Marching Closer to the Finish Line
March can feel like a long and busy month in schools, and it is the same in the Legislature. This week, there were lots of hearings on bills by committees in the opposite house. Next week is more of the same. The updated revenue forecast comes out on Monday, March 20, and this will be used to help determine the final operating budgets (and other budgets) for this year’s legislative session. We will see the Senate budget on Thursday, March 23, and it will be heard in Senate Ways and Means on Friday, March 24. We should also see the Senate Capital Budget next week. I’m hearing the House will release its budget the week after.
For a quick look at the bills being heard next week and a list of the bills that are still moving through the Legislature, check out this bill tracking list.
Bills That Keep Moving
Senator Lisa Wellman sponsored SB 5175, which allows districts to offer principals up to a three-year contract. We see this as an option that districts may choose to use to recruit and retain leaders, especially for high school positions. We support this bill because we hope school districts see this as an opportunity to maintain consistent leadership. Dismantling bad-for-student systems and working to make deep, systemic change, takes time and consistent, effective leadership. Principals deserve this job security due to the complex nature of their jobs and the years of experience required to become a highly effective and impactful school leader.
SB 5175 will be heard in the House Education committee on Tuesday, March 21, at 4 pm. We know there are groups who oppose this bill. They’ll either be testifying or sending emails to legislators voicing their opposition, so we encourage all of you to email your legislators asking for their support. You can do that easily with our latest Action Alert for SB 5175.
Both of the special education funding bills had hearings this week. The Senate bill, SB 5311, would raise the special education cap from 13.5% to 15% and increase the multiplier at a greater rate than the House. Most groups signed as “pro” or as “other” because this is a higher level of funding, but they wanted the Legislature to go further. The House version, HB 1436, funds special education at a lower level, and most groups signed in as “con.” We’ll see how this comes out next week when these bills should be exec’d (amended and voted out) from the education committees.
SB 5174 is the only transportation funding bill that survives. This bill was narrowed from its original version and would create the Transportation Safety Net. Safety net awards must be provided to school districts with a demonstrated need for additional transportation funding for special passengers. Special passengers include:
- students eligible for and receiving special education that require transportation as a related service of their individualized education program,
- homeless students requiring transportation under the federal McKinney-Vento homeless assistance act, and
- foster students receiving transportation as required under ESSA.
HB 1479, the restraint and isolation bill, would prohibit chemical restraint and mechanical restraint, and prohibit isolation beginning August 2, 2025. This bill will be heard next Monday in the Senate Early Learning and K-12 committee. It prohibits the creation of isolation rooms and requires isolation rooms to be removed or repurposed by August 1, 2025. It also adds training and professional development requirements. Building administrators are added to this list of people who would be prioritized for this training.
HB 1550 is the Transition to Kindergarten bill. Legislators are trying to ensure funding stays the same for the current programs while creating statutes and procedures for future programs. This bill will be heard next Wednesday in the Senate Early Learning and K-12 committee. Current TK programs will remain in place for the 2023-24 school year, but changes would come in the following school year.
HB 1658 would authorize high school students to earn up to two elective credits for paid work experience. This will be heard on Wednesday, March 22 in the Senate Early Learning and K-12 committee.
If you are interested in small school construction, SB 5126 (common school trust revenue to the small school modernization program) and HB 1044 (capital financial assistance to small districts with demonstrated funding challenges) have been scheduled next week for public hearings.
SB 5048 is a fantastic bill that passed the Senate. This bill will require institutions of higher education to provide enrollment and registration in College in the High School courses at no cost to students in grades 9 through 12 at public high schools.
HB 1207 moves over to the Senate, and it would change the term "emergency expulsion" to "emergency removal" and permit certain students to request that their records use the new term. It would also require OSPI to develop a model student handbook that includes, among other things, a complaint procedure related to harassment, intimidation, bullying, and discrimination.
HB 1478 establishes student rights and moves over to the Senate. It requires each public school to develop student-focused educational and promotional materials that incorporate the statement and to include the materials into required civics instruction. It directs OSPI to make the statement available on its website.
HB 1308 was heard this week in the Senate. This bill says that school districts may offer students the opportunity to meet graduation pathway requirements by completing a performance-based learning experience through which the student applies knowledge and skills in a real-world context, providing evidence of applying state learning standards in at least two of the core subject areas identified by the State Board of Education that are most directly aligned with the student's education or career goals as stated in their HSBP.
SB 5243 passed the Senate, and it would revise high school and beyond plan (HSBP) requirements and require OSPI to facilitate the transition to and adoption of a common online platform for HSBPs. It would require school districts to provide access to an adopted universal platform within two years of platform development. This bill was heard in the House Education Committee this week.
The recess bill, SB 5257, passed out of the House Education committee this week and is on the second reading calendar in the House Rules committee. The bill was amended to more closely match the House bill (HB 1504), and it requires 30 minutes of recess and encourages recess before lunch. It also includes language that discourages withholding recess for disciplinary or academic reasons.
HB 1316 is another dual credit bill that would allow Running Start students to be funded up to a combined maximum enrollment of 1.6 FTE. It would also allow high school graduates with 15 or fewer college credits to earn before meeting associate degree requirements to continue participation in the summer academic term following graduation.
HB 1565 has a short title of the “Educator Workforce Act.” This bill establishes a teacher residency program and continues work to identify the quality and effectiveness of educator preparation and workforce programs. This bill also addresses the BEST program. We are hopeful funding for principal mentorships will increase, as well as funding for principal internships.
Our advocacy efforts need all of our voices to contribute to the process. There are many different ways (big and small) that you can get involved in these efforts. Your participation can be as easy as doing an action alert to email your legislators or signing in support of a specific bill. Or, if you feel really passionate about a particular bill, we would love to have you testify. It takes all of us to make an impact!
If you have questions or comments or want to get involved, please reach out to me.
Thank you so much!