This Week in Olympia
Week of January 21
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Special Education, Higher Ed, Health Care, Levies, and Testing!
This was a busy week in Olympia, as the session began ramping up with more new bills and more hearings on issues we care about. Over 1,200 bills have already been introduced in what is shaping up to be a fast-paced session.
On Monday, WEA members Carrie Suchy, a school psychologist from Franklin Pierce EA, and Rita Peterson, a special education teacher from Stanwood-Camano EA, testified about the need for more special education funding in a work session of the Senate Ways and Means committee. Learn more and watch their testimony.
On Tuesday, the Senate Higher Ed and Workforce Development Committee heard Governor Inslee’s College Promise bill, SB 5393. This re-names the state need grant that provides tuition assistance for low income students. WEA supports the bill.
Two important hearings were held on Wednesday, which you can learn more about here.
WEA testified in favor of SB 5313, Governor Inslee’s levy bill which would increase local effort assistance and return local school district levies back to the percentage-based levy model. It was one of three bills about school levies that were heard in the Senate Early Learning and K-12 committee.
The same day, the Senate Ways and Means Committee held a work session on the School Employees Benefit Board, the transition to state funded and administered health care. WEA Government Relations Director Shawn Lewis spoke about the Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiated between labor and the state.
On Friday, Several WEA members, including Andrea Hicklin and Amy Shaffer from North Thurston EA testified in support of SB 5014, Sen. John McCoy’s bill to delink standardized test scores from graduation requirements. It was heard in the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee. This is a complete de-link bill. WEA supports.
Next week in Olympia
HB 1265, will be heard in the House Education committee on Monday. This is Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self's bill which increases counselors for elementary and middle schools and begins to require that counselors spend 80% of their time providing direct services to students, a long time goal of our counselors. This is one of many proposed bills which begins to address WEA’s goal of advocating for more counselors, social workers, psychologists, nurses and other caring adults who support the mental and behavioral health of our students.
HB 1085, is Rep. Dolan’s bill that would increase the Medicare subsidy for retiree health care by requiring that it be no less than fifty percent of the premium. It will be heard in House Appropriations committee on Monday. WEA and WEA-Retired support this bill in partnership with other retired and active public employees.
HB 1300, is Rep. Gael Tarleton’s bill to invest in our Community and Technical colleges. It will be heard by the House College and Workforce Development committee on Tuesday. WEA supports.
HB 1355, is Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self's bill to establish staffing standards and ratios for counselors in community and technical colleges. It will also be heard by the House College and Workforce Development committee on Tuesday. WEA supports.
Wednesday is “school safety” day in the Senate Early Learning K-12 Committee. A variety of bills will be heard (see below). With some amendments WEA will support this block of proposed legislation.
SB 5052 and SB 5141 create specific training requirements for school resource officers to be better able to help our students.
SB 5216 will cause school districts and community and technical colleges to develop a threat assessment system to evaluate risks, typically as a response to an actual or perceived threat or concerning behavior at school.
SB 5315 is Governor Inslee’s proposal to increase the number of elementary and middle school counselors, nurses, social workers and psychologists. This is a step in the right direction, though WEA is advocating for more of these professionals who support the mental, behavioral and physical health of our students.
SB 5317 would develop support systems to increase school safety and student well-being. It creates an ongoing Advisory Committee which includes education associations and practitioners.