The 65th Washington State Legislature kicked off a 105-day session January 9, swearing in 18 new House and 12 new Senate members, one of the largest freshman classes for both chambers in many election cycles. The Senate is controlled by a Republican majority of 25-24, while the House majority is 50 Democrats to 48 Republicans. The slim majorities in both chambers, with control shared by both parties, likely will keep extreme policies from either side in check.
On January 11, five new separately elected officials were sworn in, including Chris Reykdal as the new Superintendent of Public Instruction. Democrat Jay Inslee was sworn in as Governor, and delivered his inaugural address the same day. Inslee mainly focused on getting the job done on public education funding, but also stressed the importance of addressing the mental health crisis, protecting those using the state’s affordable health exchange, reducing homelessness, and increasing jobs.
Status of Legislative Priorities
- Social and Emotional Learning – no legislation yet; legislation is planned, including a JumpStart Summer ECEAP pilot program that includes a focus on social and emotional learning.
- Amply Funding Basic Education
- The Joint Education Funding Task Force wrapped up seven months of meetings without bipartisan recommendations or a report to the Legislature.
- On January 4th, Democrats revealed a proposal, while Republicans shared Legislative Principles.
- Republicans anticipate a proposal to be available no later than February 1st.
- Closing the Opportunity Gap – no legislation yet; Governor’s budget provided additional funding to support closing the Opportunity Gap.
- Standards for Para-educators – HB 1115 and SB 5070 have been introduced. The Senate Bill is scheduled for a hearing Thursday, January 19th at 1:30 p.m. WSPTA member Beth Sigall plans to testify in favor.
- Breakfast after the Bell – no legislation yet; Representative Zack Hudgins is aware of WSPTA interest, desire to be part of the development of the legislation.
- Improving Educational Outcomes for Foster Children – the Governor’s operating budget included additional funding focused in this area.
- Engaging Families in Student Success – the Governor’s operating budget included additional funding and a 1.0 FTE per prototypical school for use with school counselors, nurses, family engagement, psychologists, and social workers.
- Post-Secondary/Higher Education Access and Affordability – the Governor’s operating budget maintained the tuition reductions put in place for the 2015-17 session and backfilled the financial impact of the tuition cuts to the state universities.
- Removing Barriers to Implementing Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) – the Governor’s operating budget includes funding for an additional 2,700 ECEAP slots. It also includes funding for summer ECEAP. The capital budget proposal includes funding for $26 million for early learning facilities.
- Restorative Justice and School Safety – no legislation at this time.
Week in Review
While the session after a big election is usually a little slow, this week’s budget and policy committees started with public hearings on Governor Inslee’s proposed two-year spending plans for operations and construction/capital projects. Family and Community Engagement Director, Judy East, and Region Legislative Committee member, Erika Kapur, testified in favor of the Governor’s education budgets, citing areas of alignment with the legislative agenda adopted in October.
The Week Ahead
Next week has several work sessions on education 101, early learning, and recommendations from the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Delivery of Services to Families & Children. Of particular interest may be:
Thursday, January 19
8 a.m., House Education, HHR A
Work Session: Education Governance – Other Public Partners in the K-12 System.
- HB 1012 – Eliminating the use of the high school science assessment as a graduation prerequisite.
- HB 1023 – Concerning military student participation in varsity extracurricular activities.
- HB 1046 – Concerning certificates of academic and individual achievement.
8 a.m., House Labor & Workplace Standards, HHR E
Public Hearing: HB 1116 – Implementing family and medical leave insurance. – WSPTA sign in Support
1:30 p.m., Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education, SHR 1
Work Session: The State’s plan to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act.
- SB 5064 – Concerning freedom of expression rights of students at public schools and institutions of higher education.
- SB 5107 – Creating a local pathway for local governments, school districts, and nonprofit organizations to provide more high quality early learning opportunities by reducing barriers and increasing efficiency.
- SB 5115 – Concerning school directors’ compensation.
- SB 5070 – Concerning para-educators. – WSPTA to testify – Top 5
3:30 p.m., House Appropriations, HHR A
Work Session: Briefing on K-12 public school funding.
3:30 p.m., Senate Ways & Means, SHR 4
Work Session: K-12 Capital Budget Issues.
WSPTA Legislative Consultant