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Taking Action in Olympia - January 15, 2021

01/15/2021
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Meet the WEA lobby team 

Because our state legislature has such a huge impact on education funding and policy, WEA has a robust and talented lobby presence in Olympia (and now, virtually).   

Lucinda Young, Chief Lobbyist, takes action on higher education policy, K-12 professional issues, teacher quality, union rights, school safety, political issues, early learning. 

Lorrell Noahr, Funding Lobbyist, advocates for issues related to school district and state budgets including federal, state and local education funding; broadband internet; statewide revenue measures; school construction.   

Julie Salvi, Compensation Lobbyist, takes action on compensation, pensions, health care, and higher education.  

Djibril Diop, Director of Government Relations, leads the lobby team.  

Stay tuned for next week, when we introduce the organizing team! 

What happened this week? 

Session opened with extraordinary security as both the House and Senate approved new operating rules that included operating remotely and taking testimony remotely via zoom.  The Governor’s budget was introduced in both chambers and the Governor made his inaugural address. 

Several WEA priorities were heard in this first week of session, including: 

Fully fund schools 

·         Governor Inslee’s proposed state budgets, (SB 5092, SB 5091HB 1094, HB 1093) which include K-12 and higher education. WEA President Larry Delaney testified in opposition to the education funding reductions proposed by the Governor in K-12 and higher education.    WEA opposes any cuts to education in this time of changing student needs.  It takes more resources, not less to meet the needs of students during a pandemic, especially schools in communities that have been historically underfunded.   

·         Funding formula fixes for pandemic times -- Our current K-12 funding formulas were not designed to respond to a pandemic.  There is a need for early action by the legislature to adjust state laws so that districts will not experience mid-year cuts to state funding. 

The Senate Early Learning and K-12 committee led this effort with their public hearing for SB 5128 adjusting the student transportation funding during an emergency.  WEA testified in support of this bill to ensure schools can receive funding from the state to deliver learning materials and meals to students’ homes and to be able to prioritize safety over efficiency on buses.  It is expected this bill will move in “early action,” which means the bill would be prioritized and moved through the process very quickly. 

It is expected that other funding safety net bills will be “dropped” in the House, but these bills have not been made public.  WEA is hopeful these bills will also have early action this session. 

·         Gov. Inslee’s Capital gains proposal – SB 5096 -- WEA supports a more equitable tax structure to ensure that education is fully funded. Senate Ways and Means heard public testimony on the bill on Thursday.  Take a moment to sign the petition for progressive revenue.   Read more about the positive impacts of the capital gains proposal. 

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

·         Professional development on equity, cultural competency, and dismantling racism – SB 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.  It was heard on Wednesday and WEA members testified in favor

·         Eliminate the EdTPA – HB 1028 – The EdTPA is a barrier to creating a more diverse and inclusive educator workforce and it’s a WEA priority to eliminate the EdTPA requirement and replace it with rigorous standards for student teachers to demonstrate skills in the classroom.  WEA members testified in favor at the Friday hearing.  This also is a priority bill. 

·         Make Juneteenth a holiday – HB 1016.  WEA supports this bill, which had a hearing on Wednesday, and recognizes the importance of June 19th, a holiday celebrating the emancipation of enslaved Americans. Read more about Juneteenth.   

Address the challenges presented by COVID-19 recovery in schools 

·         Waiver of graduation requirements – HB 1121 – gives districts the ability to flex graduation requirements to reflect the difficulties students face during the pandemic.  WEA testified in strong support during its Friday hearing.   

Ensure school safety 

·         Ensure counselors have time for students – SB 5030 – This bill was heard on Wednesday and WEA members testified in favor. It would require that school counselors spend 80% of their time with students, reducing the amount of time on meetings and administration.  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.  

What’s coming up next week? 

Monday, Dr. Martin Luther King Day, is WEA’s annual lobby day.  Members from around the state will be meeting with lawmakers virtually and sharing stories of what it’s like to support students during the pandemic. 

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

·         Eliminate the EdTPA – HB 1028 – The EdTPA is a barrier to creating a more diverse and inclusive educator workforce and it’s a WEA priority to pass this bill eliminate the EdTPA requirement and replace it with rigorous standards for student teachers to demonstrate skills in the classroom.  The House Education committee will hold an executive session on the bill on Friday at 10:00am. 

·         Teach tribal history, culture, and government – SB 5161 – requires school district to work with local tribes on curricula to include content tribes’ culture, history, and government. WEA supports. It will be heard in the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education committee on Monday at 1:30pm. 

·         Provide menstrual products in schools – SB 5070 – creates a requirement for school districts to provide sanitary napkins and tampons in all female- and gender-neutral-designated restrooms. WEA supports. It will be heard in the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education committee on Wednesday at 10:30am. 

·         Revise school attendance rules and procedures – HB 1113 -   updates school attendance law to reflect a focus on multi-tiered supports and interventions to better support rather than punish students.  WEA is testifying pro.  It will be heard Thursday at 1:30pm in House Education committee. 

·         Allow districts to build affordable educator housing – SB 5043 – updates the current provisions allowing districts to construct housing to provide tax incentives to build affordable educator housing on school district land. WEA will testify pro at the hearing in the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education committee on Wednesday at 10:30am. 

·         Foster care point of contact – SB 5184 – creates a separate point of contact for foster youth in schools.  WEA will testify pro during the Friday 8am hearing in the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education committee. 

·         Make Juneteenth a holiday – HB 1016 --  recognizes the importance of June 19th, a holiday celebrating the emancipation of enslaved Americans. Read more about Juneteenth.  It will be in executive session at the House State Government & Tribal Relations committee on Thursday at 10am. 

·         Education access post-incarceration – HB 1044 – eases the transition from incarceration to postsecondary education.  WEA supports.  This bill will be heard Wednesday at 8am in the House College and Workforce Development committee. 

Address the challenges presented by COVID-19 recovery in schools 

·         Forcing schools to re-open based on set metrics – SB 5037 – requires districts to reopen in-person learning once certain community COVID-19 thresholds are met.  WEA opposes this bill, both because it undermines local control and because it fails to partner with educators.  Its public hearing in the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education committee will be on Monday at 1:30pm. 

·         Waiver of graduation requirements – HB 1121 – gives districts the ability to flex graduation requirements to reflect the difficulties students face during the pandemic.  WEA is for.  The House Education committee will hold an executive session on the bill on Tuesday at 8:00am. 

·         Alternative school-year calendars – SB 5147 – provides districts with flexibility to change or extend their school year calendars in response to student needs from the COVID-19 pandemic.   WEA will sign in “other” supporting the concept and pointing out concerns with the technical aspects.  Public hearing on this bill will be Monday at 1:30pm in the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education committee. 

·         Protect pensions – SB 5021 – protects retirement wages from the impact of COVID-19 related furloughs.  WEA supports.  It will be heard Monday at 4pm in Senate Ways & Means. 

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