After every legislative session, our Government Affairs team summarizes what happened in education policy in Olympia. We have collected past years’ summaries here, starting in 2010.
With the legislative session behind us, we’re proud to deliver our annual full-length summary of the bills and budget items impacting schools, students, and families that passed this year’s state legislature.
Last week, the legislature wrapped its first-ever virtual session, which included the adoption of a $59 billion operating budget for the 2021-2023 biennium built off a better-than-expected revenue forecast, an influx of federal dollars, and a new tax on capital gains. School districts across Washington can expect to receive a portion of $1.7 billion in federal relief money, along with new guidelines on programs that support students such as the learning assistance program, DEI training for educators, and comprehensive school counseling. The budget also included increased funding for additional school counselors, special education, devices for distance learning, and a landmark investment in early learning.
Supporting Students’ High School Success
At Stand, we’re committed to ensuring all Washington students have the support they need to graduate high school on time and are prepared for postsecondary opportunities. Stand parents, volunteers, and partners advocated for the passage of SSB 5030, which will implement comprehensive school counseling in every district across the state. The bill protects counselors’ time to ensure they are able to spend 80% of their day providing vital academic, mental health, and college and career planning support — a system based on national best practices that recognizes the varied and interwoven needs of students. We were thrilled that the operating budget also includes funding for an additional half time school counselor at high poverty elementary, middle, and high schools.
Lawmakers also put forth a suite of bills that set the foundation for a more inclusive school building culture. ESSB 5044 will implement DEI training for educators, school board members, and school staff. The bill is a step in the right direction by ensuring diversity, equity, and inclusion are embedded in the existing cultural competency standards. (Two higher education bills, E2SSB 5227 and SSB 5228, provide similar training to college faculty and medical students, respectively.) We are also celebrating a host of bills that create more supportive school environments for students often furthest from opportunity, including legislation to:
- establish school building points of contact for youth in foster care (SB 5184)
- improve systems that work with families when a student is absent to delay involvement in truancy courts (ESHB 1113)
- use learning assistance program funds to address students’ academic and nonacademic needs stemming from the pandemic (SHB 1208)
The legislature also passed several bills making systems-level improvements aimed at supporting students to high school graduation and into their postsecondary pathway. First, the passage of ESSB 5321 was a win for postsecondary access by creating an automatic enrollment process for the College Bound Scholarship, which covers higher education tuition and fees for students who qualify due to family income. Since the scholarship was created in 2007, advocates have described the sign-up process as a bureaucratic formality at best and a barrier for students at worst. Now, all students who qualify will be enrolled without the previous requirement that they sign a pledge in middle school, saving staff time and lessening the burden on students and families to opt in to this financial aid. Second, E2SHB 1295 specifically targets the needs of students who are incarcerated by providing more equitable support for graduation, including accommodations that students in foster care or experiencing homelessness receive, and greater access to postsecondary opportunities. Finally, SHB 1302 provides greater dual credit opportunities by expanding eligibility for College in the High School to ninth grade and putting a cap on tuition.
Supporting Families, Working for Justice
This session marked a turning point for Stand Washington as we began to more intentionally advocate in critical education-adjacent areas such as economic justice and reform of the criminal legal system. In a year when state legislatures have put forth bills to undermine voting rights, particularly for individuals living in poverty and people of color, we’re celebrating Washington’s passage of ESHB 1078, which automatically restores voting rights for individuals who have been incarcerated upon their release. This bill has rightly received national attention. Likewise, we’re grateful the legislature passed ESSB 5226, a bill that will help keep drivers from losing their licenses if they are unable to pay a traffic ticket for a non-criminal infraction. Finally, we’re excited to report that this year our state voted to fully fund the working families tax credit (ESHB 1297), which residents may qualify for regardless of immigration status, and made major progress toward fixing Washington’s regressive tax system through the passage of a capital gains tax (ESSB 5096).
The 2021-2023 Biennial Budget
A little over a year ago, we watched Governor Inslee veto over $455 million dollars in spending from the 2020 supplemental operating budget in response to the pandemic. We were facing the beginning of an extended lockdown, remote school, and swirling rumors of budget austerity on the horizon, which pointed to a tough 2021 legislative session.
A few months later, something unexpected happened: the revenue forecast began showing an economic rebound that forecasted revenue not unlike what we might have expected had the pandemic not occurred. Stand and other advocacy groups then began shifting priorities from the defense of key investments from cuts to brainstorming ideas about the possibilities for a stronger recovery with healthy state coffers and an influx of federal dollars.
We wrapped this year’s legislative session with a state operating budget (ESSB 5092) that includes a $33 billion set aside for K-12 education. This amount reflects the state general fund as well as funding from the three major federal stimulus packages passed in the last twelve months. $1.7 billion goes straight to districts with relative flexibility for how they will spend it, while OSPI has received several set-asides to help our state respond to students’ and districts’ needs in the wake of school building closures. In addition, districts that do not receive sufficient support from federal stimulus funding can access over $125 million in state dollars to stabilize their budgets if enrollments have dropped.
Over $240 million is allocated to address unfinished instruction as a result of school building closures. That amount includes federal funding from the most recent stimulus package totaling $47 million, which will be split between after school, outdoor, and summer enrichment programs. It will also provide social emotional benefits and academic support to students. An additional $200 million for unfinished instruction will be subgranted out to districts via OSPI. We are hopeful that some of this state funding will go toward expanding the successful Ninth Grade Success pilots, one of our 2021 priorities, which uses a research-backed strategy to support incoming ninth graders and keep them on track to graduation. Next fall, ninth graders will enter high school after nearly a year and a half of remote learning, making this transition even more critical than before the pandemic.
Elsewhere in the K-12 education budget, we were excited to see new funding for critical support staff, including over $51 million to add school counselors to high poverty elementary, middle, and high schools. To implement bills passed by the legislature aimed at supporting students, the budget includes funding to implement comprehensive school counseling enacted through SSB 5030, expand technology access by providing $24 million to procure devices for distance learningas dictated by E2SHB 1365, and support state agencies to develop DEI training as detailed in ESSB 5044. Stand also joined with the High School Success Coalition to protect nearly $9 million in funding for equitable access to dual credit; this budget line item provides free AP/IB tests for low income students, subsidized tuition for College in the High School, and grant support for districts seeking to improve equity in dual credit enrollment. It was omitted from the proposed Senate budget, but restored for the final version.
Special education will also get a big boost. Federal funding includes $57 million in additional IDEA funding for special education services, and $17 million in transition services for students with disabilities who exited high school over the past two years. The state also added $12 million from the general fund for training on inclusion of students with disabilities in general education classrooms, an issue legislators have been working on for several years.
Outside of K-12 education, the budget makes significant allocations including:
- $261 million to fund the Working Families Tax Credit
- $400 million in grants to stabilize the childcare industry as a result of the pandemic
- $303 million to implement the Fair Start for Kids Act, a major investment in the Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) program and the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), which will receive its funding from the new capital gains tax
Federal funding made the budgeting process more flexible but also added complexity, since districts that incur new ongoing costs will not have a revenue source after the stimulus funding expires. As we look ahead to the coming months, we expect a lot of discussion about how schools and districts can use these one-time funds for lasting impact (for an encouraging example, check out what Chicago Public Schools is doing to provide training to staff in trauma-informed student support practices). We’re looking forward to sharing the creative and impactful ways Washington leverages these dollars to support students’ reentry into school buildings.
Community of Advocates
We couldn’t have anticipated what this legislative session would hold. Every year there are ideas and policy solutions left of the table, but this year there are significant wins for students to celebrate. As a small team, the impact we’ve made on state policy this year would not be possible alone. We are incredibly grateful for the parents, caregivers, community members, educators, and advocates who volunteered their time, energy, and stories in support of these efforts (check out the screenshot below of our end-of-session celebration for some of their smiling faces!). Together with our partner organizations across the state, we’ve pulled together a coalition of activists who care deeply about doing what’s right for students, and we couldn’t be prouder to stand alongside you. Thank you for your advocacy, your attention, and for all you do for Washington’s students.
Update: On April 3, Governor Jay Inslee vetoed over $445 million worth of spending in the 2020 Supplemental Operating Budget (SB 6168) in order to divert funds to COVID-19 response and in anticipation of decreased revenue resulting from the global pandemic. These vetoes included cuts to nearly every area of government, including education funding. For that reason, we’ve made changes to our legislative summary (in *bold below) to account for both what was accomplished prior to the COVID-19 response and what was cut. We’ve also added an addendum to summarize what received a veto.
End of Session Summary
When we began the 2020 legislative session, I’m not sure anyone could have predicted that it would end with Governor Inslee on TVW closing school buildings across Washington. As I write this summary, lawmakers, educators, and advocates are focused on helping students access meals and strategizing how to continue instruction from afar. We don’t know at this point what the state of education will look like moving forward, or how a decline in revenue will affect the supplemental budget.
*Now, as we move through April, educators are grappling with how our schools can best finish out the year with students at home, all while keeping students fed and trying to close gaps in technology and internet access. Additionally, communities across the state are anticipating an economic recession in the wake of Governor Inslee’s Stay at Home order being extended through May 4th.
Although it feels as though the circumstances are changing every day, we at Stand remain committed to our values of supporting students and families. We are still focused on our goal that all Washington students graduate high school with a rigorous diploma that prepares them for the next step in college or career. To achieve that, we focused this session on three primary objectives: expanding access to school counselors, removing financial barriers to dual credit courses, and ensuring support for students with disabilities.
If you’d like to listen to our 2020 Legislative Debrief Conference Call, you can listen to the March 19th recording here.
Stand’s Legislative Priorities
Our top priority this session was Senator Mullet’s SB 6480, which would have established a comprehensive school counseling program in all districts across the state. The bill also defined in statute how a counselor may use their time by requiring that they spend 80% of their day working with and on behalf of students. We know that school counselors get pulled into a variety of tasks unrelated to counselling, so this bill aimed to put guardrails around what work they may be assigned to in their buildings.
Stand for Children testified in support of SB 6480 along with the Washington School Counselors’ Association, the Washington Education Association, the Black Education Strategy Roundtable, and Graduate Tacoma. In total, seventeen organizations signed in to support SB 6480 in the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education committee, and 200 community members took action to contact their legislators about the bill. Despite receiving overwhelming, bipartisan support with a 43-3 vote in the Senate, the members of the House Education committee did not schedule it for a hearing.
Although we were disappointed that SB 6480 did not move forward, the supplemental budget included over $31 million to fund additional counseling services (the equivalent of an additional half-time counselor at a typical school) for all high poverty elementary schools in the state. *Unfortunately, the funding did not survive, and became one of Governor Inslee’s more shocking vetoes on April 3. These additional school counselors would have expanded services at schools that make up roughly 45% of Washington’s K-6 enrollment. The funding would have helped bring elementary schools closer to the recommended ratio of one counselor for every 250 children, up from their current funded ratio of 1:812.
Building off of our success in passing a statewide Academic Acceleration law during the 2019 session, we supported Senator Mullet’s SB 6505, a request bill from OSPI that would have phased in an ambitious plan to make dual credit courses free for all students and their families. The proposal began with the intent of having the state or districts cover the costs of all students; however, by the time it reached the Senate floor, it took a more targeted approach to serve students who qualify for the Washington College Grant. Unfortunately, it did not receive a floor vote.
Although SB 6505 did not pass out of the Senate, we are celebrating a few wins for dual credit this session. 2SHB 2864, sponsored by Representative Paul, will require OSPI and the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) to establish a pilot program for Running Start in the summer on three campuses. Senator Holy’s SB 6374 will expand the allowable expenses for the Dual Enrollment Scholarship pilot program to include apprenticeship materials.
We were also encouraged to see the final budget include a small investment for a dual credit workgroup to be convened by the Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC). *Although this funding also received a veto in the wake of COVID-19, we are hopeful that the taskforce will still convene even without financial support from the state. The dual credit workgroup would provide recommendations to the legislature on closing equity gaps and addressing barriers pertaining to dual credit costs. The final report would also include additional data on Running Start enrollment and analysis of how dual credit affects high school graduation and postsecondary completion.
We also advocated on behalf of SB 6117 to increase funding for students with disabilities. Specifically, this bill would have increased the special education multiplier, adding additional dollars for students who spend at least 80% of their time in a general education setting. It also would have expanded eligibility for safety net funding, and required every school district to convene a special education advisory committee. SB 6117 passed unanimously off of the Senate floor, but did not receive a hearing in House Appropriations. While we were disappointed that this bill did not move forward, we are grateful that the final draft of the supplemental operating budget includes an additional $1.9 million of safety net funding.
The Supplemental Budget
This year’s supplemental operating budget that was sent to the Governor’s desk on March 12th made several investments in education, particularly for local effort assistance and early learning. One hundred eighteen school districts will each receive their share of $45.8 million in additional local effort assistance due to higher than expected property values in those districts. On a smaller scale, the budget includes $4 million for grants to small school districts, tribal compact schools, and public charter schools who are less or not at all reliant on local levy dollars.
For early learning, the legislature allocated $9.1 million to raise ECEAP rates by 5% and provide additional funding for providers serving children with special needs. *Unfortunately, the Governor vetoed both the small school district grant program and rate increase for ECEAP.
As mentioned previously, the budget did contain provisions related to our priorities. Most notably, it allocated $31.8 million to add additional school counselors in high poverty elementary schools. It also set aside $150,000 for WASC’s dual credit workgroup, which will likely prove cost-effective given the scope of work. Finally, an additional $1.9 million set aside in the budget will increase districts ability to access safety net funding to serve students with disabilities. *Of these three priority investments, only special education safety net funding survived the Governor’s veto.
Other Noteworthy Legislation
A few bills passed that promise to continue expanding access to higher education in Washington, including SB 6492 and SSB 6141. SB 6492, sponsored by Senator Pedersen, tweaked the tax system set up in 2019 to ensure adequate funding for the Washington College Grant. It dashed through the legislature and received the Governor’s signature in early February. SSB 6141, a request bill from the Office of the Lieutenant Governor and sponsored by Senator Randall, directs WSAC to create a financial aid calculator to help students estimate their potential Pell Grant and Washington College Grant amount; it also requires OSPI to to coordinate a financial aid advising day for all districts with a high school to ensure students and families receive information about the WAFSA or FAFSA and potential aid opportunities.
HB 2711 will create a workgroup to address the needs of students in foster care, experiencing homelessness, or both. The workgroup will make recommendations for how to achieve parity in educational outcomes with the general student population, with a particular focus on students of color and students with disabilities who are in foster care. The workgroup will analyze data disaggregated by race and ethnicity to understand outcomes related to kindergarten readiness, attendance, ninth grade on track, and postsecondary enrollment/persistence.
As session continued, much of the focus within education policy turned to SB 5395, a bill that would implement comprehensive sexual health education for all public school students by 2023. The debate grew more contentious as the legislature approached Sine Die; lawmakers proposed a total of 231 amendments from the floors of both chambers. The bill passed after capturing much of the attention during the last few weeks of session.
Looking ahead to next year
We saw quite a few bills that had trouble gaining traction in a short session but may help set the stage for next year. Senator Wellman’s SB 6615 set out a plan to phase in additional support staff, including school counselors, nurses, social workers, librarians, and paraeducators. It also sought to redefine the prototypical school model and use a multi-year average to determine what schools qualify for high poverty funding. *While this bill would come with a sizable fiscal note, these support staff would be well suited for helping students navigate the aftermath of a public health crisis.
We’re always looking ahead to what’s in store for next session, but admittedly, it’s difficult to think about next January when all students in Washington are home for the foreseeable future. We’ll undoubtedly have new challenges to work through in the next session in response to what’s happening today, but we’re honored to continue standing with you. Thank you for your hard work and advocacy this session on behalf of Washington’s students!
As detailed above, the Governor’s vetoes on April 3 included cuts directly related to our legislative priorities including:
- Additional elementary school counselors
- Washington Student Achievement Council Dual Credit Workgroup
- Rate increases for ECEAP
In total, the response to COVID-19 has resulted in over $400 million in cuts to the budget. It is likely that the legislature will gather this summer for a special session to make additional cuts depending on June’s revenue forecast. We at Stand will be there too, ready to advocate for the needs of the most vulnerable students during this trying time.
For the latest updates on education, you can visit our central hub of COVID-19 announcements and resources from state education agencies including OSPI, State Board of Education, and the Governor’s office. We’ll also be posting our upcoming weekly online workshops for families and sharing resources as we schedule them.
After a few late weekend nights, the Washington State legislature ended on time, adopting a new 2-year, $52.4 billion state budget that included $836 million in new revenue. The budget and its accompanying bills included a historic investment in college affordability and career learning, increased Special Education funding, and relief for school districts worried about reduced local funding levels.
High School Success Priorities
At Stand for Children, we are celebrating the inclusion of a $250,000 pilot program for Freshman On-Track programming, which will bolster the state’s efforts to identify incoming high school students at-risk of not graduating and establish teams of educators to provide supports to get them back on-track. Research by the University of Chicago shows that students who finish 9th grade on-track are 3.5 times more likely to graduate on time.
In addition to securing funding for the pilot, the High School Success Coalition worked diligently to successfully ensure the passage of HB 1599, which has officially established Academic Acceleration statewide. This makes Washington State the first state in the country to adopt such barrier-breaking policy to automatically enroll all proficient high school students into “the most rigorous course” available to them – a policy that has demonstrated dramatic increases in dual credit course enrollments for students of color and students living in poverty. The journey to establishing the policy statewide began in 2013, when Stand for Children Washington worked with Rep. Pettigrew to establish an Academic Acceleration grant program, leading to 50 districts adopting the policy. We hope the Freshman On-Track pilot will be a similar starting place to expanding the programming across the state.
In last Friday’s Roll Call, we covered in detail how HB 1599 will change Washington’s high school graduation requirements—replacing the stipulation that students pass the state’s English and Math tests with 8 pathways available to students to demonstrate career-and-college readiness. Protecting the rigor of Washington’s high school graduation requirements has been a long-time priority of Stand for Children and we believe the new structure has the promise to do so. The bill also made necessary changes to the High School and Beyond Plan (HSBP), requiring schools to align the HSBP with student’s course schedules, IEP’s, and post-high school goals, while also requiring schools to inform families and students about financial aid options and support them in filling out the aid forms. A welcome change, with Washington ranking 48th in the country for the percentage of students submitting financial aid forms.
Along with these policy changes, the budget made a number of notable investments that will support high school success. Maintaining the same funding levels as the last 2 years, $9.8 million is provided for dual credit programs including subsidized Advanced Placement exam fees and International Baccalaureate class fees and exam fees for low-income students. Almost a million dollars is allocated to develop and online High School and Beyond platform and staff a mastery-based learning workgroup. And for elementary and middle schools, $1,813 million is provided for increased school counselors at 20 of the state’s most struggling schools. Schools must have staffing at or above the prototypical staffing level for guidance counselors to receive the funding; a concept we hope will spread to all state-provided counseling funding.
The 2019-2021 Biennial Budget
There are a number of other investments to celebrate in the state budget. For K-12 education, the budget includes $3.9 billion in new funding including $155 million for Special Education; but the majority of the funding reflects the final phase-in of increases planned in the 2017 session to bring K-12 funding up to constitutionally acceptable levels in response to the McCleary decision.
It’s a good reminder that decisions in past years continue to bear fruit in future sessions. As a result of securing a high-poverty concentration addition to the Learning Assistance Program (LAP) in 2017, this biennial budget reflects approximately $305 million dollars going to schools with 50% or more students on Free and Reduced Price Lunch. This in addition to increased general LAP funding that the state began in 2013 and codified in 2017 that equates to an increase of more than $100 million per year. In all, the state’s support in the 2019-21 budget for LAP is $637 million more than in the 2011-13 biennial budget.
The majority of the $155 million increase in Special Education will be dedicated to fulfilling a new tiered multiplier system (SB 5091) that will give more funding to schools with SPED students spending 80% or more of their time in an inclusive, general education setting. There is also funding allocated for a larger special education safety net and $25 million set aside for professional development on inclusive teaching approaches to students with special needs. The rest goes to the special education safety net, including a lowering of the threshold needed to qualify for the funds from 2.7 times the average per pupil expenditure to 2.3 times the average per pupil.
The most contentious K-12 debate this year centered around whether the state should allow school districts to raise more local funds after limiting them in 2017. A compromise around levy authority came about only in the final hours of the session (SB 5313). The cap on local district levy funds was raised from $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value to $2.50 or a max of $2,500 per pupil—whichever is less. Seattle got a special exemption, allowing the district to raise up to $3,000 per pupil. A sticking point for many districts may be that the raised levy authority does not come into effect until the start of 2020, so 2019-20 budget cuts announced by many districts earlier this month may not be reduced and will depend, in part, on a district’s voter-approved levy limits. We were glad to see the compromise also included more stringent reporting measures, which will mean more transparency into how levy funds are being spent. The state budget also increased funding for districts that can raise the levy minimum of $1,550, called Local Effort Assistance, by $61.6 million. You can find estimated impacts of levy funding for every school district created by State Senate staff here.
Higher Education and New Revenue
Almost half of the new revenue raised in this budget is for the creation of a new Workforce Education Investment Account (HB 2158). The new account, providing $373.8 million for the 2019-21 biennium, will serve as a dedicated source of funding for two smart investments—the State Need Grant and career-connected programming. The $162.7 million allocated for the State Need Grant means that by 2020-21, all eligible students will finally be covered. The bill also rebrands the grant as the Washington College Grant program and expands the eligibility for the grant from 70% of Median Family Income to 100%, pro-rating grant sizes by need. Other investments through the account include $11.5 million for career connected learning initiatives and $172.3 million for foundational support, salary increases, the implementation of Guided Pathways, and new degrees and expanded enrollments in high-demand degrees at our community and technical colleges.
The new Workforce Education Investment Account is funded by creating a new dedicated revenue source, a 3-tiered surcharge on the state’s Business and Occupation (B&O) tax on specific professional services such as architecture, engineering, online retail, software publishing, telecommunications and legal, financial, and medical services, with the higher surcharges applying only to large technology companies.
The rest of the 2019-21 biennial budgets new revenue comes from an increase on the state’s real estate tax for homes selling for more than $1.5 million ($243.5 million), an increased B&O tax on large banks ($133.2 million), and the shrinking of a tax benefit for international investment services ($59.4 million).
What Didn’t Happen, that We Wish Did
Every session, there are plenty of good ideas that don’t make it through the process. Two bills stand out for us this year. Sen. Braun’s SB 5532 would have created a structure for more family engagement and advocacy in special education. It was a smart bill that should be revisited next year. Similarly, Sen. Wilson’s SB 5395 would have required comprehensive sex education in Washington schools, a common sense idea with a shocking amount of opposition.
That’s not all, of course. There is plenty more we all need to do to provide every Washington student with the life-changing education they deserve. But for now, thank you for the support you provided our legislative efforts this year and all you do for Washington’s kids.
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.
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.
During the 2017 legislative session Stand for Children successfully supported the passage of HB 2242:
Overall the bill and accompanying state budget will put $7.3 billion more state dollars into the education system over 4 years, a big chunk of which is an absorption of local salary costs by the state and some is new money all together—including a combined $912 million in new money for Career and Technical Education and supports for the students who need it most.
The legislation includes some huge wins we persistently advocated for:
- Ending “staff mix” – a state formula to allocate school funding based on the experience level of a school’s teachers. The staff mix factor created inequity between districts in funding levels by sending more money to districts with higher average teacher salaries—mostly districts with more affluent communities.
- Removing Salary Allocation Model – related to “staff mix,” a funding mechanism that was used to determine how much districts should get for teachers based only on a teacher’s educational level and experience instead of more student-centered metrics like performance, certification and additional job responsibilities. Most states do not have a Salary Allocation Model. The bill also directs OSPI to develop a model schedule which districts can use in local bargaining if desired.
- Categorical Career and Technical Education Funding – funding that used to go to a school’s general budget will now be required to be spent on vocational programing. Restrictions on how the money can be used are put in place.
- Creation of a High-Poverty Concentration Funding Stream – the state will now provide additional funding to schools with student populations with more than 50% of students on Free and Reduced Price Lunch. The money will go through the Learning Assistance Program and must be sent to the school generating the dollars and spent on supports for students who are below grade level. The state previously allocated money for schools with high-poverty concentrations, but the funding went into the general budget.
- $912 million over 4 years for Targeted Student-Centered Programing that must be spent on serving the intended students: – $197.5 million for Career and Technical Education – $62.8 million for Highly Capable students – $527.9 million for the Learning Assistance Program (the state’s program for supporting students who are below grade level with priority on K-4 reading). – $53 million for Special Education – $65.7 million for Transitional Bilingual Program
- Almost Twice as Much Funding for Teacher Mentoring: The state will raise the annual allocation for teacher mentoring from $5.5 million/year to $10.5 million/year.
During the 2016 legislative session Stand for Children supported several key pieces of legislation:
Stand supported a Senate bill to fund charter schools through the Opportunity Pathways Fund (lottery money) instead of through the education budget. The bill passed through the House by a narrow margin and was passed into law.
Stand supported the bipartisan bill to establish a task force to review and make recommendations on teacher pay increases and other funding issues still outstanding as a result of the McCleary ruling. Though we believe full funding of basic education is crucial, we also acknowledge the need to thoughtfully address all funding challenges.
Common Core Assessment Standards
Stand stood against a bill that would delink assessment scores from graduation requirements because we believe that standardized assessments effectively assure that ALL our students are being prepared for college and career.
Teacher Professional Development
Stand supported a House bill to create a stronger definition for what constitutes teacher professional development and sets the course for how education leaders support professional learning in order to advance student learning and create accountability.
Stand supported several bills to address Washington’s current teacher shortage; which has reached critical levels. One bill, which looks to increase career opportunities in education, create more robust enrollment forecasting, and enhance recruitment efforts; passed through the legislature and awaits the Governor’s signature.
Stand supported extending the current levy funding levels due to the ongoing issues regarding full funding of basic education.
College and Career Ready Diploma
Now all students will have the opportunity to earn a meaningful diploma that prepares them for multiple pathways—that include college or career—after they graduate high school. The new diploma adds more credits of science, art, and world language; or Personalized Pathway requirements, which are credits to pursue career and technical education. Stand advocated for this bill. It’s the culmination of eight years of advocacy work and is a huge victory.
Federal Waivers Protection
Washington lost $44 million in federal No Child Left Behind funds targeting low-income students because one of the core requirements of the waiver was to use state test scores as one of the multiple measures of student growth in teacher performance evaluations. Despite legislative efforts to address the issue, the teachers’ union was successful in opposing the bill; it failed. Stand supported Federal Waivers Protections.
House Bill 2519, sponsored by Rep. Tana Senn (D-Mercer Island), helps more at-risk children and families in Washington’s welfare system access high-quality early care and preschool options.
The DREAM/Real Hope Act
In true bipartisan fashion, the House introduced the DREAM Act, House Bill 1817, co-sponsored by Rep. Zack Hudgins (D-South Seattle) and Rep. Bruce Chandler (R-Granger). The Senate’s version of the bill made it all the way through the state legislature. Senate Bill 6523, co-sponsored by Sen. Barbara Bailey (R-Oak Harbor) and Sen. Rodney Tom (D-Lake Washington), was signed into law on February 26. The DREAM/Real Hope Act law provides our state’s dreamers with more opportunities to pursue financial aid, making college more affordable. The law also allocates $5 million through June 30, 2015 to make student financial aid payments under the state need grant program.
Basic Education Funding (McCleary)
After two special sessions, lawmakers reached agreement on a $33.6 billion state budget that includes over $1 billion in additional funding for Basic Education and to support the implementation of key improvements. That brings the full K-12 education budget to about $15 billion total, an 11% increase. The investments in K-12 Basic Education make significant progress towards meeting the Supreme Court’s requirements in the McCleary decision. The increases in instructional hours (class time) for high school students and expansion of full-day kindergarten will give more students a solid foundation for higher achievement.
A bill was passed that encourages districts to adopt academic acceleration and provides funding for those who do. Modeled after a successful policy in Federal Way Public Schools, Running Start academic acceleration automatically enrolls students performing on grade level in advanced courses. This eliminates barriers, real or perceived (such as cost or information), that prevent students from taking the advanced courses that can help them earn college credits in high school. Local school districts that choose to adopt an academic acceleration policy will identify students meeting standard on state exams and then automatically enroll those students in an advanced class, such as AP or IB classes. For those districts that do adopt an academic acceleration policy, the state budget provides $2.2 million to support implementation of the policy.
A computer science bill passed that aims to improve and expand access to computer science education (which includes coding), particularly in advanced courses that prepare students for careers in the field. School boards will begin approving Advanced Placement (AP) computer sciences courses as high school math or science credits, allowing students to fulfill their math or science graduation requirements with a computer science course. Students can pursue these classes at traditional high schools or in equivalent career and technical courses offered at Washington State Skills Centers. For computer science to count as a high school math credit, the student must be currently enrolled in or have successfully completed Algebra II.
State Intervention in Struggling Schools
The bill provides state-funded supports for improving schools that are persistently low performing, increases flexibility in selecting intervention models, strengthens the state’s role in collaborating and overseeing improvements, and expands the scope of schools in which interventions may happen. As a result of this legislation and $10.2 million in the state budget, future Required Action Districts will be supported by state funding. This means that the state can intervene in schools that are not Title I schools – expanding the number of low-performing schools that can be improved.
3rd Grade Reading
In the final moments of the session, the legislature passed a comprehensive education bill that makes improvements to our K-12 education system. The bill reflects compromises and conversations on 3rd grade reading, student discipline, and other issues that affect student learning. The section on 3rd grade reading ensures that students struggling with learning to read are getting support based on the most effective interventions. If students are reading at the lowest level on state exams at the end of 3rd grade, the parents, teacher, and principal will work together to identify appropriate interventions, such as summer school and appropriate grade level placement. The key here is that a conversation and a resulting strategy must happen, so that students will move forward with clear and explicit reading support. For a student struggling with reading, the parent/teacher/principal conversation at the end of 3rd grade is to be the culmination of several years of communications and interventions. Districts must begin including a student’s reading level on report cards in Kindergarten through 4th grade, and must detail the interventions being used for students that are below grade level.
Transition to Common Core Exams
Another bill that passed alters the state’s assessment (testing) system in future years—putting in place a transition plan for making the new Common Core exams high school graduation requirements. The plan deepens the state’s commitment to using the Common Core standards, which are higher K-12 academic learning standards that define what every student should know and be able to do at every grade level in math and English language arts.
Effective Teachers and Leaders
A bipartisan compromise bill moves forward faster on the implementation of a four-tier evaluation system for teachers and principals. Phase-in of the new evaluation system begins in 2013-14 and must be completed by the end of 2015-16. This bill:
- Requires districts to adopt one of three frameworks approved by OSPI.
- Creates four defined performance ratings: (1) Unsatisfactory; (2) Basic; (3) Proficient; and (4) Distinguished.
- Includes multiple measures of student achievement data as a substantial factor in teacher and principal evaluations.
- Gives evaluations meaning by including them as a factor in personnel decisions (including placements and layoffs), beginning in 2015.
- Prevents unsatisfactory new teachers from receiving continuing contracts; new teachers rated unsatisfactory in their third year would remain on provisional, year-to-year status.
- Requires teachers, principals and superintendents to be trained on new evaluation systems prior to implementation, and helps align professional development with performance evaluation criteria.
Public charter schools
A bipartisan proposal which did not pass would have allowed public charter schools to serve low-income students and students of color as part of a strategy to close the achievement gap. The bill also would have established “Transformation Zones” that would allow the state to intervene and provide schools with more flexibility in an effort to improve the lowest-performing schools. Read our FAQ on public charter schools.
Prioritize High-Impact K-12 Investments/ WA Kids
WaKIDS is an early learning diagnostic tool to help children transition into kindergarten. This bill supports the expansion of WaKIDS; so that one consistent tool can replace any other assessments required by school districts. It does allow waivers from WaKIDS until implementation of full-day kindergarten.
Opposed reducing graduation requirements
Opposed two bills, which did not pass, that would have either reduced graduation requirements, including passing exams, or eliminated certain state assessments. Together or separately, these bills would have been a step backward in maintaining high standards for students, schools and the state.
Supported priority investments in the budget
After what turned out to be a long “short” session, the Legislature passed a budget sparing education funding at all levels from cuts. This ends the trend over the last three years where billions were cut from early learning, K-12 and higher education. The final budget does not restore any funding from previous years, but does continue current funding levels for: Basic education, WaKIDS, full-day kindergarten, and a mentor program for beginning teachers (BEST).
Beginning Educator Support Team or BEST program
Thanks to Stand’s advocacy this valuable program is being restored to the budget. This is the only state funding that goes to pay for beginning teacher mentoring—and this program was completely eliminated by the legislature this past December. This was a Stand budget priority the past two years and we are pleased it has been restored.
The bill authorizes the creation of Innovation Schools which would be granted certain waivers from state requirements. These schools, which provide opportunities to partner with business as well as use project based or hands-on learning, must be predominantly STEM or arts focused. Stand for Children’s advocacy helped to pass this program.
Pay for Actual Student Success or PASS Act
The PASS program would provide school bonuses for schools that raise their high school graduation rates. The program will be funded at $3 million. While this is less than the $6.6 million originally proposed in the House, it’s a strong start. Stand has supported this bill throughout the 2011 session.
WaKids establishes a process for families, kindergarten teachers and early learning professionals to share information about incoming kindergarteners. The purpose is to gather information about the child in order to inform the learning plan and ensure that each child is prepared for their school career. Stand for Children and coalition partners strongly supported the bill.
Basic Education Funding
Kept the state on track to fund and implement basic education reforms– a compromise plan was adopted to begin funding k-3 class size enhancements, MSOC (maintenance, supplies, operating costs) and transportation in 2013.
Stand was instrumental in protecting BEST (The Beginning Educator Support Team) from funding cuts. Despite the program being removed from the budgets of the Governor, Senate and House and a $2.6 billion shortfall this year; we successfully worked with key senators and representatives to continue funding BEST.
Washington Race to the Top
Our efforts strengthened legislation to help Washington compete for $250 million in federal Race to the Top funds. While we would have preferred a bold leap, this legislation was certainly a large step forward for education reforms that will improve the State’s ability to turn around our lowest performing schools, improve the use of our longitudinal data system in decision making, support teachers and principals in being highly effective, and adopt Common Core standards.