Today is the 33rd day of the 60-day supplemental session. We are now on the downhill side of the session and are facing the house of origin cutoff. Feb 14th is the day in which a bill must be passed from its house of origin in order to move forward in the legislative process. The coming days will be filled with floor debates and Rules Committee meetings. The hearing rooms in the House and Senate will be oddly quiet as the rotunda in the Legislative Building will be filled with eager advocates anxiously watching chamber floor action.
The debate regarding school funding, as expected, continues to grab considerable media attention, particularly around the potential dramatic increase in property taxes in urban areas. This is proving a difficult topic between the parties in the Legislature. Last week we heard from Democratic leaders, this week we get a chance to hear from Republican leaders. The first glimpse at a possible budget solution will be released shortly, with the first draft of the budget coming from the Senate Ways & Means committee. Teachable moment; the chambers take turns being the first to release a proposed budget. This time around it is the Senate that will go first. This is a small procedural step that helps to balance the decision-making process across the two legislative chambers.
Agency staff continues to closely watch our legislative policy and budget priorities. The technical corrections bills (HB 2698 / SB 6388), regarding the implementation of HB 1115, suffered a minor set back this week as the House version (HB 2698) failed to progress beyond the fiscal cut off after it was referred to the House Appropriations committee. This pivoted on the presence of a funding element in the policy bill, section 7 to be exact. The Senate version did not include this funding provision, with some indication that the funding will be addressed in the Senate through a budget proviso. The funding element is to support the development of modules for the subject matter certificates related to the Fundamental Course of Study, English Language Learner, and Special Education certificates. However, the Senate version of the bill, absent the inclusion of the funding reference, advanced in the process and is currently waiting to be debated on the Senate floor and passed onto the House. This is proving a priority for a number of stakeholders because of the relief it will provide districts and practicing paraeducators that are working to meet new training requirements.
HB 1827, which touches on a number of issues related to the board and its work, continues to move forward in the process. Staff is narrowing in on specific elements of the bill, seeking changes and making suggestions where necessary. Those elements include our work regarding program management for the Alternative Route Block Grant, educator retooling conditional loan scholarship, paraeducator pipeline scholarship, and Recruiting Washington Teachers programs. In addition, staff is focused in on section 102 of the bill that speaks to the management of a regional recruitment pilot to be stood up in area ESDs to foster regional collaboration and partnership towards meeting specific educator workforce demands. Further, there is a portion of the bill that speaks to the creation of a pilot designed to fund ESDs in the providing of Alternative Route programs and candidate funding.
Recent versions of the bill have resulted in changes that place the agency in the lead of managing the regional recruitment efforts. In addition, the bill now includes (in section 305) direction to the PESB to develop rules and process regarding the potential expungement of educator reprimands through a board defined application process. Other sought-after changes will be a large part of agency effort in the final 27 days of the supplemental session.
It is unclear at this point the likelihood of a special session. Many legislators and stakeholders remain committed to completing on or before the March 8th end of the session.
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