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This Week in Olympia

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WA Capitol and Mount Rainier

Week of February 26

Wednesday was WEA’s second Member Lobby Day of Unity in Olympia. Nearly 100 educators lobbied legislators to pass a budget that meets the state Supreme Court’s most recent funding directive, which ordered the state to increase funding for K-12 educator salaries by $1 billion for the 2018-19 school year.

The state House passed its budget proposal this week. The Senate passed its budget last week. Both chambers now need to work out the differences between the two budgets before the session ends March 8. Both budgets include funds to meet the court’s deadline to fund salaries by the 2018-19 school year. Both reduce property taxes as well.

Big wins for college faculty, paraeducators

The Senate moved a couple of critical bills forward this week. After more than a decade of work by WEA members and our allies, the chamber passed EHB 1237 to allow community and technical college faculty to bargain for salaries with local funds. Faculty at two-year colleges were the only ones not allowed to negotiate for salaries with their employers.

In previous years, the bill passed in the House but was blocked by Senate Republicans who were in the majority. This year, with the election of Democratic Sen. Manka Dhingra, the bill finally passed in the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats. It had bipartisan support in both bodies.

The House will provide an up or down vote on the Senate amendments next week. It will then be sent to the Governor’s desk, where we expect he will sign it into law. 

The House voted 98-0 to pass the paraeducator bill, SSB 6388, which will allow current paraeducators one more year to meet minimum employment requirements. Gov. Inslee is expected to sign the bill, which already passed the Senate.

Unity Agenda: K-12 funding

E2SSB 6362 to “fix” the McCleary funding plan approved last year moved out of the House Appropriations Committee on Monday with a striking amendment. The current House bill is somewhat different than a version of the same bill the Senate passed earlier. Both bills deal with issues such as pay regionalization.

This bill continues to improve as it moves through the process addressing concerns raised by K-12 stakeholders.

The capital funding bill, SSB 6531, which would phase-in increased funding for the modernization and construction of school buildings, did not move out of the House Capital Budget committee and is now considered dead.

Unity Agenda: Retirees

SB 6340, the Plan 1 COLA bill for retired educators, passed the Senate in February and is waiting for a vote in the House. The House limited the bill, which now only provides a COLA to Plan 1 retirees who receive the minimum benefit. The final decision on the size and structure for any COLA will be determined through budget negotiations.

Unity Agenda: Aspiring Educators and Retirees 

E4SHB 1827, passed out of the Senate Education Committee. This bill would increase conditional scholarships and loan forgiveness and includes provisions that would allow TRS members who retired using the 2008 ERFs to work as substitute teachers, mentors, coaches and counselors. It passed the House in February, and we hope the Senate will approve it before the Legislature adjourns March 8.

Unity Agenda: Students

WEA supports SB 6620, which is about “improving security in schools and the safety of students.” The bill calls for implementing an emergency response system in all our schools and creating a “students protecting students program” – a 24/7 anonymous reporting system for school related threats. There are several misguided school safety bills that are unlikely to get a hearing. 

The Senate also passed E3SHB 1488 this week. It expands immigrant students’ access to the College Bound Scholarship.

Next week

The 2018 legislative session is scheduled to end March 8.

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