 and SB 5595 was overwhelming and both bills are on track for committee votes the week of January 17 which is the next step in the legislative process for these bills to pass. If you haven’t already, take action: share your story about student mental health needs.
Supporting COLAs for educator recruitment and retention
As we face a growing staffing crisis in our schools, it is critical that the state legislature provide adequate cost of living raises to recruit and retain educators. The governor’s proposed budget, while it did include more funding for student mental health supports, didn’t include enough funds for educator compensation to keep pace with inflation. WEA president Larry Delaney testified in budget hearings this week to call for adequate COLAs and we’ll continue raising the issue with lawmakers.
Speaking out for voting rights
To protect our freedom to vote, we must put protections in place that ensure that our districts are created fairly and prevent anti-democratic efforts to dilute communities’ voting power in order to favor one party over another. This morning, WEA Black Caucus member and Seattle EA member Vallerie Fisher testified before the Senate State Government & Elections Committee in support of the Washington Voting Rights Act, HB 5597, which strengthens the Washington Voter Rights Act by putting systems in place to call out or identify potential impediments to the ability for all Washingtonians to vote . A possible committee vote on the bill is scheduled for next Friday.
Taking action in week 2: custodian safety, levy fairness, equity at colleges
WEA members are continuing to talk with lawmakers about what our students need and this week, we’ll be speaking out for our colleges, school funding, educator safety, and retirees.
- On Monday, retirees will be testifying in support of a Plan 1 COLA (HB 1721 and SB 5676) before the House Appropriations and Senate Ways and Means committees; they will return on Thursday to support bills in House Appropriations committee that will allow more Plan 2 members to join PEBB (HB 1911) and allow retirees to work more hours (HB 1699).
- Tuesday morning, the House Education committee will hear HJR 4200, a resolution that would amend the state constitution so that school bond levies can pass with a simple majority. This would make our levy votes more democratic and could help our districts make needed upgrades.
- Members will also be speaking out on Tuesday for more ergonomic and safety protections for custodians in HB 1837.
- And WEA members in higher education will be speaking out on Wednesday in favor of improvements to equity, diversity, and mental health in our colleges, HB 1840.
Sign up now for Caucus 2 Caucus Lobby Day
WEA members across Washington are working hard to create an inclusive education system that meets the needs of all our students and embraces their heritage and culture. At our second annual Caucus 2 Caucus Lobby Day members of WEA caucuses will meet with members of corresponding legislative caucuses to discuss the needs of our students and our communities. WEA members who would like to join one of WEA’s caucuses (the Black Caucus, Latinx Caucus, Asian/Pacific Islander/Middle Eastern Caucus, Native American/Alaskan Native Caucus, and LGBTQIA+ Caucus) can join a virtual reception with legislative caucus members on Thurs., Jan. 27 at 7:00 pm.
If you identify with one of these communities and would like to attend this event and join one or more WEA caucuses, please register here. The first 100 registrants for the event will be able to submit a voucher for reimbursement for their dinner that evening. We hope to see you there!