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This Week in Olympia

02/16/2018

Week of February 12

Higher Ed and Student-WEA members have their lobby day on Monday the 19th.

Last week, the new state revenue forecast was released, and included an additional $628 million in the  general fund for the 2017-19 biennium, and an even higher amount in the following biennium. State budget reserves are expected to top $2 billion. This means the Legislature has the funding to comply with the Supreme Court’s order. 

Watch our video ad and send a message to the legislature to support the Governor’s education budget.

Last week was a critical week for bills. To stay alive, they had to be passed off the floor of the originating chamber. Our Unity Agenda bills have fared well, but we do have one big concern about the Senate McCleary bill. See below.

Unity Agenda: K-12 funding

The Senate passed SSB 6362 to “fix” McCleary funding along a party lines, with Democrats for and Republicans against. 

There is some good news, with one serious omission. The bill doesn’t eliminate the 3% cap on salary increases in the 2018-19 school year, which limits our ability to bargain with school districts for competitive and professional pay.

The bill does provide a minor increase to special education funding, provides a small fix to problems created by salary regionalization and adds a one-year salary safety net process for school districts whose educators have higher-than-average experience.  While the Senate recognized the problems, we don’t agree that their solutions go far enough and we will continue to work on a McCleary fix bill that meets the needs of students and our members.

This bill now moves to the House.

The capital funding bill SSB 6531 passed out of the Senate and has a public hearing on Monday afternoon. It features a phase-in schedule to prioritize elementary funding, followed by middle and high schools. This should help with K-3 class size reductions

Unity Agenda: Community and Technical College bargaining bill

The Senate Labor and Commerce committee passed EHB 1237 out of committee, after blending the house and senate amendments into one package. WEA worked with legislators on the amendments that are in the current bill to ensure they do not interfere with our members ability to bargain for compensation. The bill now moves to the Senate Rules committee.

The bill will grant equal collective bargaining rights for community and technical college faculty, allowing them to negotiate pay with local funds.

There is still significant push back by college presidents, who, by the way, get their salary increases from the same local funds that our bill would allow faculty to use. The average presidential salary is in excess of $200,000 a year.  Faculty don’t begrudge them their salaries, why would they begrudge faculty theirs?
 

Unity Agenda: Retirees

The Senate passed SB 6340 a 2% COLA for plan 1 retirees, adding up to $41.66 per month in benefits. The bill now moves to the House. 

SB 5310 passed off the Senate floor and is moving to the House. The bill allows more options for working in retirement for people on the 2008 ERFs, including coaches, mentors and counselors.

The House expanded working in retirement options through an amendment to E4SHB 1827. The amendment allows TRS and SERS members who retired using the 2008 ERFs to work as substitutes in any non-administrative roles in school districts.

Unity Agenda: Students

2SSB 5689, which would have prevented school employees from working with federal immigration authorities under certain conditions, failed to move off the Senate floor. WEA is considering amendment options in other bills.  

Unity Agenda: Aspiring educators

E4SHB 1827 includes multiple strategies to address educator shortages. In addition to the retirement provisions, it also has a section that will increase access to conditional scholarships and a loan forgiveness program. It will be heard in the Senate Early Learning and K-12 committee on Tuesday.

Paraeducators

SSB 6388 concerning paraeducators was passed by the Senate and now moves to the House Education committee for a hearing on Tuesday. This bill will correct some implementation issues in last year’s landmark Paraeducator professional development bill.

Capital gains tax

HB 2967 would create a revenue-neutral a capital gains tax and provide relief for low-income senior citizens and “buy down” the state property tax enacted last year. It had a hearing Friday in the House. WEA testified in support of a capital gains tax, and expressed concerns that this proposal doesn’t go far enough to change the state’s upside down tax code nor make sufficient investments into education and other state services.

Next week

The House (HB 2299) and the Senate (SB 6032) are both expected to release their supplemental budget plans on Tuesday. WEA members are urging legislators to adopt Gov. Inslee’s education funding budget, which would invest nearly $1 billion in K-12 educator salaries this year, as ordered by the Supreme Court. Don’t miss WEA’s Facebook and radio ads about the budget, and be sure to send a message to legislators to fund Inslee’s education plan. 

The House Public Safety and the Senate Law and Justice committees will  hold a joint hearing session on I - 940, the initiative regarding specific training for law enforcement officers on how to de-escalate volatile situations and reduce police shootings. WEA supports.

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