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Taking Action in Olympia - March 26, 2021

03/26/2021
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Session Week 11, March 26, 2021

Senate, House Introduce Budget Proposals

Our state’s budget is critical for every educator, student, and community in our state and WEA has been advocating tirelessly for fully and equitably funded K-12 and higher education.  The combination of increased state revenues and federal funds is creating opportunities to better meet our students’ needs in a safe and equitable way.  In all of our conversations around the budget we focused on the need for equitable funding and targeted training and resources to further efforts to dismantle racism.  The budget proposals released this week show our conversations have made a difference.

The Senate released its budget proposal on Thursday.  We are encouraged to see it includes in the supplemental budget funding to support school districts who lost significant revenue because of the funding formulas for enrollment and transportation.  It stabilizes funding for the paraeducator certification program, avoids furloughs at colleges and universities, and includes some cost of living increases for higher education members.  It also invests in the stability of the state’s pension system.

The House budget was released today at 3pm.  Our staff experts are still reviewing its contents.  We will have a special edition Taking Action in Olympia on Monday with more on the budget proposals.

Bill to Protect Pensions Passes the House

Using our union voice, together we were able to protect educators whose pensions might have felt long-term impacts from hours reductions or furloughs from the pandemic.  A bill to protect retirement wages, SB 5021, passed in the House this week and is now on to the Governor for signature.  This important legislation makes sure pensions are calculated fairly based on educators’ true wages and expected hours and years worked, not reduced by forced cuts in hours due to the pandemic.

What happened this week?

This was the last week of policy committee meetings for the 2021 legislative session, so several bills passed out of committee and have been sent to Senate Ways & Means, House Appropriations, or Senate/House Rules committees.  Bill not passing out of their assigned policy committees by the end of today are considered dead.

Schedules fluctuate through the week for Senate Ways & Means and Appropriations committees. 

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.  As this bill passed the House, the safety net portions were removed 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 focuses on equitable funding that increases funding for 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 had a public hearing on Monday in the Senate Ways & Means committee. The bill was scheduled for executive session Thursday, but was pulled from consideration.  We will continue to monitor the progress of this bill.

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

  • 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.  Passed out of the House Education committee today (Friday).
  • Close the homework gap by expanding broadband access – SHB 1336 – Would make broadband accessible to more students by allowing more entities to provide the service.  It passed on Thursday out of the Senate Environment, Energy & Technology committee with an amendment and has been referred to the Rules Committee.
  • 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 Committee on College & Workforce Development on Wednesday and is now referred to House Appropriations committee.
  • 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 in the Senate Committee on Early Learning & K-12 Education on Wednesday and is now referred to the Rules committee.
  • 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 testified pro in its March 17 hearing in in Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education.  It passed the committee on Tuesday and is now referred to the Rules Committee.
  • 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 is had a public hearing on Monday and passed out of the Senate Ways & Means committee on Thursday.  It is now in the Rules committee.
  • 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 in the House Education Committee on Tuesday and has been referred to the House Appropriations committee.
  • 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.  It passed the House Education committee on Tuesday and is now referred to the Rules committee.
  • Institutional education programs- E2SHB 1295 –  Would provide a plan to improve the educational programing and outcomes for students who are incarcerated.  WEA testified in support of this bill in the Senate Ways & Means committee on Monday and it passed out of that committee on Thursday.  It is now in Senate Rules committee.
  • 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 was heard in Senate Ways & Means on Monday and passed out of that committee on Thursday.  It is now in 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 passed in the House Committee on Consumer Protection & Business on Thursday.
  • Allow districts to build affordable educator housing – SB 5043 – Would update the current provisions allowing districts to construct housing to provide tax incentives to build affordable educator housing on school district land. WEA testified pro in the Senate.  It is scheduled for public hearing in the House Finance committee on Monday at 8:00 a.m.

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 passed in the House on Wednesday and is now on to the Governor for signature.
  • 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 passed the House Committee on Education this morning (Friday) and has been referred to the House Appropriations committee.

Ensure school safety

Grants for teaching media literacy – SB 5242 – Would direct the OSPI to create a grant program to support school librarians in teaching media and digital literacy.  WEA testified in support of this bill in its hearing in the House Committee on Education today and it has passed out of the committee.

What’s new next week?

Next Friday is fiscal cutoff day, so any bill that has not passed out of Appropriations or Ways & Means committee is considered dead.  The exception is budgets and matters necessary to implement budgets. 

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

  • 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 passed in the House Committee on College & Workforce Development and is scheduled for a public hearing in House Appropriations on Tuesday at 1:30 p.m.
  • 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 which passed in the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education and is now scheduled for hearing in Senate Ways & Means on Tuesday at 1:30 p.m.
  • 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.  It is scheduled for public hearing in the Senate Ways & Means committee on Tuesday at 1:30 p.m.
  • 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 in Senate Higher Education and is scheduled for hearing in Senate Ways & Means Wednesday at 1:30 p.m.
  • School based health centers -- SHB 1225 – Would allow districts to establish in-school health centers.  WEA testified in support. It passed out of the Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee and is scheduled for a hearing in Senate Ways & Means on Tuesday at 1:30 p.m.
  • 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 in the Senate State Government and Elections committee.  It is scheduled for hearing in Senate Ways & Means on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m.

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.  WEAsupports this bill.  It is scheduled for a public hearing in the Senate Ways & Means committee on Thursday at 1:30 p.m.

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