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Taking Action in Olympia - April 23, 2021

04/23/2021
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Session Week 15

Victories for Equitable, Inclusive Schools

Nobody knows like we as educators do what our schools need to become more welcoming to all students, whether rich, poor, Black, brown, white or with special needs.  Two important bills passed the legislature this week that will increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in our schools.

The legislature passed a bill to eliminate the edTPA.  HB 1028, which now awaits the governor’s signature, recognizes that the edTPA is an expensive, time-consuming hurdle for student teachers that is a further deterrent to low-income certification candidates and candidates of color.

The legislature also passed a bill that will create anti-racism and cultural competency for educators statewide.  Once signed by the governor, this bill will mean educators will be equipped to support our students equitably, in every school.  SB 5044 provides critical professional development that will make schools more welcoming for every student.

We continue to advocate for additional legislation that will make changes in our schools to improve equity, dismantle racism, and meet the needs of all students. More information on implementation of these bills will be coming once they’re signed into law.

Two days to go!

Sunday, April 25 is the last day allowed for regular session. 

Right now, conference committees are working to resolve differences between the House and Senate on legislation including the biennial budget.  Unless extended into special session by the governor, the legislature should adjourn for the year “sine die” on Sunday night.

What happened this week?

Fully fund schools

  • Capital gains tax – ESSB 5096 -- Washington has the nation’s most unbalanced tax code, with the wealthiest few paying the least and low-income people paying the most. We can make progress to fix the upside-down tax code by passing ESSB 5096. The bill passed the House on Thursday.     A conference Committee has been appointed to work out the differences.  If you haven’t yet, act now to tell your state Senator to pass a capital gains tax!=.
  • Student transportation funding – E2SSB 5128 – The original bill would have amended the basic education pupil transportation funding formula to adjust for the effects of the pandemic.  The current funding formula is based on efficiency, not safety.  The final amended bill does not include any changes to the funding formula to account for the changes in ridership during the pandemic.   The  final bill now moves to the governor for signature. The House biennial budget proposal includes funding to hold harmless upcoming school years from enrollment declines.  The Senate budget proposal includes full funding for the current school year.
  • K-12 COVID Levy Safety Net– ESHB 1476 – The early version of this bill would have created an enrollment safety funding formula for school years 2020-21 and 2021-22.  The current bill version removed the safety net portions leaving only the changes needed to hold harmless local levy calculations for this period.  State funding is needed to restore the lost K-12 revenues as a result of the pandemic.  An intent section was added to this bill stating the legislature will provide funding relief as part of their budget this biennium.  This bill still awaits final passage. 

WEA will continue advocating for a K-12 budget that provides equitable funding and safe learning environments for students and educators. It takes more resources, not less to meet the needs of students during a pandemic, especially for schools in communities that have been historically underfunded. 

Improve equity, dismantle racism, meet the needs of all students

  • Eliminate the edTPA – 2SHB 1028 – The edTPA is a barrier to creating a more diverse and inclusive educator workforce. It’s a WEA priority to pass this bill to eliminate the edTPA requirement and replace it with rigorous standards for student teachers to demonstrate their skills.  Sen. Mullet proposed an amendment that passed in the Senate that would require student teachers take the edTPA but provide pathways in case a student failed the test.  This won’t solve the problem and WEA opposes this amendment.  On Tuesday the Senate receded from the Mullet amendment and the final good bill is now headed to the governor for signature.
  • Professional development on equity, cultural competency, and dismantling racism – ESSB 5044 – This is a WEA priority bill that would forward racial equity in our schools by ensuring that every educator has an understanding of equity issues.  WEA members testified in favor in the Senate.  Members also testified in favor during its House Education committee hearing.  On Tuesday the Senate concurred in the House amendments and the final bill is now ready for the governor’s signature.
  • Diversity and equity training for higher education – E2SSB 5227 – Would establish training for higher education faculty and staff a professional development program on diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism.  WEA supports.  The Senate concurred in the House amendments on Monday and the final bill is now ready for the governor’s signature.
  • Increase equity and diversity at community and technical colleges – E2SSB 5194 – Would require development of diversity, equity, and inclusion strategic plans and implement student success programs.  WEA supports.  The Senate voted to concur in the House amendments on Monday and the bill now awaits signature by the governor.
  • Higher ed scholarships – SHB 1425 – Would expand eligibility for scholarships for community and technical college students who are not graduates of WA state high schools and for those who are pursuing an industry-recognized credential.  WEA supports this bill.   The bill is awaiting the governor’s signature.
  • Higher ed supports for homeless and foster care students - SHB 1166 – Expands access to the homeless and foster care college students pilot program.  WEA supports.  This bill has been signed into law by the Governor.
  • Eliminating school lunch co-pays -- HB 1342 – Removes lunch copays for students who qualify for reduced-price lunches in PK-12.    WEA members passed a new business item in 2020 to lobby the legislature to make all meals free for K-12 students. WEA supported this bill and it has been signed into law by the Governor.
  • College in the high school - SHB 1302 – Allows students who take college-level classes in their high schools to receive college credits.  This bill, which WEA supports, has been signed into law by the Governor.
  • School based health centers -- SHB 1225 – Allows districts to establish in-school health centers.  WEA testified in support. It has been signed into law by the governor.
  • Learning assistance program funding – SHB 1208 – Creates more flexibility for the learning assistance program funding to better address learning gaps and mental health needs. WEA supports.  The House concurred in the Senate amendments on Tuesday.  The bill governor has now signed this bill into law.

Which WEA-supported bills are enrolled and awaiting signatures?

Improve equity, dismantle racism, meet the needs of all students

  • Behavioral health resource information - SHB 1373 – Would require public schools to publish on their websites contact information for depression, suicide prevention, and other mental health support organizations.   WEA supports this bill.  It is awaiting the governor’s signature.
  • Mastery-based learning – SSB 5249 – Would continue a work group to develop a WA state profile describing the cross-disciplinary skills a student should have developed by the time they graduate high school. It awaits the governor’s signature.
  • Make Juneteenth a holiday – SHB 1016 -- Would recognize the importance of June 19, a holiday celebrating the emancipation of enslaved Americans. Read more about Juneteenth.  It has passed both chambers and now awaits the governor’s signature.
  • Educator secondary trauma - HB 1363 – Would require school districts to adopt policies and procedures to prevent and address secondary trauma in the K-12 workforce.  WEA supports this bill which passed off the Senate floor last Saturday.  It is currently on the governor’s desk awaiting signature.
  • Ensure counselors have time for students – SSB 5030 – Would require that school counselors spend 80% of their time with students, reducing the amount of time on meetings and administration.  WEA members testified in favor in the House. WEA supports meeting the need for increased staffing whether in remote, hybrid, or in-person learning models.  Students need individual attention for their learning and social-emotional needs in this challenging environment and schools need more staff, not less.  The bill is now ready for the governor’s signature.  Additionally, both budget proposals include additional funding for guidance counselors in high-poverty schools starting in SY 2022-23.
  • Revise school attendance rules and procedures – ESHB 1113 -   Would update school attendance laws to reflect a focus on multi-tiered supports and interventions to better support rather than punish students.  WEA supports this bill, which has been passed and signed in both chambers and delivered to the governor for signature.
  • Expand working families tax exemption – ESHB 1297 – Would fund and make more Washingtonians eligible for the working families tax exemption in order to balance our state’s upside-down tax code.  WEA supports this bill.  The bill has been delivered to the governor for his signature.
  • Provide menstrual products in schools – ESHB 1273 – Would create a requirement for school districts to provide sanitary napkins and tampons in all female- and gender-neutral-designated restrooms. WEA supports this bill.  It now awaits the governor’s signature.
  • Institutional education programs- E2SHB 1295 –  Would provide a plan to improve the educational programing and outcomes for students who are incarcerated.  This bill has been sent to the Governor for his signature.
  • Education access post-incarceration – 2SHB 1044 – Would ease the transition from incarceration to postsecondary education.  WEA supports.  The bill now awaits the governor’s signature.
  • Eliminate indigenous mascots - HB 1356 – Would prohibit the inappropriate use of Native American names, symbols, or images as public school mascots, logos, or team names.   WEA supports.  It now awaits the governor’s signature.
  • Close the homework gap by providing digital devices in schools - HB 1365 - Would create a new grant program to attain a 1:1 student to learning device ratio, expand technical support and training of school and district staff in using technology, and create a grant program to support media literacy and digital citizenship program.  This bill awaits the governor’s signature.

Ensure school safety

  • Safe drinking water – E2SHB 1139 – Would direct testing for lead in the drinking water of schools, disclose lead testing levels publicly, and make available technical guidance to help districts reduce lead levels.  WEA supports this bill.   It awaits a signature by the governor.

Which WEA-supported bills are awaiting concurrence or conference?

  • Close the homework gap by expanding broadband access – SHB 1336 – Would make broadband accessible to more students by allowing public utilities, ports and counties to provide this service directly to families.  The bill passed on the House floor on Sunday.  Another bill, 2SSB 5383, passed modifying the same section of law.  Lawmakers from the two chambers must negotiate these differences before final passage. 

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