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This Week in Olympia

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Capitol in Olympia with blossoms

Week of March 2, 2020

This Week in Olympia

Each chamber passed $100 million in emergency funds to fight coronavirus, but differences between the House and Senate versions need to be ironed out.  (SHB 2965)

Resources about the virus can be found at OSPI, the state Department of Health, and your county health department.

Monday was the last day bills could pass out of fiscal committees and remain in play before today's deadline for bills to pass off the floor of the opposite chamber.

Legislators from the House and Senate are in conference regarding the budget, SB 6168, which must be approved by the last day of session, Thurs., March 12. One of the main differences between the House and Senate proposals is that the House adds more than $50 million for counselors, providing funding for an additional 0.5 FTE counselor in the basic education prototypical school funding model.  Schools eligible to receive this increased allocation must qualify as a high poverty school. 

Call for Counselors 

WEA is encouraging our members to call their legislators at 1-800-562-6000 to support the House proposal to add more school counselors so kids who need the most help receive the support they need to succeed in school. Call as soon as you can since budget negotiations are underway. 1-800-562-6000.

Many of the policy bills below have passed both the House and Senate, though the language may not be the same. When the bill language differs, legislators from each chamber must come to agreement before the bill can be sent to the Governor.

Promoting equity and combating racism

HB 2551 Would permit students to wear traditional tribal regalia and objects of cultural significance at graduation ceremonies and related events. It has passed both the House and Senate. WEA supports.

HB 2602  Concerning hair discrimination, would prohibit discrimination because people have afros, braids, locks or twists. It has passed the both the House and Senate. WEA supports.

HB 2711  Would address equitable educational outcomes for foster care and homeless children. It has passed both the House and Senate. WEA supports.

SB 6066  Would expand ethnic studies materials and resources for K – 6 grades. It has passed both the House and Senate. WEA supports.

Safety for students and staff

ESHB 1264  Would require OSPI to develop online training modules to support educators with secondary traumatic stress. It died in the Senate Ways and Means committee.

HB 1888  Would limit access to employee photos, phone numbers and payroll deduction information. Only media outlets would have access to birth dates just as they do with law enforcement and criminal justice employees. It has passed the both the House and Senate. WEA Supports.

SB 5395 is the comprehensive sexual health education bill. It has passed the both the House and Senate. WEA supports.

Recruiting and retaining quality staff

HB 2458  Would allow districts to offer optional benefits if they are not offered as part of the School Employee Benefit Board program. The bill clearly states that districts have authority to continue VEBA plans and other benefits such as cancer care and financial protection plans through payroll deduction. The bill was voted off the Senate floor on Friday. This bill is supported by WEA, insurers, and school administrators.  

SB 6512  Would allow K-12 districts to establish affordable housing for employees in order to attract and retain all K-12 employees. Districts would also be able to work with their communities on cross-sector housing complexes. This bill did not make it out of committee. 

HB 1390 and SB 5400  Would provide a Plan 1 increase of 3% up to $62.50 per month for retirees. This is the recommended COLA from the Select Committee on Pension Policy, which was funded in both budgets. HB 1390 was approved by the full Senate today. SB 5400 passed out of House Appropriations and remains in the Rules Committee. WEA and WEA-Retired support this legislation.

ESSB 6189 (SEBB Eligibility) started the session in a form that we opposed, because it proposed eliminating SEBB eligibility for substitutes. We have worked with legislators throughout the session to change this bill to a version that we could live with, which turned into a study on SEBB. ESSB 6189 was voted off the House Floor today with a key amendment that WEA supports.This new language guarantees that any employees with SEBB eligibility at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak (as of Feb 29, 2020), will retain their eligibility for benefits even during school closures or changes in school operations related to the virus.

HB 2739  is a bill that started by a WEA member talking to their legislator about an issue they were facing with shared leave. Rep. Kloba introduce this bill to allow for employees to take shared leave on an intermittent basis rather than being required to be on leave full time. The Senate has added more features, including an amendment adopted on the floor that would allow the use of shared leave for those employees who need to take leave because they or a family member is quarantined or in isolation related to health care directives during the COVID-19 state of emergency. This bill now goes to the House for concurrence.

Improving learning conditions

SB 6141  Would make financial aid packages and processes easier to understand. It has passed the both the House and Senate. WEA Supports.

HB 2660  Would expand school meals for students and will feed 7,000 more public school students in our state. It has passed both the House and Senate. WEA supports.

OSPI request legislation, SB 6117  would provide a small increase the two-tiered general education inclusion multiplier for the special education funding formula. The $10M provided by this change falls short of the $300 million funding gap that exists in special education. This bill did not receive a hearing in the House Appropriations before the fiscal deadline. There is still a chance this policy could be enacted as part of the budget.

2SHB 1182 Modifying the Learning Assistance Program, was amended in the Senate to add in language from SB 6132, which would have expanded the allowable uses of the Learning Assistance Program (LAP) to include student supports for behavioral health through a school-wide system of supports. This bill will go back to the House for possible concurrence, conference or death.

HB 2116  Would establish a joint-select legislative task force on improving institutional education programs and outcomes. This task force will make recommendations about funding and educational improvements for students who are incarcerated in county or state facilities. This bill has passed out of the Senate with amendments and will be sent to the House so legislators in both chambers can work out a compromise for final vote. WEA supports.

Next Week in Olympia

It is expected to be a busy week while legislators hammer out differences in surviving policy bills and the budget before Sine Die, the final adjournment of the 2020 Legislative Session, on Thursday.

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