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This Week in Olympia

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Week of January 15


The WEA Caucuses held a “Rally4Children” rally on Monday, Martin Luther King Jr., Day to bend the moral arc of the universe towards justice for our students and their families. 

We entered the second week of session. With the election victory of Sen. Manka Dhingra, Democrats now narrowly control both the House and the Senate for the first time in years.

Bargaining rights for community and technical college faculty

The importance and relevance of Senator Dhingra’s election was apparent on Monday this week. SB 5993, one of our top Unity Agenda priorities was heard in the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee. Sponsored by Sen. Karen Keiser, the bill provides full and equal collective bargaining rights for community and technical college faculty. The committee is expected to pass the bill. It will then move to the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

The House has supported full bargaining rights for faculty for several years. HB 1237 is the House version, sponsored by retired educator and WEA member Rep. Mike Sells. That bill is still alive from last session and has been pulled to the floor calendar awaiting another full House vote. If it passes again, as we suspect it will, it will move to the Senate. That gives us two bites at the apple, and sends the Senate a strong message about the House’s continuing support for the bill.

Delinking test scores and graduation

Also on Monday, SB 6144  had a hearing in the Senate education committee. This would remove “the statewide assessments as a high school graduation requirement.” WEA supports this bill, and has supported this concept for many years. 

Capital budget

SB 6090, the capital budget, includes school construction funding and is part of the WEA Unity Agenda. It passed on Thursday and the Governor is expected to sign it in the days ahead. The bill that just passed did not include funding for K-3 classrooms. We are working to make sure a supplemental budget doesn't have the same problem.


SB 6203 is the Governor’s proposal to adopt a carbon tax. It had a hearing in the Senate Energy, Environment and Technology Committee on Tuesday. WEA spoke in favor of the proposal. This bill is a key part of the way the Governor hopes to fund additional K-12 compensation in the 18-19 school year, as required by the state Supreme Court.  


On Tuesday, the Senate Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on several bills, including SB 5310, 5487 and 5601. They would allow retirees who retired using the 2008 early retirement factors to work in retirement for under selected circumstances. A vote has not yet been scheduled. WEA and WEA-Retired support these bills.  

HB 1560 was heard in the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday. It would make the defined contribution plan (Plan 2) the default pension option for individuals who do not make an active selection among retirement plans. WEA and WEA-Retired have supported this bill sponsored by Rep. Stanford in prior years. 

The Week Ahead: 

Unity Agenda: McCleary plan “fixes” 

On Monday, the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education committee is hearing a variety of bills to correct flaws in last year’s education funding bill. 

SB 6362 was sponsored at the request of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. It has a policy intent of increasing local levy capacity and making technical corrections. 

SB 6397 is part of WEA’s Unity Agenda. Highlights of the bill would:

  • Provide full funding of McCleary compensation levels in the 2018-19 school year to comply with the state Supreme Court ruling.
  • Create an "experience mix" factor for districts with above average salary costs. 
  • Improve the regionalization pay to address border effects caused in the new law.  
  • Phase in the remaining I-1351 class size and workload reductions. 
  • Increase local levy funding and flexibility to meet local needs beyond state-funded basic education. 
  • Modify the funding formula to ensure special/high needs students receive the supports they need to learn. 
  • Make sure districts receive enough funding to meet ongoing salary needs. 

Unity Agenda: Retirees

On Monday, House Appropriations will hear bills related to the Plan 1 COLA for retirees, who have not had a COLA since 2010.  HB 2511 would provide a 3% increase for Plan 1 retirees on the first $25,000 of their annual pension benefit. It is not as strong as we would like, but WEA supports it in recognition that retirees deserve a COLA to make up some of the purchasing power lost over the years.  

The Senate Ways and Means Committee will hear a related bill, HB 6290, on Tuesday. The committee will also hear SB 6305 and SB 6340 which make techincal fixes. WEA and WEA Retired support all three. 

On Wednesday, House Appropriations will hear HB 2379 that would allow some Plan 1 retirees with early retirement factors to become substitute teachers. WEA supports this bill. 


The House Finance Committee will vote on Tuesday on HB 2698, a bill that extends the timeline one year for paraeducators to meet new employment standards; improves the paraeducator pipeline and adds funds for paraeducators to access professional development. WEA supports. 

On Thursday, the House Committee on Community Development, Housing & Tribal Affairs will hear HB 2701, which would provide credit for military service toward retirement for veterans within TRS or PERS. WEA supports. 

Health care

On Wednesday, the Senate Ways and Means committee will hold hearings on changes to the newly enacted School Employees Benefit Board. There are several bills under consideration, including SB 6288 which is part of the WEA Unity Agenda and which we support. 

These bills would ensure that school employees receive the same health care allocation as state employees (we currently receive less), would allow locals to include health care benefits for part time employees (which many ESPs currently receive), and would add more educators to the SEBB to ensure we retain a strong voice in health care options. The bills also encourage the state to expand the number of optional benefits provided and allow local plans if they meet state requirements. 

The other bills SB 6286SB 6241, offer technical corrections which WEA mostly supports.  

House Appropriations will hear the companion bills to all these on Thursday HB 2657, HB 2655 and HB 2438 on Thursday. 

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