This Week in Olympia
Week of February 5
Listen to our new radio ad, calling on the legislature to meet the court’s order and to fully fund education this year!
Vote yes for school levies and bonds
Tuesday is election day. If your district has any levy or bond measures on the ballot, please vote, and vote yes. Thanks to WEA members, levies only need 50% to pass, though bonds still require a 60% approval. When educators vote, we can often make the difference between a funding measure that passes or fails. Please vote and vote yes!
Monday was WEA-Retired Lobby Day
About 30 WEA-Retirees traveled to Olympia for their annual lobby day to talk with lawmakers about restoring the COLA for Plan 1 retirees and increasing state funding for retiree healthcare. They also lobbied legislators to support all of WEA’s 2018 Unity Agenda, which covers K-12, higher education, aspiring educators and students.
Unity Agenda: Community and Technical College bargaining bill passes the House
A major step forward happened on Wednesday afternoon, when the state House approved HB 1237 with a bi-partisan majority. The bill will grant equal collective bargaining rights for community and technical college faculty, allowing them to negotiate pay with local funds. It was sponsored by retired teacher and union leader Rep. Mike Sells.
A Senate version of the bill, SSB 5993, passed out of Ways and Means earlier this week. With bills moving in each chamber, we have had the opportunity to educate and energize legislative support to get us over the finish line.
Unity Agenda: Retirees
On Tuesday, the Senate Ways and Means Committee approved a bill that funds a 2 percent COLA on the first $25,000 of a pension for Plan 1 retirees. The House Appropriations Committee also passed a bill that says the Legislature intends to fund an increase to the minimum benefit for Plan 1 retirees. House Republicans tried to keep the COLA in the bill, but could not defeat the amendment to change this bill to an intent statement.
It represents progress to have these COLA bills moving, but they do not go far enough in meeting the needs of Plan 1 retirees, who haven’t received a COLA since 2010. They also don’t increase funding for retiree health benefits, although the final supplemental budget could. The bills could be voted on in the full Senate and House next week.
E4SHB 1827 passed off the House floor on Friday, with two significant changes. Rep. Manweller successfully worked to allow early retirees to continue to return to work as substitute teachers by eliminating a sunset date that had been in place. Rep. Doglio offered an amendment to extend the current return-to-work provisions so other early retirees can work as substitutes in non-administrative roles. This means that retired counselors, nurses, OT/PT, paraprofessionals, bus drivers and other school staff can serve as substitutes when needed.
Unity Agenda: K-12 funding
SSB 6362 passed out of Senate Ways and Means. This revised bill makes changes to last year’s McCleary funding plan, such as increasing state funding for special education. The bill still fails on three major issues:
- Raising local levy capacity
- Address the salary funding needs of districts whose teachers have above-average experience and education
- Complying with the Washington Supreme Court’s recent order to significantly increase funding for K-12 salaries this year
We expect the bill to be passed off the Senate floor next week. Watch for an action alert so you can contact your legislators to let them know what educators hope to see in a final McCleary fix bill.
This bill is still a work in progress and is expected to undergo changes before it is voted off the Senate floor next week and sent over to the House. WEA urges legislators to make additional improvements to address the identified funding needs.
The capital funding bill SSB 6531 passed out of the Senate Ways and Means committee on Tuesday and has been moved to the Rules Committee. The main changes to the bill are with the phase-in schedule to prioritize additional square footage funded by the state for elementary schools first, followed by middle and high schools.
Unity Agenda: Students
SB 5689 would not allow school-based officers to share information regarding citizenship with federal agents. It has moved to the Senate Rules Committee. It must be heard and passed on the Senate floor no later than Wednesday to remain alive.
Unity Agenda: Aspiring Educators
E4SHB 1827 includes multiple strategies to address educator shortages. In addition to the retirement provisions, it also has a section that will increase access to conditional scholarships and a loan forgiveness program. It passed off the floor with broad bipartisan support, passing 97-1.
SSB 6388 concerning paraeducators has moved to the Senate Rules Committee. This bill will correct some implementation issues in last year’s landmark Paraeducator professional development bill. It needs a hearing and vote by Wednesday to remain alive.
Next week brings another cut-off deadline. All policy bills must pass of the floor of their house of origin by 5 p.m. on Valentine’s Day, Wednesday, Feb. 14 to remain alive. Committee hearings will resume afterwards.
Because of the deadlines, many bills with support in both chambers will see action early in the week. We don’t know the schedules, so stay tuned.
The House Finance Committee is expected to hold a hearing on Friday for HB 2967, which would introduce a capital gains tax and “buy down” the state property tax enacted last year. WEA will testify in favor of capital gains.