This was a busy week, with a big policy cutoff on March 29. In addition, House Democrats announced their “Families First” budget March 27, increasing policy level spending to a net of $3.2 billion. The two-year spending plan is balanced on $3 billion in new revenues from a combination of sources, $206 million in assumed reversions, and $96 million in budget-driven revenue, other legislation, and other adjustments.
A public hearing was held a few hours after the official release, with committee markup going late on the 28th. Rather than adopting their version (PSHB 1067, which was for introduction only), the House brought the Senate bill, ESSB 5048, to the floor. They stuck the budget passed by the Senate, and replaced it with their amended spending plan. Floor debate started the afternoon of the 30th with more than 60 amendments on the bar, and continued the 31st. Not surprisingly, the operating budget passed along party lines, 50-48.
Senate Republicans funded their budget on a new statewide property tax levy of $1.55/$1000 assessed value. The House Finance Committee will hear public testimony Monday, April 3 on HB 2186, and vote the bill out of committee on Tuesday. Chair Kris Lytton, D-Anacortes, said she was not inclined to pass the revenue package over to the Senate, as they have in the past, only to see the ideas die. She said they would make the revenue conversation part of the expenditure side of deliberations. New revenue would include a capital gains tax; graduated real estate excise tax; increased B&O tax on professional services; collection of more internet sales taxes; and closure of several tax loopholes.
The central part of the House Democrats’ budget is what they say would be full funding of K-12 schools. They also would hold tuition at public colleges and universities at current rates, backfill the shortfall with state funding, and expand the State Need Grant. And they would increase early learning program slots and compensation to providers. Among non-education items, the House proposal would fund mental health and the collective bargaining agreements negotiated by the Governor’s Office and public employee unions.
The good news about both chambers acting so quickly is that the budgets now can truly move into the negotiating arena. As the Senate budget numbers continue to be revised, the House and Senate education spending plans are different in total expenditures. How they get there, what gets counted, and what they do to get there is where major differences occur. Senator John Braun, R-Centralia, is back at the negotiating table on education funding, while Senator Dino Rossi, R-Redmond, returns to general operating budget issues.
The other big budget released last week was the Senate capital budget. ESSB 5086, which passed the Senate 49-0, would take the state nearly to its bond capacity: spending $2.53 billion, leaving about $41.6 million in capacity. The two-year construction budget includes an unprecedented $1.09 billion for K-12 education facility construction, renovation or modernization programs. For the School Construction Assistance Program, nearly $800 million in bonds and $185 million from trust land revenues support projects in the queue at OSPI.
An additional $17.5 million would be provided to districts for K-3 class size reduction grants. The budget bill language would target the new money to projects that were prioritized by OSPI in the 2015-16 competitive grant process, and proviso language would award and disburse grants “in accordance with requirements established for the 2015-17 K-3 class size reduction grant pilot program.”
Status of Top Five Legislative Priorities – Update & Focus for Members this Week
- Social and Emotional Learning
- Focus for members: The Senate Ways & Means Committee head public testimony on HB 1377, which would create definitions and collaborative time for school counselors, psychologists, and social workers. An amendment would add teachers into the collaboration time.
- Amply Funding Basic Education
- Focus for members: The House Democrats have released a new education funding bill to accompany the operating budget. HB 2185 is nearly identical to the bill released earlier in the session. A comparison of it to the Senate and Governor education funding plans is in the works.
- Closing the Opportunity Gap
- Focus for members: Members should read the WSPTA vision statement for Washington’s Education System and contact their legislators on areas of alignment once the comparison is available.
- Standards for Para-educators
- As mentioned last week, a compromise has been struck, and SB 5070 and HB 1115 offer similar language. The bills would create minimum standards for para-educators, require a four-day training session on the standards; create a para-educator standards board, which would include a representative from WSPTA, to set a certification and endorsement pathway; offer grants for school districts to pilot the standards; study the effectiveness of para-educators; and specific training funding.
- Focus for members: While not what the WSPTA position supported at Legislative Assembly, this is a step forward. Encourage your members to support these bills.
- Breakfast after the Bell
- The Breakfast after the Bell bill passed the Senate education committee. It has yet to be scheduled for a public hearing in the Senate Ways & Means Committee.
- Focus for members: Contact your Senators and ask them to request HB 1508 be scheduled for a public hearing by the April 4 cutoff.
- Find your legislator: http://app.leg.wa.gov/districtfinder
2017 WSPTA Supported Issues:
- Improving Educational Outcomes for Foster Children
- SSB 5241 was passed out of House Education and is in the Rules committee. Now that action returns to the floor, the bill is expected to pass easily.
- Engaging Families in Student Success
- SHB 1618 had a public hearing March 30 in the Senate Ways & Means Committee. WSPTA parent, Jess Garcia of Bellevue, testified in support. While she received no questions, Senator Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, asked if the bill was irrelevant since the Senate Republicans didn’t use a prototypical schools funding formula. The answer was that the bill might have to be adjusted to just retain the definitions and title changes.
- Focus for members: Contact your legislators on the Senate Ways & Means Committee and share why this bill is important and ask them to pass it. One way to think about it, regardless of whether they go with a weighted per pupil or a prototypical funding model, every business has some form of customer service, regardless of the type of business. We’d like them to think of the family and community engagement coordinator as just an integral part of a school as a customer service representative or department is to a business.
- Post-Secondary/Higher Education Access and Affordability
- Unfortunately, HB 1512, fell victim to the March 29 cutoff. The bill would have expanded the eligibility for students in the 9th and 10th grades, and closed an income gap of 5% between College Bound Scholarships and the State Need Grant.
- WSPTA has weighed in on the inequity of EHB 1333 and SSB 5234, which would streamline crediting for students scoring a 3 or higher on AP exams, but not offer the same equity for IB students. Both bills are passing, but on March 31 a new bill was introduced to address the IB issue next session. SB 5917 would focus in on IB programs and consistency in college crediting.
- Removing Barriers to Implementing Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP)
- Bills to extend the entitlement program to 2021-23 have been introduced in the House and Senate as a way of maintaining funding for 3 and 4 year olds who are eligible for ECEAP.
- Focus for members: Expansion of ECEAP, and the Summer ECEAP program will be handled in the operating budget. Let your voices be heard that investments in early education are critical for closing the opportunity gap.
- Restorative Justice and School Safety
- No action this week
Week in Review
The bill, which was heard by the House Appropriations Committee April 1st, would not require certificates of academic achievement or certificates of individual achievement as a graduation requirement. The bill would apply to the Class of 2017 and apply immediately. House education leaders Sharon Tomiko Santos, D-Seattle, and Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, are serious in their desire to delink the assessments from graduation and have vowed to continue this fight. The business community, Stand for Children, and the League of Education Voters oppose the delinking, but also insist the comprehensive science exam be linked to graduation when available if the biology is removed for the Class of 2017.
Focus for members: Write or call your legislators to tell them you support SB 5639, and that students’ futures shouldn’t be determined by a single test.
WSPTA parents testified in favor of family and community engagement, social emotional learning, and the House Democrats’ budget proposal this week. The WSPTA Legislative Consultant signed in Pro on delinking assessments, and spoke with legislators about WSPTA priorities.
The Week Ahead – Schedule Subject to Change
The next cutoff is Tuesday, April 4, for bills to be out of the fiscal committees. Then action will return fully to the floor, until the next cutoff of April 12 5 p.m., when bills need to have passed from the opposite chamber.
Monday, April 3
8 a.m., Finance (House) – HHR A
- HB 2186 – Public Hearing – Concerning investing in Washington families by improving the fairness of the state’s excise tax system by narrowing or eliminating tax preferences, imposing a business and occupation tax surcharge while eliminating tax liability for small businesses, enacting an excise tax on capital gains, modifying the real estate excise tax, making administrative changes, and implementing marketplace fairness in Washington.
Tuesday, April 4
8 a.m., Finance (House) – HHR A
- HB 2186 – Executive Session – Concerning investing in Washington families by improving the fairness of the state’s excise tax system by narrowing or eliminating tax preferences, imposing a business and occupation tax surcharge while eliminating tax liability for small businesses, enacting an excise tax on capital gains, modifying the real estate excise tax, making administrative changes, and implementing marketplace fairness in Washington.
Wednesday, April 5
Capital Budget Released
Thursday, April 6
8 a.m., Capital Budget (House) – HHR B
- HB 1075 – Public Hearing – Concerning the capital budget.
Friday, April 7
8 a.m., Capital Budget (House) – HHR B
- HB 1075 – Exec Session – Concerning the capital budget.
WSPTA Legislative Consultant