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Recap: Washington Legislative Preview

Current Events & News, Elections, Legislation, School Funding | 12/11/2017

Brooke Brod
Organizing Director, Stand for Children Washington

On Monday, December 11th, we hosted a public conference call led by our Government Affairs Director, Dave Powell. With the 2018 legislative session less than 30 days away, Dave gave participants an overview of where we are and where the session might lead as a result of recent developments. Dave also reviewed Stand for Children Washington’s priorities going in to the session and explained how the current state of affairs impacted where we’re focusing our efforts.

If you’d like listen to the call, which lasted about 1 hour, you can listen to the recording here:

LISTEN TO THE CALL 

The slide deck that served as a visual guide during the call is also available here.

If you prefer to read, instead of listen, here’s a brief recap of what Dave covered during the first part of the call:

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There are two dynamics that will shape the upcoming legislative session: the shifting of power in Olympia (as a result of the 2017 elections) and the McCleary decision from the Washington Supreme Court. Both of these dynamics have influenced Stand’s priorities going in 2018 as well.

  • Balance of Power
    • The Democrats won the recent election in the 45th Legislative District to replace the late Senator Andy Hill, which has given them a new majority in the State Senate (they also retain control in the House).
    • Pressure is on for Democrats to focus on and move policies they may not have been able to move in recent years. But on the flip side, there is some caution for those legislators as they avoid actions that might upset their chances at keeping their majorities after the 2018 elections.
    • There are 5 new members on the Senate education committee as compared to last year, including a new chair, Senator Lisa Wellman.
    • The new members bring a lot of sharp minds. It will be interesting to see how the new membership impacts which issues the committee focuses on in 2018.
  • McCleary Case
    • November Decision
      • The state’s response to the Court’s demands was to put forward a four-year plan to phase in increases in Basic Education.
      • It also put in over $1B additional over the next four years into categorical programs, which was a big focus of Stand’s, including the Learning Assistance Program.
      • Essentially the court said they are supportive of the overall structure of this deal, however, they would like to see the state move more quickly in terms of phasing the funding in (which means they’d need to invest $1B during this session).
      • Certainly, this will be a major influencer in terms of the overall legislative work this next year and the education policy and budget conversations in particular.
    • June Budget: In addition to this order from the court, there are districts, educators, and advocacy organizations like Stand who have been unpacking what was in this plan that was settled in June. Three things have come up consistently in conversations with school districts and legislators as things that are top of mind:
      • Regional Compensation Model: This is a way to try and recognize different costs of living around the state. There are questions about what this model means for equity in different districts, as there are districts that feel like they’re benefiting from this model and districts that feel this is detrimental to them.
      • Special Education Funding: Districts have pretty universally said that the amount that’s being allocated for Special Education is insufficient right now. At Stand we feel like this is one part of the structure that has been put in place that will need to be addressed in the near future.
      • Equity in Local Levy Dollars: Local levies can raise between $1,500 and $2,500 per pupil. That variance is smaller than what previously existed in different district levels, but does still perpetuate some inequity between those districts. It wouldn’t be surprising if this is a continuing conversation as well.
  • Stand’s 2018 Priorities
    • Establish Early Warning Data Systems (EWDS) in all districts.
      • The state already has definitions for what this should look like and how districts can implement it.
      • EWDS identify students who are “off-track” by monitoring behavior challenges and academic performance that  puts students at risk of dropping out of school.
    • Establish multi-tiered Drop-out Prevention and Intervention systems in all districts.
      • Funding for these types of systems can already come from the Learning Assistance Program, and we’d like to increase the amount that can be spent on this type of program.
      • This three-tiered approach allows schools to identify and focus in on students who are at the highest risk of dropping out, while still prioritizing an emphasis on school-wide culture and support.
    • Establish automatic enrollment policies for qualified students into dual-credit classes, also known as Academic Acceleration.
      • There is a large disparity between the number of students of color and low-income students in our schools and the number of them enrolled in advanced classes.
      • This program already exists in 50 high schools throughout the state, thanks in part to a grant incentive program that Stand helped establish in 2013.
    • Improve monitoring of and accountability for supporting struggling readers in K-3rd grade.
      • Curriculum shifts in 3rd grade from a focus on reading skills to an environment where students are using reading to learn. Reading on grade level by 3rd grade is a critical milestone for students.
      • Existing Learning Assistance Program dollars support students who are reading below grade level, and we’d like to refine the process by which students are identified and supported. We’re looking to schools who are closing the gaps between low-income 3rd graders and their peers for best practices.

After Dave gave this overview, he took several great questions from participants and addressed program funding issues, the elimination of the staff mix, the new Senate education committee’s priorities, and how literacy non-profits can support work for students around the state. If you’d like to hear the question and answer portion of the call, you can listen to that part of the call starting at about the 36-minute mark.

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If you couldn’t make it to the call, but would like to know more about how to support the priorities that Stand will be focused on in 2018, sign up here and we’ll be in touch about how you can help support an equitable education for every Washington student.

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