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WEA supports bill to increase staffing, reduce class sizes in K-12 public schools

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WEA members testifying in Olympia 2
Mandy Sim, Liz Pray and Lorrell Noahr testify in support of increased funding for school staffing.

WEA members testified Feb. 5 in support of legislation that would increase state funding for school staff.

Senate Bill 6615 would phase-in smaller class sizes and additional support staff in line with recommendations from a special work group the Legislature authorized in 2017. It also would fund additional professional development days for educators.

Mandy Sim, a Nationally Certified school psychologist in the Bellevue School District, testified on behalf of WEA and the Washington State Association of School Psychologists. 

“There is a shortage of school psychologists,” Sim said. “I split my time between two schools as one school psychologist to approximately 1,300 students. The biggest barrier in my job -- aside from the massive quantity of compliance paperwork -- is the impact I see on my students because I do not have enough time to help my school counselors, administrators, school nurses, and teachers in providing mental health supports to students.”

Liz Pray, a school nurse in Moses Lake, also testified in support of SB 6615.

“School nurses are seeing an increase in chronic health conditions, mental health disparity, and long wait times to get in for physician appointments,” Pray said. “There is increased involvement in special education decisions, staff education, and student/family health promotion to help our students succeed. The goal of a school nurse is to promote health and wellness while increasing school attendance.”

Charlie and Liz Pray
Charlie, 12, joined his mother, Liz Pray, in Olympia.

Washington voters have repeatedly voted to increase state funding for smaller class sizes and additional support staff. In 2014, voters approved Initiative 1351. Legislators, however, have delayed funding for the additional school staff the measure mandates. SB 6615 would cost billions of dollars, and Senate education committee Chairwoman Lisa Wellman said it’s not going to pass this year.

However, Wellman said she wanted to make sure the issue of additional staff was kept in front of the Legislature and that she wanted to use this bill as a roadmap for future investments.

WEA also supports a related bill that came from the staffing work group, Senate Bill 5908. It would fund training for equity and cultural competency training for educators.

"The training provided in this bill will give educators on-going and job-embedded professional learning to develop and enhance their skills, knowledge and understanding of their students’ and families’ cultures,” said Lorrell Noahr, a WEA lobbyist. “This will create school communities that value this diversity and contribute to an educational system that makes all students feel welcome and ready to succeed

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