January 21, 2024

Annual Focus on Advocacy Day Brings Parents, Students to Olympia

By Marie Sullivan,

Even though the temperatures were frosty, and the fountains iced over, a little cold didn’t stop the more than 150 parents and students from visiting Olympia on Monday, January 15 for Focus on Advocacy Day. Members gathered in the Columbia Room and walked around the campus, meeting with legislators, listening to guest speakers, testifying before legislative committees, and learning about the history of the Capitol Building.

In addition to visiting the State capital, Washington State PTA advanced Action Alerts on Top 5 priorities throughout the week. These email alerts were sent to local legislators, and each day encouraged action on a specific priority. If you haven’t sent participated yet, you can access all of our active alerts on our new Action Alerts webpage.

Also, the week included many public hearings and, as you’ll see, lots of advocacy in action. Here’s a quick recap of key legislation we’re following:

Fiscal stability

On January 15th, the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education committee held a public hearing on SB 5956, which would define a school district’s maximum per-pupil limit for enrichment levies to be $2,500 per-pupil multiplied by the district’s regionalization factor if the school district has fewer than 40,000 students. The bill was requested by OSPI, and its House “companion” is HB 2215. Overall, the bill is expected to apply to no more than 12 school districts in the state. The Senate bill hasn’t advanced, and the House bill has been referred to the House Appropriations Committee but is not scheduled for a public hearing.

Several bills are up this week for consideration, including SB 5873, which would address some of the underfunding issues with student transportation. The bill will be heard Tuesday in the Senate Ways & Means Committee.

Also, up this week are bills that would increase hourly rates for paraeducators, listing the minimum rate in statute. SB 6082 is at the request of OSPI and would increase paraeducator salaries by an additional statewide average of $7 per hour per FTE paraeducator hired by school districts as reported in the 2022-23 school year. SB 6123 is Governor Inslee’s bill to increase salaries by $3 per hour. Both bills are scheduled for a public hearing in the Senate education committee on January 24 at 10:30 AM.

HB 2458 would require the state to annually adjust the 4% increase experience factor for districts that employ educators who have more than average years of experience and a higher ratio of advanced degrees to bachelor’s degrees. The bill will be on Tuesday’s Introduction list and the bill language should be available Monday after 5 PM. Many districts that received the experience factor in the 2023 would retain it, and the bill offers a hold harmless for any district that might become ineligible in the 2024-25 school year.

Special education funding and inclusionary practices

On Monday, January 15th, the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee heard mostly positive testimony on SB 6014 to raise the cap on special education from 15% to 17.25%. The bill was not amended and was unanimously passed to the Ways and Means Committee for further consideration. Its companion bill, HB 2180, had a similar public hearing in the House Appropriations Committee on January 17th.

Also heard on Monday and passed onto Ways & Means was SB 5852, which would make changes to the what can be reviewed for safety net award applications and require OSPI to develop a survey requesting feedback from small school districts regarding the safety net application process. In addition, the bill would require OSPI, by December 2025, to use the survey feedback to implement a simplified, standardized safety net application for all school districts that reduces barriers to safety net funding.

Coming up on Monday, January 22nd, the Senate education committee will hear testimony on SB 5966, concerning isolation and restraint of students in public schools and educational programs. The bill is sponsored by Senator Claire Wilson, D-Federal Way. The House bill relating to this topic, E2SHB 1479, had a public hearing on January 11th and has not been scheduled for executive action yet.

Reducing gun violence

January 16th was “gun day” in the House Civil Rights & Judiciary Committee, where new Chair Jamila Taylor, D-Federal Way, heard public testimony on five bills designed to prevent and reduce gun violence. Of the bills heard, the committee passed the following out of committee on January 19thHB 1903, HB 2021, and HB 2118.

Over in the Senate Law & Justice Committee, lawmakers heard pro and con testimony on SB 5444, which would prohibit firearms in sensitive locations where children and families gather. A substitute bill that added some exemptions for correctional personnel and certain employees from the weapons prohibition passed from committee on January 18th and was referred to the Senate Ways & Means Committee.  On the same day, the committee passed a substitute to SB 5985, concerning firearms background checks, onto the Rules committee.

Advocacy in Action!

Washington State PTA was rocking Olympia on January 15, testifying both in person and remotely before three different committees and talking with their legislators. Here’s a look at the day’s testifiers.

  • While he was in town for Focus on Advocacy Day, Paultoro Tanaka, a student at Robert Eagle Staff Middle School, testified in favor of HB 2282, which would convene a work group to identify African American studies curricula for use by students in grades 7-12. Paultoro spoke about his middle school experience and encouraged House Education Committee legislators to not only pass the bill but to add his school principal to the work group! Watch Paultoro here.  He was joined by 201 people, mainly parent advocates, who responded to the WSPTA January 15th Call to Action and signed in Pro, not wishing to testify.
  • Also testifying before the education committee was Emily McKenzie, an 11th grader at North Creek High School. Emily spoke in favor of HB 1915, a bill that would make financial education a 0.5 credit requirement for high school graduation and direct instruction in elementary and middle schools. Using compelling remarks, Emily shared the value of her financial education class and hoped all students could have similar access. Emily’s testimony is found here.
  • Rounding out the House hearing was former WSPTA President Michelle Nims, testifying in support of HB 1843, which would lower the threshold to pass bonds to 55%. In addition to citing statistics about bond measures that had passed with majority or 55% votes, Michelle asked committee members to pass the bill and let Washington voters decide in the next election whether or not to support a lower threshold to pass bonds (HJR 4207). Watch Michelle here.
  • Over in the Senate education committee, former Advocacy Director Lizzy Sebring asked the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee to consider not just lifting the cap on student enrollment for special education services from 15% to 17.25%, as proposed through SB 6014, but to support full removal of the cap this session. Watch Lizzy’s testimony on January 15th here. This clip includes a statement following Lizzy’s testimony from committee Chair Lisa Wellman, D-Mercer Island, who said she was not ready to remove the cap because she is worried that some students with an IEP may have been overidentified and don’t need special education services.
  • Speaking directly after Lizzy was Seattle Council PTSA parent Michelle Campbell, who echoed the concerns about the artificial cap and asked committee members to stop debating what the right percentage should be and focus their work on identifying, including, and educating all students in Washington schools. Listen to Michelle here.
  • Also speaking in person on SB 6014 was Michelle Whitehead, a parent in the 5th legislative district. Michelle was also in Olympia for the Focus on Advocacy Day. Watch Michelle here.
  • Another panelist, not necessarily a WSPTA member, testifying before the committee was Olympia parent Collette (last name not heard). We showcase her testimony here as inspiration to all parents who are nervous about testifying because they are “just a parent.” Collette’s testimony is a great reminder that parent voice is always appreciated and super impactful. Listen here.
  • Speaking remotely, Dr. Gwen Loosmore testified in favor of SB 5444, prohibiting firearms in sensitive places like parks, zoos, and other public spaces. Gwen shared with Senate Law & Justice Committee members that WSPTA members had specifically modified the association’s position on preventing gun violence and youth suicide to support this legislation, which was introduced in the 2023 session.  “Our members are asking for this understanding that such restrictions reduce the risk of accidental discharge and facilitate a less-aggressive atmosphere,” said Gwen. Watch her testimony here.

Monday wasn’t the only day WSPTA was bringing Parent Voice to Olympia proceedings. Here’s more:

  • WSPTA Advocacy Committee member Danica Nobles, testified Pro on SB 5819, which would make financial education a graduation prerequisite, but raised some concerns about implementation, including the timing of the new requirement. Danica told Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee members that students have asked for this type of curriculum, but issues such as defining a .5 credit in an embedded class and having a prepared and properly endorsed educator workforce need to be addressed. Watch Danica here.
  • Also speaking on proposed new graduation requirements, WSPTA Advocacy Committee members Natalya Yudkovsky and Susan Baird-Joshi flagged issues related to SB 5849, making computer science competency a graduation requirement, starting with the class of 2029. The bill was heard Wednesday, January 17th, in the Senate education committee. When we know testimony will be short, it’s good to have two testifiers raise different issues. Listen to Natalya here and Susan here.

The Week Ahead – Schedule subject to change

Early Learning & K-12 Education (Senate) – SHR 1 and Virtual J.A. Cherberg – 1/22 @ 1:30pm

  • SB 5969 – Public Hearing – Adjusting school districts’ authority to contract indebtedness for school construction. (Remote Testimony Available).
  • SB 5978 – Public Hearing – Authorizing the office of the superintendent of public instruction to act as a guarantor for a county when the county provides a loan to a school district. (Remote Testimony Available).
  • SB 6012 – Public Hearing – Helping approved teacher preparation programs respond to the continuously changing needs of the modern classroom. (Remote Testimony Available).
  • SB 5966 – Public Hearing – Concerning restraint or isolation of students in public schools and educational programs. (Remote Testimony Available).

Appropriations (House) – HHR A and Virtual JLOB – 1/22 @ 4:00pm

  • HB 1946 – Public Hearing – Creating the Washington health corps behavioral health scholarship program. (Remote Testimony Available).

Innovation, Community & Economic Development, & Veterans (House) – HHR C and Virtual JLOB – 1/23 @ 10:30am

  • HB 2313 – Public Hearing – Furthering digital equity and opportunity in Washington. (Remote Testimony Available).

Law & Justice (Senate) – SHR 4 and Virtual JACB – 1/23 @ 10:30am

  • SB 5891 – Public Hearing – Designating trespassing on a public school bus as a felony offense. (Hearing is on the Proposed Substitute.) (Remote Testimony Available).

Health Care & Wellness (House) – HHR A and Virtual JLOB – 1/23 @ 1:30pm

  • HB 2247 – Public Hearing – Addressing behavioral health provider shortages. (Remote Testimony Available).

Postsecondary Education & Workforce (House) – HHR B and Virtual JLOB – 1/23 @ 1:30pm

  • HB 2309 – Public Hearing – Establishing the Washington 13 free guarantee. (Remote Testimony Available).
  • HB 2374 – Public Hearing – Establishing the Washington promise program. (Remote Testimony Available).

Education (House) – HHR A and Virtual JLOB – 1/23 @ 4:00pm

  • HB 2331 – Public Hearing – Modifying requirements for public school instructional and supplemental instructional materials. (Remote Testimony Available).
  • HB 2398 – Public Hearing – Requiring parent representation on instructional materials committees. (Remote Testimony Available).
  • HB 2037 – Public Hearing – Concerning Holocaust and genocide education in public schools. (Remote Testimony Available).
  • HB 2018 – Public Hearing – Improving student outcomes by restricting mobile device use by public school students. (Remote Testimony Available).
  • HB 1922 – Public Hearing – Establishing a grant program for the purchase and installation of vape detectors in public schools. (Remote Testimony Available).

Ways & Means (Senate) – SHR 4 and Virtual JACB – 1/23 @ 4:00pm

  • SB 5873 – Public Hearing – Providing adequate and predictable student transportation. (Remote Testimony Available). (Support/High)

Environment, Energy & Technology (Senate) – SHR 1 and Virtual J.A. Cherberg – 1/24 @ 8:00am

  • SB 6276 – Public Hearing – Supporting the servicing and right to repair of certain products with digital electronics in a secure and reliable manner. (Remote Testimony Available).

Higher Education & Workforce Development (Senate) – SHR 2 and Virtual J.A. Cherberg – 1/24 @ 8:00am

  • SB 6254 – Public Hearing – Providing student navigational supports to increase postsecondary enrollment. (Hearing is on the proposed substitute) (Remote Testimony Available).

Early Learning & K-12 Education (Senate) – SHR 1 and Virtual J.A. Cherberg – 1/24 @ 10:30am

  • SB 6082 – Public Hearing – Increasing compensation for Washington paraeducators. (Remote Testimony Available).
  • SB 6123 – Public Hearing – Adjusting classified school employee salaries. (Remote Testimony Available).
  • SB 6208 – Public Hearing – Modifying requirements for public school instructional and supplemental instructional materials. (Remote Testimony Available).
  • SB 6216 – Public Hearing – Establishing a statewide network for student mental and behavioral health. (Remote Testimony Available).

Community Safety, Justice, & Reentry (House) – HHR D and Virtual JLOB – 1/25 @ 8:00am

  • HB 2079 – Public Hearing – Improving school safety by extending and increasing penalties for interference by, or intimidation by threat of, force or violence at schools and athletic activities. (Remote Testimony Available).
  • HB 2133 – Public Hearing – Designating trespassing on a public school bus as a felony offense. (Remote Testimony Available).

Education (House) – HHR A and Virtual JLOB – 1/25 @ 8:00am

  • HB 2130 – Public Hearing – Extending special education services. (Remote Testimony Available).
  • HB 2239 – Public Hearing – Supporting student well-being through instruction in social-emotional skills. (Remote Testimony Available).

Capital Budget (House) – HHR B and Virtual JLOB – 1/25 @ 1:30pm

  • HB 2411 – Public Hearing – Adjusting school districts’ authority to contract indebtedness for school construction. (Remote Testimony Available).

Early Learning & K-12 Education (Senate) – SHR 1 and Virtual J.A. Cherberg – 1/25 @ 1:30pm

  • SB 6031 – Public Hearing – Modifying the student transportation allocation to accommodate multiple vehicle types for transporting students. (Remote Testimony Available).
  • SB 6264 – Public Hearing – Supporting the implementation of competency-based education. (Remote Testimony Available).
Category: Advocacy , Legislative

Back to Blog