Today marks the 12th day of the 60-day supplemental session (PDF). If we were living prior to 1979 (PDF), there would be no supplemental session. Much to the surprise of political pundits at the time, Washington voters approved a constitutional amendment that introduced a 60 supplemental session on the back side of the two-year biennium. Goes to show, pundits rarely know everything.
PESB and Paraeducator Board members hit the ground running during the first week of session for their inaugural Hill Climb! Board members engaged with legislators speaking directly on key issues regarding policy and funding priorities for the 2018 session. A big thank you to everyone who participated; it was a blast!
The first critical policy cutoff is a few weeks away (February 2nd) and marks when policy bills must be referred out of committee in their chamber of origin (House or Senate) or they are considered “dead.” But, as with most things in the legislature, no bill is truly dead if you have the votes. These cutoffs are self-imposed deadlines to help keep the business of the legislature moving forward in a timely manner.
Being that this is a supplemental session, and the spirit is to address technical corrections necessary to implement already passed legislation, our agency’s list of priorities is rather small. There are, however, pieces of legislation and budget priorities to keep our eyes on.
Our budget priorities this session pertain to increased funding for Dual Language Grow Your Own programs. In collaboration with the Governor’s office, we are seeking a $1 million annual increase in funding for these grants to be dispersed across the state. This initiative was established last session with the passage of HB 1445. At this point in the session, much of the discussion is focused on policy issues, but a foundation must be established for success once the budget process starts in earnest. Increased funding was an issue that was successfully raised during the Hill Climb, and many of the discussions helped move this work forward.
In addition, HB 2698 / SB 6388, introduces some changes to the work of the Paraeducator Board and available scholarship dollars for practicing paraeducators. These measures provide a softer onramp for new training requirements, expands eligibility for parapipeline scholarship dollars, and provides targeted funds for the development of specialty certificates in Special Education and English Language Learner instruction. All of these changes speak to addressing issues that have arisen from the implementation HB 1115. At this point, these bill have been scheduled for a hearing and staff is working to prepare Cathy Smith, Paraboard chair, for testimony during their public hearing.
Other larger policy conversations regarding educator recruitment and retention are being addressed in HB 1827. This is a complicated Omnibus bill that touches on a number of issues including regional recruitment, earmarked Alternative Route grant dollars, and candidate selection for educator workforce development programs. This bill carries a number of implications, and staff are working diligently to provide clear, concise and well-developed information to ensure that, should the bill pass, it will be implemented with efficiency capitalizing on already existing expertise.
The coming week will be focused intently on policy bills with larger budget discussion likely picking up in week 4 of the session. If you have any questions about this report or other issues pertaining to the legislature, please contact Justin Montermini at firstname.lastname@example.org.