Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Greetings from Olympia! We are into the third week of the 60-day session here at the Capitol, and committees are busy holding public hearings on bills. Some of those bills will make it to the House floor for a vote by the full House of Representatives.
This week I would like to share information with you about some of the important education bills that recently passed the House and are now headed to the Senate for consideration. If the Senate committee and full Senate pass the same version as the House without any changes (called amendments), the bill goes to the governor for his signature or veto. If the Senate amends the bills, they come back to the House for final approval.
Education Task Force for School Levy Reform
Since the 2012 Supreme Court McCleary case, the Legislature has increased K-12 education funding by $4.5 billion, a 36 percent increase. However, more work needs to be done related to how school districts utilize their voter-approved local levies. House Bill 2366 would set up a new education funding task force to find a compromise to end the state's overreliance on school levies to pay for basic education and reform staff compensation funding before the 2018 deadline. The bill passed the House with a 64-34 vote, advancing to the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee where it awaits a hearing. I voted “yes” on this bill. The remaining work is complex and cannot reasonably be completed in the remaining days of this 60-day session, but the momentum towards resolving the final steps of the McCleary case should continue.
Responding to Substitute Teacher Shortages
A proposal to allow school districts in need of substitute teachers to employ retired teachers without putting their retirement benefits in jeopardy passed the House on Monday, 96-1. Teachers under early retirement provisions would be able to work as substitute teachers up to 630 hours per year without suspending their pension benefits. The 630-hour provision would be available to retired teachers until Aug. 1, 2020. House Bill 1737 is on its way to the Senate Ways and Means Committee where it awaits further action. I voted “yes” on this bill as well. The substitute teacher shortage is one of the concerns shared with me over the last two years during meetings with local educators.
Streamlining Student Assessments
Washington students are repeatedly tested by the state to assess their progress as they move through school. House Bill 2214 would streamline high school assessments by expanding some of the alternatives for students related to graduation requirements. This proposal would allow students to demonstrate proficiency by using dual credit courses in a relevant subject area, using courses determined by their local school district. The bill provides more flexibility to local districts and students, will likely reduce the need for college remediation courses, and save the state an estimated $14 million dollars in 2017, and more than $29 million every two years after that. This bill passed the House, 87-10, and will advance to the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee. I voted “yes” on this bill because I believe we should be focused on testing less and learning more. I also believe school districts need more flexibility to help students reach their college or career ready goals.
Pateros Inspired School Bill Approved
Another one of the early bills to pass the House this year was House Bill 1003, which is a bill I sponsored in order to address recovery efforts related to the Carlton Complex Fire. The bill, inspired and requested by Pateros School District which suffered over $2 million of damage to its school in the summer of 2014, would create a model policy to help school districts to restore their facilities following natural disasters. This proposal would pull state resources and agencies together to develop a policy to guide school districts following natural disasters, such as wildfires, mudslides, and earthquakes. During the 2015 session, the bill passed the House with unanimous support, but unrelated politics about teacher evaluations kept House-passed education bills from advancing in the Senate last year. Under legislative rules, the measure was returned to the House for reconsideration. On Wednesday, House Bill 1003 passed the House (again), 96-1, and has been referred to the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee.
Please feel free to contact my office anytime by phone at (360) 786-7832, toll-free at (800) 562-6000 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. I also encourage you to sign up for my periodic e-mail updates on my website at www.representativebradhawkins.com.
122G Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7832 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000