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Taking Action in Olympia - April 9, 2021

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Session Week 13

Pushing our priorities over the finish line

With the deadline for passing bills from the opposite chamber just two days away, WEA members are making our voices heard in support of our key priorities.  If you haven’t already, please take a minute to send an email to your lawmakers:

What is second reading, anyway?

The Rules Committee in both the House and Senate is typically the final stopping point for bills before getting a vote on the floor.  That committee decides which bills can go to the floor, acting as a gatekeeper. Once they pass the Rules committee, the bills are on second reading. This is an important step but it doesn’t mean that a bill is guaranteed a vote.  The leadership on both floors pull bills for floor debate and vote which are moved to third reading.

What happened this week?

Fully fund schools

  • 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 bill was amended in the House Education committee to remove most provisions adjusting the funding formula to respond to the pandemic with intent language that those portions would be addressed in the budget. It passed off the House floor on Wednesday.  The Senate and House will need to find compromise on this policy as each passed a different version of the bill.  This will likely happen during the conference process.  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.

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

  • 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.  This bill passed on the House floor and because it was amended, it now goes back to the Senate for Concurrence which can happen any time before Sine Die.  Both budget proposals include additional funding for guidance counselors in high-poverty schools starting in SY 2022-23.
  • 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.  This bill passed in the House today (Friday) and is headed back to the Senate for concurrence.
  • 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 passed off the Senate floor last Saturday and 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 passed on the House floor on Wednesday and 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.  It passed on the Senate floor last Saturday and is headed back to the House for concurrence.
  • Education access post-incarceration – 2SHB 1044 – Would ease the transition from incarceration to postsecondary education.  WEA supports.  This bill passed on the Senate floor today (Friday) and is headed to the House for concurrence.
  • Higher ed supports for homeless and foster care students - SHB 1166 – Would expand access to the homeless and foster care college students pilot program.  WEA supports.  This bill passed on the Senate floor on Wednesday and now awaits the governor’s signature.
  • Learning assistance program funding – SHB 1208 – Would create more flexibility for the learning assistance program funding to better address learning gaps and mental health needs. WEA supports.  It passed in the Senate today (Friday) and now heads back to the house for concurrence.
  • Eliminating school lunch co-pays -- HB 1342 – Would remove 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 supports this bill which was passed on the Senate floor on Tuesday.  The Governor has five days to sign this bill.
  • Foster care point of contact – SB 5184 – Would create a separate point of contact for foster youth in schools.  WEA signed in pro at its public hearing.  This bill passed the House floor on Monday and awaits the governor’s signature.
  • School based health centers -- SHB 1225 – Would allow districts to establish in-school health centers.  WEA testified in support. It passed on the Senate floor on Wednesday and 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 passed on the Senate floor on Tuesday and now awaits the governor’s signature.
  • College in the high school - SHB 1302 – Would allow students who take college-level classes in their high schools to receive college credits.  This bill, which WEA supports, passed in the Senate unanimously on Wednesday and now awaits the governor’s signature. 
  • 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.  It passed last Saturday on the Senate floor.  The House will decide if they will accept the amendments made in the Senate over the next couple weeks.
  • 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 passed on the Senate floor today (Friday).

Address the challenges presented by COVID-19 recovery in schools

  • Protect pensions – SB 5021 – Would protect retirement wages from the impact of COVID-19 related furloughs.  WEA supports.  This bill was signed into law by the governor this week.

Which WEA-supported bills are awaiting action?

Fully fund schools

  • K-12 COVID Levy Safety Net– HB 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.   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.  This bill is awaiting a vote on the Senate floor.

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.  Members are taking action to call for its passage.  It is currently on second reading in the Senate Rules committee.
  • 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.  It is on second reading awaiting scheduling for a floor vote.
  • 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.  WEA members are taking action to call for this bill’s passage.  The bill awaits scheduling for a Senate floor vote.  If this bill is passed by the Senate, the House will need to concur with these changes before it can be enacted.
  • 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 is in the Senate Rules committee.
  • Expand working families tax exemption – HB 1297 – If funded, this bill would 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.  This bill is awaiting a floor vote..
  • 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.  This bill is currently placed on second reading awaiting scheduling for a House floor vote.
  • Revise school attendance rules and procedures – ESHB 1113 -   Would update school attendance law to reflect a focus on multi-tiered supports and interventions to better support rather than punish students.  WEA supports this bill, which is now on second reading in the Senate.
  • 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 is currently in the Senate rules committee.
  • Creation of a public investment cooperative – ESSB 5188 - WEA’s continuing resolutions supports the creation of a public cooperative bank.  This bill is currently on second reading awaiting scheduling of a floor vote in the House.

Address the challenges presented by COVID-19 recovery in schools

  • Create a bridge year pilot program – 2SSB 5265 – Would create pilot programs in high schools allowing students to defer graduation from high school in order to pursue additional learning to make up for COVID challenges.  It is currently in the House Rules committee.

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 is currently on second readingeading in the Senate, ready for a floor debate.  If the bill remains unamended, it will be thefinal passage.

What’s new next week?

This Sunday April 11th is the cut-off for passing bills in their opposite chamber, with the exception of bills that need to resolve differences between the two chambers or pertain to fiscal matters.  Legislators will work this weekend to pass many bills before this important cutoff. 

Legislators have begun the negotiation process around each of the budget proposals. 

Follow WEA OurVoice to get the latest from Olympia

  1. Text OURVOICE to 81411 to get regular legislative and election updates by text message
  2. Visit WashingtonEA.org/OurVoice and subscribe to the OurVoice blog
  3. Download the We Are WEA smartphone app on Google Play or the App Store and check out the OurVoice political action section! 
  4. Like and follow OurVoice on Facebook at facebook.com/OurVoiceWEA/
  5. Post using the hashtags #WaEdu and #WaLeg (hashtags explained here)
  6. Call your legislator's office! Need your legislator's contact information? Find it here!  
  7. Call the Legislative Hotline at 800-562-6000 and leave a message for your lawmakers.
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