By Marie Sullivan, WSSDA Director of Governmental Relations
June 11, 2013
Governor calls for 2nd special session, no clear path forward
After taking the Senate Majority Caucus to task at a “media availability” this morning, Gov. Jay Inslee announced this afternoon he would call legislators back for a second special session starting tomorrow at 9 a.m. No one was surprised.
The second special session can run up to 30 days. Unlike last year, when the Legislature needed just a few more hours after midnight to complete a second special session, the outlook isn’t positive. As one reporter joked, the Capitol may be the only state building with the lights on if lawmakers fail to reach agreement before the biennium ends June 30th.
Earlier in the day, Inslee chastised the Senate Majority for using school children as a lever to get an ideological agenda passed. The Democratic governor specifically mentioned the focus on further reforms to workers compensation and expanding pay day lending as having nothing to do with a two-year operating budget to meet the state’s paramount duty to fund K-12 schools. Inslee said House Democrats had compromised, and handed out a chart to illustrate the point he was making.
Sen. Rodney Tom, one of two Democrats to join 23 Republicans to form the majority caucus last winter, said a government shutdown will be avoided. The Bellevue Democrat is the Senate Caucus Majority Leader.
What’s the hold up?
At issue are a number of policy bills the Senate Majority Caucus is demanding pass as part of the budget negotiations and House Democrats’ insistence on closing tax loopholes to meet McCleary.
House Democrats dramatically reduced their K-12 spending plan when they passed ESHB 1057 on June 6. ESHB 2034, the so-called “trailer bill,” linked funding for early learning, higher education, and some aspects of the 2009-redefined program of basic education to closing seven tax preference policies.
The two Senate education-related bills still in play are ESSB 5242, informally titled “mutual consent,” and SSB 5946, an omnibus bill that includes elements of 3rd grade reading intervention, school discipline limits, Learning Assistance Program (LAP) changes, and professional development for teachers, beginning educator support, school directors and school administrators. The latter is a new concept that has not been discussed in policy committees. One short subsection would require any salary increases beyond inflation for school staff to be spent on district-directed professional development for activities such as common core standards.
During a hearing June 10 before the Senate Ways & Means Committee, Dr. Jonelle Adams, WSSDA Executive Director, asked lawmakers to amend SSB 5946 to authorize WSSDA to conduct the training for school directors included in Sec. 501. The bill passed out of committee this morning without the WSSDA amendment but with a commitment from the bill sponsor to make the modification.
ESSB 5242 passed the Senate 25-23 on Sunday, June 9. It is on the “go-home list” for the Senate Majority Caucus. The revised bill would:
- · Require the State Board of Education to use the new Washington Achievement Index to identify all school districts during the past two school years that did not make progress in closing the opportunity gaps in any of the individual subgroups of students or did not make progress in closing the overall opportunity gap within the district. The SBE would be required to provide the list to OSPI by December 1st of each year, and OSPI must notify the school district that it is on the list by January 1stof each year.
- · Add a definition of “displaced” to include a certificated instructional staff (CIS) member who no longer has an assignment because of reassignment, change in program, change in enrollment, or implementation of a federal accountability intervention model.
- · Prohibit a CIS on probation from being transferred to another evaluator.
- · Require assignment to be agreed upon by the principal and the staff member being reassigned.
o The principal would receive input from at least two teachers employed at the school.
o Starting in 2015-16, evaluation results must be considered in personnel decisions.
o A district superintendent would be given the ability to override a principal’s decision on up to two staff assignments each school year.
- · Put “displaced” CIS into a paid temporary position through May 15th of the year following displacement. If no assignment can be found, the district would place the CIS on unpaid leave until he or she is able to secure assignment. If a substantially similar position is found, the school district would reinstate the salary and benefits to the level prior to when they were placed on unpaid leave.
- · Not apply to current contracts but would apply to new or renewed contracts after the effective date of the section.
- · Submit the legislation to the voters at the next general election. If adopted, the effective date would be 90 days after certification.
For their part, the Senate Majority Caucus passed their operating budget (ESSB 5034) Saturday, June 8. The budget is similar to what passed the Senate more than a month ago with one exception – no Democrats voted in favor this time. The two-year spending plan makes investments in K-12 education but still includes proposals that aren’t widely supported by school directors. (The next Legislative Update will compare the House and Senate budgets.) Budget chair Andy Hill, R-Redmond, has said the Senate will consider a couple of revenue bills but only in return for policy reforms.
WSSDA urges focus on the budget
Following the start of the first special session, the WSSDA Board of Directors adopted positions May 16 on mutual consent, third grade reading interventions, and school grading.
In a letter to legislative leaders, WSSDA Board President Debra Long, a Central Valley school director, and Executive Director Jonelle Adams urged the Legislature to focus on passing a budget that makes a significant down payment on K-12 schools funding. The letter describes the Board’s opposition to the mutual consent legislation and the parameters for supporting a bill on third grade reading.
Long and Adams pointed to two significant education reform bills that passed during the regular session – SB 5329 (lowest-achieving schools) and SB 5491 (statewide indicators).
“While we appreciate the Legislature’s interest in various policy bills on topics such as mutual consent, it is the consensus of the WSSDA Board of Directors that the focus of this special session (and any subsequent special session) should be on passing a budget and adopting a schedule to ramp up funding by 2018, not on enacting new policy.” – excerpt from the June 11, 2013 letter