2018 Legislative Session
In 2018, we focused our efforts on fighting for changes that will support every student in achieving their dreams. Here is an overview of the progress our priorities made and a summary of the notable education legislation passed this session.
High School Success Priorities: Our legislative priorities were focused on two High School Success policies: Academic Acceleration and Early Warning Data Systems. By prioritizing solutions that would help Washington kids sooner rather than later, our goal is to close opportunity gaps and support the students who need it most.
During the session, we had a dozen parents, students, educators, and community leaders testify at multiple hearings in support of both policies. Additionally, over 6,000 letters were sent to lawmakers urging them to make progress implementing these solutions. Although the policies went through several bill iterations in both the Senate and the House, they did not make it far enough in the process to become law in 2018.
However, we are pleased with the strong foundation that was laid for both Academic Acceleration and Early Warning Systems and the relationships we strengthened. We have plans to continue our work with school districts statewide throughout the year, supporting the implementation of High School Success policies where there is desire to do so and finding opportunities to make an impact that will help ensure every kid has a pathway post-graduation to career or college.
Adjustments to Education Funding: In the final days of the 2018 session, the legislature tweaked last year’s bill designed to equitably fund education. Called the “McCleary Fix,” it made several revisions to education spending.
Teacher Salaries: Most notably, the new law aligns with the recent state Supreme Court ruling that full funding take place by 2018. It translates into an accelerated increase in teacher salaries for 2018-2019, originally planned for 2019-2020. It also adjusts some districts’ salaries based on teacher education/experience or local cost of living, and includes a technical fix to align charter and Tribal compact schools with last year’s law. Finally, the bill established a workgroup to determine how the state should define teacher duties during the school day.
Special Education: The bill attempts to tackle the inequities in special education funding by increasing the ratio of extra dollars to districts. Despite this increase of over $22 million statewide, districts have indicated there is still work to do to close the funding gap for students with special needs.
Students in Poverty: Last year’s education bill allocated additional Learning Assistance Program (LAP) money to schools with more than 50% of students living in poverty. The legislature adjusted this qualification so that now funding is given to schools based on a three-year rolling average rather than only the previous year’s enrollment.
Highly Capable: The new law provides guidelines for selecting highly capable students following last year’s legislation, which infused an additional $62.8 million into highly capable programs over four years. Now, schools must have clearly stated selection criteria that uses multiple objective measures and does not allow a single criteria or a subjective measure (such as a teacher recommendation or report card grade) to exclude a student from the program. The law also directs schools to provide screening and assessments in a student’s native language; if not available in that language, students must receive a nonverbal screening and assessment.
“Breakfast after the bell”: A bill that would make sure students who need it, can get breakfast at school. The bill was first introduced in 2017 and moved quickly through the legislative process this session. The bill requires schools to continue offering breakfast after the school day begins so students who cannot arrive at school early do not go hungry during class. Schools will receive start-up grants to begin the program, and the state will provide technical assistance support so that schools are equipped to provide nutritious options.
Dyslexia Screening: A bill aimed at recognizing dyslexia early to provide students with the supports they need was successful this year. It articulates the definition of dyslexia in law, and requires districts to screen children in grades K-2 for indicators of dyslexia as determined by specific criteria. Districts must report on the number of students screened for dyslexia each year to the state superintendent, who will then use the data to make recommendations for best practices related to screening and interventions. Districts may use learning assistance program funds for screening, interventions, and training for staff to serve students with dyslexia.
Supporting undocumented students: Undocumented students who have lived in Washington for three consecutive years prior to graduating from a Washington high school, and who commit to applying for permanent residency when available, can now be eligible for the College Bound Scholarship program. This bill will protect students who might previously have qualified for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
College and Career Readiness: Two bills passed that will enable high school students to access opportunities preparing them for careers after graduation. One will establish a workgroup made up of leaders from K-12 and higher education to examine opportunities for high school pre-apprenticeships and youth apprenticeships. A second bill, first introduced in 2017, establishes the Work-Integrated Learning Initiative and a $330K grant program to fund schools’ participation in the initiative.
Next Generation Science Standards: School districts and educational service districts will have access to grant money totaling $4 million to fund professional learning in the Next Generation Science Standards. Training will include topics related to climate change.