Legislative session off to a fast and crazy start
When the Legislature convenes for the short, 60-day session, it’s usually to make some tweaks to the biennial budgets passed during the previous session, along with some policy work.
Consider that in the first week of regular session, rather than focusing on the projected $1 billion operating budget shortfall, legislators have managed to introduce nearly 500 new bills since Monday. That’s right, 500. Of those, about 15 percent are on the WSSDA watch list.
Education is a hot commodity this session, and you can expect lots of action in committee meetings before the first deadline to move policy bills – tentatively January 31 in the House and February 3 in the Senate.
McCleary gets air time
Several House and Senate committees held work sessions or briefings on the impact of the McCleary v. State Supreme Court decision handed down last week. Not everyone has the same opinion about what the decision means regarding possible funding cuts or enhancements to the spending plan for public schools. That will continue to be debated over the new few months.
But it is clear – and the attorneys all agree – that the Court held the State had failed to meet its Constitutional duty under Article IX, Section 1 to provide school districts with a level of resources that amply funds the actual costs of basic education programs. The Court also said the State had taken action to remedy the deficiencies and was making progress by enacting ESHB 2261 in 2009.
In the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee Wednesday, January 11, Assistant Attorney General Dave Stolier presented an overview, while committee counsel Susan Mielke provided a clear summary of the 2261 reforms, other reforms, and a history of professional development or LID days. The House Education Committee also had a brief update from Office of Program Research legal counsel, and McCleary has been the conversation in caucus meetings.
The McCleary case is front and center again next week, when both the House and Senate Ways & Means committees will hear more on the Court’s decision and what their continued interest in the case will mean.
Charters, waivers and TPEP – oh my!
Among those hundreds of bills that have been introduced in the past five days, several are worth another look. Get out the highlighter …
On Thursday, January 12, several House and Senate members announced their plans to introduce up to 50 charter schools in Washington state. The companion bills (one in the House, one in the Senate) are backed by Microsoft and Boeing, along with other groups.
The 44-page bills (HB 2428/SB 6002) are sponsored by Democrats and Republicans from both chambers. The Senate bill is tentatively scheduled to be heard Wednesday, January 18 at 8 a.m. before the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee (Senate EL&K-12). Chair Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, has scheduled a work session on innovative schools prior to the public hearing.
On the “waiver” front, three bills have been introduced; details were provided in the January 8 update. A work session in Senate EL&K-12 on the “economy & efficiency” waivers is scheduled for Thursday, January 19, along with public hearings on SB 6020 and SB 6050.
And, speaking of waivers, the State Board of Education agreed today to pull a proposed rule change to waivers from a vote, tabling the action to the May meeting.
Finally, four different bills have been introduced regarding implementation of the Teacher/Principal Evaluation Pilot (TPEP) program which was a result of ESSB 6696 in the 2010 legislative session.
The bills include a proposal from Gov. Chris Gregoire; a proposal from Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn; a proposal from Rep. Kris Lytton, D-Anacortes; and a proposal from the same coalition that’s supporting the charter schools bill. The bills include:
· HB 2309 (at the request of SPI Dorn)
· HB 2334
· HB 2427/SB 6203
· SB 6177 (at the request of Governor Gregoire)
In addition, Rep. Marcie Maxwell, D-Renton, introduced HB 2165 in the November special session. The bill would set up a mechanism for online training to support implementation of the TPEP roll out.
House Education Chair Sharon Tomiko Santos, D-Seattle, has set aside time on Thursday, January 19 at 8 a.m. to hear HB 2309, HB 2334 and HB 2165. The hearing takes place in the John L. O’Brien building, hearing room A.
And there’s more ahead
A former Anacortes school director, Rep. Lytton has also introduced an unfunded mandates bill that takes aim at a handful of mandates school districts have flagged as burdensome over the years.
HB 2333 would eliminate writing assessments currently on the books for all students but not required by the federal No Child Left Behind law; leave the decision to require a culminating project up to the school district board; add classroom-based assessments for writing and civics; and put the state auditor’s financial audits on a three-year-cycle except in certain circumstances.
Other bills that have been introduced span the spectrum, including bills that may affect DNR trust lands, school construction assistance program funding formulas, high school credit requirements, career and technical education, the State Board of Education, and much more. Look for a detailed summary of what’s been introduced and what’s coming up in committee hearings soon.