Happy first week of the 2021 session! First, a big thank you to parents, educators, and partners who testified and supported a bill that would accomplish one of Stand’s top priorities for this session: bringing comprehensive school counseling services to all school districts. On Wednesday, the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education committee heard SB 5030 and testimony from community members and other supporters including Stand, the Washington School Counselors Association, and the Washington Education Association. You can watch testimony here starting around the 45-minute mark.
Aside from the exciting focus on school counseling, it was an historic week as the Washington state legislature kicked off its first ever virtual session. Lawmakers gathered in Olympia to vote on rules for the new format; otherwise, business is being conducted virtually, including this first week of committee hearings. While we’re all adjusting to zooming into the Capitol, we’re so glad that this session means that more people will be able to have their voices heard without having to worry about the constraints of travel.
Erin Lipsker is a mom and an educator in Spokane who testified in support of SB 5030 on Wednesday. Her 1-minute story about how counselors supported her and her fourth grade class after the tragic loss of a student to illness is powerful and worth a watch:
The House Appropriations and Senate Ways & Means committees also met this week to begin discussing the 2021-2023 biennial budget, beginning with the Governor’s proposed budget. As part of the package, Governor Inslee is asking for $400 million for learning recovery in the wake of school building closures, $32 million for additional elementary school counselors, $79 million in residential broadband expansion, and $3.1 million to fully fund the special education safety net. We’re also waiting to hear how the state will disperse the $824 million allocated to K-12 education in Washington state from the second COVID-19 federal stimulus package.
A few other bills were on our watch list this week:
- In the House, members heard HB 1121, which would allow the State Board to permit school districts to grant individual student waivers from certain graduation requirements in the event of a local, state, or national emergency. You might recall that Stand, as part of the High School Success Coalition, engaged with the State Board last spring on the waiver process; this bill would codify the authority the Board received to grant waivers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- On the Senate side, we supported two bills:
- SB 5128, which would grant districts flexibility to use transportation funding for expanded services such as meal distribution or delivering educational materials during an emergency,
- and SB 5044, which would add equity, diversity, and antiracism to existing statute language about cultural competency training for educators and staff.
- If you read our legislative priorities, you know that Stand Washington, as well as our affiliates in other states, are beginning to thoughtfully engage in key education-adjacent areas that affect the wellbeing of children and families, notably criminal justice reform. This week we were excited to support a bill from new House member Tarra Simmons to automatically restore voting rights for formerly incarcerated persons (HB 1078).
This year we are also proud to launch a new video version of our weekly roll call via Facebook Live. On Fridays around lunchtime, I'll join Katie, our Marketing and Communications Director, to informally chat about all the things you've just read about in this roll call. We look forward to having special guests on in the future as well. You can watch this week's video here.
As we gear up for next week, I wanted to invite you to join us online at 6pm on 1/19 for our weekly “Take Action Tuesdays”, an informal gathering of education advocates to contact legislators and build community around making change for our students. Hope to see you there!