Today is the 47th day of the 60-day supplemental session. Today is also the opposite house policy committee cut-off. Any bills that are not passed out of their respective policy committee in the opposite chamber by the end of today are considered dead. The downhill hill run is laid out ahead with only 13 more days until the scheduled end of session on March 8th.
This week was particularly hectic because the House and Senate budgets were released and marathon hearings were held on both. The budgets are complicated, but here is a good interview with budget leaders that makes them more understandable. One clear factor is a dramatic increase in projected state revenues. With the pressure of McCleary still being applied, many lawmakers seek to use increased revenues to address teacher salaries, a lingering component of meeting the McCleary mandates. With only 13 days left, much of the remaining attention this session will be on the budget, with a hope of ending the session on time.
Agency policy and budget priorities are advancing still in the waning days of the session. SB 6388 is alive and well and introduces a critical change to the training requirements for practicing paraeducators and the school districts that will be required to provide the training. A small change was made to the bill in the House Education committee that sought to bring the proposal in line with HB 1827 in terms of the management and eligibility of the Parapipeline scholarship program. We are at the point in the session where there is a concerted effort to get bill language in various bills aligned as the likelihood of final passage increases for those measures still moving forward.
Speaking of HB 1827: for those watching closely, this bill makes a number of changes to our state’s efforts in educator workforce development. Agency staff has been watching this bill closely and working with the sponsor, Rep. Sharon Tomiko-Santos, to raise our voice of support and to address some concerns with the potential changes. Addressing these changes in the House required a lot of effort and direct conversations outside of the committee process.
As the measure has moved through the Senate Education committee, staff were able to get an amendment introduced to the bill that ensured that management of the Alternative Route Block Grant, Retooling Washington Educators, Recruiting Washington Teachers, Parapipeline Scholarship program, and the newly proposed Career and Technical Education Alternative route remained with the Professional Educator Standards Board.
Our agency has been managing these programs since their inception. A mid-budget and mid-grant cycle change in management, as outlined in the bill prior, would result in a number of unnecessary hiccups for the students and programs that benefit from these resources and supports. With the help of the chair of the Senate Education Committee, Sen. Lisa Wellman, an amendment was attached to the bill that further supported current practice and maintained PESB’s role in administering these programs. The bill will now head to the Senate Ways & Means committee. Because the Senate has made changes to the bill, there will be a concurrence process before final passage by the legislature. In short, there are many hurdles left for this measure.
The changes were added as a striking amendment to the bill. Teachable moment. A striking amendment can more easily be reversed in the legislative process. The next vote (either in committee or on the floor) may remove the amendment. Had the bill been “rolled” into a proposed substitute, the changes could not as easily be dismissed. It is a positive step forward for the agency that the changes were made, but diligence will be required to ensure that they stick.
Budget priorities for the agency are also advancing. With the approval of the Governor’s office, agency staff has been advocating for an increase in the allocation for the implementation of HB 1445 and the Bilingual Educator Initiative outlined within. The good news is that both the House and Senate budgets include increased funding of $1 million annually. The complicated part is that the proviso in the Senate directs the increase to the Bilingual Educator Initiative while the proviso in the House directs the increase to the Dual Language Expansion grants also outlined in HB 1445. Staff is working to try and find a compromise on how the funds are referenced in the budget. This is a very small proviso in a very big budget, so ensuring that it is not overlooked is going to be a focus as well as finding agreement in language that will be used in the final budget proviso.
As always, if you have any questions about the legislative process or this update, send those along directly to firstname.lastname@example.org