Roll Call #7: It's all about the Budget

Legislation, Policy Brief | 02/25/2022

Virginia Barry
Policy & Government Affairs Manager, Stand for Children Washington

We’ve reached the end of Week 7 of the 2022 Legislative Session and are starting to turn the corner to the final stretch. As the list of active bills begins to dwindle, lawmakers and advocates are focusing more on the budget process. Each chamber has moved quickly; both the House and Senate released their supplemental operating budget proposals this past Monday, and we expect they’ll be voted off the floor of their houses of origin by the end of the weekend. 

We are still hopeful that increased funding to support ninth grade success will be added to the state budget before March 10. We’ve been excited to hear about educators from ninth grade success teams across Washington writing to their Senators to describe the impact the program has had on their schools’ ability to support students to graduation. Here’s what one principal wrote: 

As the principal of our school’s Ninth Grade Success Team, I am grateful for the funding of such a rich and impactful program. I am excited at the prospect of my ninth grade students learning and developing better academic understandings and behaviors; consequently, ensuring each grade level is a more rich learning experience. And, in kind, we are then able to have less remedial courses on our master schedule making room for more exciting and rigorous courses that will inspire career pathways and lifelong learning for all grade levels.

If you’re interested in what has made it into the proposals so far, our friends over at the League of Education Voters (LEV) put together a helpful budget breakdown that takes a side by side look at the House and Senate versions next to the Governor’s proposed budget that was released prior to session. Both the House and Senate budgets include at least $330 million in “hold harmless” funding for districts, which means that they can continue to receive funding at pre-COVID enrollment levels; $13 million to expand the Special Education safety net; and funding for additional support staff as described in HB 1664 and SB 5595. The House proposal sets aside $108 million to hire counselors, nurses, and other roles described in the bill, while the Senate version allocates $172 million. Big thanks to LEV for this great analysis! 

Despite all the attention to the budget, bills are continuing to move through committees as they make their way to the floor. HB 2050, which would eliminate the practice of charging parents for their child’s incarceration, was heard in Ways & Means yesterday and we were proud to provide testimony in support. Since testimony in both Senate Ways & Means and House Appropriations focuses on the fiscal impact of the bill, we described how other states have already eliminated parent pay after seeing just how wasteful the collections process is. For example, Oregon repealed their statute after discovering the state was spending $866,000 per year to collect $864,000, while Colorado eliminated parent pay after spending 75 cents for every dollar it tried to collect. We are hopeful that Washington will soon follow by passing HB 2050 out of the Senate. 

The pace of session will continue to pick up in these final two weeks. Fiscal committees have until Monday to vote out any remaining bills, after which we will see a flurry of floor activity until March 4. Then legislators have a few days to iron out any final changes before session ends on March 10. I’ll also be back on Facebook Live on March 11, the day after session wraps, to give a summary of what did and did not pass. You can RSVP here to join me when we go live. I’ll dearly miss my “co-host”, Stand’s Marketing and Communications Director Katie Gustainis, who goes on parental leave after today. Good luck, Katie! We’ll miss you. 

Until then, thank you for all you do for young people in Washington and their families. Have a restful weekend!

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