Neither snow, nor sleet, nor rain …
Reports vary on how much snow dumped on Olympia this past week, but suffice it to say it was enough to cause major power outages across Thurston County and in large swaths of King and Pierce counties, as well as outlying areas up and down the I-5 corridor.
That said, even a lack of power at the Capitol didn’t stop committees from meeting last week, including the House Education committee that held a public hearing using emergency generators to power up hearing room A for the charter schools bill. Other hearings during the week and Friday were cancelled and rescheduled to this coming week, as the first major deadline looms for policy bills to pass out of committees (January 31 in the House, February 3 in the Senate).
WSSDA offices were mostly closed last week, with limited power and no Internet service the past few days. But … the show must go on. So here’s a look at bills up for hearings this week and a few others WSSDA is tracking.
Implementing the Teacher/Principal Evaluation Project (TPEP) and reforming statutes on reductions in force
In 2010, the Legislature passed ESSB 6696 which, among several changes, put in place a process to develop a new evaluation system for teachers and principals, beginning in the 2013-14 school year.
Eight school districts, along with a consortium of districts, were selected as part of a state pilot program, along with some federally selected districts operating in a slightly different fashion than the state pilots. These districts have been working with OSPI, in consultation with a steering committee comprised of school directors, administrators, teachers, principals and the Governor’s office, to develop a four-tier level evaluation system that would use eight criteria referenced in statute. OSPI has issued an update report, with more details available on the TPEP web site.
Three sets of bills have been introduced this session that are designed to take the evaluation system forward, while several bills have been introduced that focus on certain aspects of the evaluation statute or address how to respond to reductions in force in times of declining enrollment or reduced funding. All but HB 2451 have been scheduled for a public hearing this week.
· HB 2165/SB 6318 would direct OSPI to develop comprehensive online training materials for principals and superintendents on the revised evaluation system. A modified version would be available to teachers. The package would include modules, and the bill specifies the types of training that would be included in the materials.
· HB 2537/SB 6177 is at the request of the Governor, who views this as the next step in implementation of the TPEP process. In addition to defining what the four levels of performance are, the bill also would require OSPI to develop rules by December 1, 2012 on the “description” for the four ratings, and school districts would be required to adopt an evaluation framework and definitions of each evaluation criteria. Regarding performance, teachers and principals who are rated a “1,” rated a “2” for two consecutive years or rated “2” twice in any three-year period (and have five or more years of experience) would be placed in probationary status, with a requirement to have probation completed in time for notice to be given by the May 15 deadline. The bill would start in the 2013-14 school year, and be completed by the 2016-17 school year. The Governor is seeking an appropriation for training on the new evaluation system.
· HB 2334/SB 6317 is similar to the Governor’s bill in many ways. It differs by specifically requiring OSPI to select three preferred instructional frameworks by September 1, 2012 and requires school districts to adopt one of the frameworks, although OSPI may approve minor modifications to adjust to district needs. The probation elements are similar to the Governor’s bills, but these bills also include a process to move off of probation. A report from OSPI would be due December 1, 2016.
· HB 2309/SB 6278 would go into effect September 1, 2013, and would move a teacher who received two consecutive unsatisfactory ratings back to a provisional status, making them eligible for non-renewal of a contract. These bills are at the request of SPI Randy Dorn.
· HB 2427/SB 6203 would make student growth data a significant factor in the evaluation process and would allow for student input (for teachers) or building input (for principals) to be included. OSPI would be required to establish common components of the teacher evaluation systems for school districts to use in the 2013-14 school year. Beginning September 1, 2014, any employee who received an unsatisfactory under the old system or the lowest rating under the new system in two consecutive years would revert to provisional status. By this date, districts would be required to update policies and collective bargaining agreements to consider performance evaluations before other factors, such as seniority, when making reductions in force decisions due to enrollment decline or loss of revenue, or for recall decisions.
· HB 2451 does not address the entire evaluation process, but would change only school district policies and collective bargaining agreements to provide that contracts of classroom teachers who received comparatively lower evaluation ratings would be nonrenewed before contracts of classroom teachers who received comparatively higher evaluation ratings. The bill would apply to new contracts after the effective date of the bill and on collective bargaining agreements renewed or extended after the effective date.
The Senate Early Learning & K-12 Committee will hear the Senate evaluation bills on Monday, January 23 at 1:30 p.m. The House Education Committee has scheduled most of the House versions Tuesday, January 24 at 6 p.m.
Quality Education Council Recommendations
In 2010, the QEC (created under ESHB 2261) issued a report to the Legislature with recommendations. As originally drafted, HB 1443 would have implemented some of the recommendations that were viewed as having no fiscal impact. The bill died after being significantly modified in the Senate.
The QEC issued another report in advance of the 2012 session, again with recommendations. Several bills have been introduced to implement some of the recommendations. These include:
· HB 2447 would direct school districts to adopt a policy by July 1, 2013 that defines a high school credit to meet graduation requirements based on a seat time definition, demonstrated competencies, or some combination of the two. WSSDA is directed to develop a model policy (which has been under way in consultation with the State Board of Education (SBE)). School districts would be required to submit the policy to the SBE, and to certify annually to the board that the district has a policy to define a high school credit.
· HB 2470 would require schools under a required action plan to use the state kindergarten readiness assessment (if an elementary school) and to describe how they would use family engagement coordinators to build relationships between families, the school and the community to improve student achievement. The bill also would modify the “high demand occupation” statute for the purposes of opportunity internships, to include teaching math, science, bilingual education, special education or English as a second language.
· SB 6118 would define a highly capable student as a student who performs, or shows the potential to perform, at significantly advanced levels when compared to other students of the same age, experience or environment. The bill would direct OSPI to adopt rules for assessing and selecting highly capable students, and would specify the types of elements the rules must consider.
· HB 2506/SB 6246 would also include the same amendatory language for the highly capable program as is included in SB 6118. The bill would make reading improvement specialists available to students from 8th to 12th grade and expand the extended learning opportunities program to 9th and 10th grade students; would require a report card on each school district’s Transitional Bilingual Instructional Program (TBIP); and would require classroom teachers assigned to TBIP to hold a certificate endorsement in English language learning or bilingual education beginning in the 2017-18 school year.
At the Monday Senate EL&K12 committee, the committee will hold a public hearing on SB 6118. The House Education takes up the House bills referenced above at a 6 p.m. hearing Monday, January 23.
Changes to graduation requirements and state assessments
A number of bills have been introduced related to graduation requirements and assessments that are linked to graduation requirements.
· HB 2231* would remove the requirement for a student to pass statewide assessments or end-of-course exams in order to graduate, and would remove the requirement to take a writing assessment. Estimates from OSPI last month show a potential savings of up to $16 million to this biennium, depending on what is eliminated.
· HB 2411* would set in statute an 18-credit minimum to “focus state high school graduation requirements on the core, foundational knowledge and skills,” and leave additional requirements and course selection to local communities, parents and students. Starting with the graduating class of 2016, the distribution would be 4 credits of English; 3 math, based on the High School and Beyond Plan (HSBP); 3 social studies; 2 science; 2 world languages; 2 credits in career concentration; and one credit each in art and health & fitness. The bill would allow the SBE to make a HSBP a graduation requirement.
· HB 2268 would require all high school students to earn at least one-half credit in financial literacy prior to graduation. The requirement would be within the current framework of 20 credits, and would allow school districts to substitute a financial literacy credit for either a social studies or occupational education credit. The bill includes a minimum course content to meet a graduation requirement. (Note: a public hearing is scheduled for January 23 at 6 p.m.)
· HB 2543*/SB 6320 would have the effect of making the credit reshuffling decision by the SBE last November voluntary unless enacted and funded by the legislature if there is a fiscal impact to the local school district and the district files a notice of fiscal impact with the SBE. The SBE adopted a rule change to reduce the number of electives from 5.5 credits to 4 credits, and to increase English to 4 credits and social studies to 3 credits. The Board also made passing Washington state history a non-credit requirement, among other rule changes. (Graduation requirements)
· SB 6314 would set aside passing the biology end-of-course assessments as a graduation requirement until some point in the future when certain conditions are met.
Bills with an asterisk * are scheduled for a public hearing before the House Education Committee on Tuesday, January 24 at 1:30 p.m.
Changes to the State Board of Education
Speaking of the SBE, here are a couple of bills that would add new responsibilities or change the composition of the SBE membership that are up for a hearing this week.
· HB 2492 would require the SBE to complete a fiscal analysis on the impact of a proposed rule or policy change on the state and school district. The bill would require the analysis on a “representative sample” of school districts, and would require the SBE to share this information with the education committees of the legislature. The bill also would require the legislature to hold a public hearing on SBE-proposed changes. The bill is scheduled for a public hearing Tuesday, January 24 at 8 a.m. before the House Education Appropriations & Oversight Committee.
· HB 2493/SB 6319 would change the membership composition of the SBE and would add the fiscal analysis requirement described above. Among the membership changes would be appointments from WSSDA, WASA, AWSP, WEA, and three appointments by the Governor (currently there are seven Governor appointments). The House bill is scheduled for an 8 a.m. hearing Thursday, January 26 with the House Education Committee.
· SB 6247 would transfer responsibilities associated with implementation of ESHB 2261 (Chapter 548, Laws of 2009) from the Quality Education Council to the SBE. Under the bill, the SBE would recommend to the QEC and legislature an implementation schedule for the concurrent phase-in of changes to the instructional program of basic education and funding formulas. Full implementation of the phase-in schedule would be completed by September 1, 2018. In addition, the SBE would “develop strategic recommendations on the program of basic education,” taking into account OSPI’s capacity report issued in December 2010. Any recommendations to change the program of basic education established in ESHB 2261 would have to be based on an educational policy reason. The implementation schedule, along with measurable goals and priorities, would be due January 1, 2013 to the QEC, governor and the legislature. The bill is scheduled for a public hearing Wednesday, January 25 at 8 a.m. before the Senate EL&K12 Committee. As a reminder, Senate staff created a great explanation of education reforms included in ESHB 2261 and in the 2010 and 2011 sessions.
It wouldn’t be a legislative session without a few bills on unfunded mandates and, truly, if there ever was a year to get rid of some pesky statutes and rules, this is probably the year to do it. Gov. Chris Gregoire has put forward companion bills, while a bill from last year and a new look at unfunded mandates have been thrown into the mix. All are scheduled for hearings this week as noted.
· HB 2538/SB 6323 is the Governor’s request bill. It would make the culminating project optional as a graduation requirement, provided an alternative was met; would change the frequency of state financial and performance audits to once every three years except in certain circumstances; and would soften elements required in statute for accelerated learning plans. The Senate bill, and SSB 5191 (below), is scheduled for a hearing before Senate EL&K12 at 8 a.m., Wednesday, January 25. The House bill is scheduled for Thursday, 8 a.m. with the House Education Committee, along with HB 2333 described below.
· SSB 5191 is a bill that was introduced in the 2011 session, and would eliminate, suspend or amend certain laws. A full list is available in the bill report.
· HB 2333 would also change the frequency of state audits on school districts to once every three years except in certain instances; would prohibit the SBE from making a culminating project a graduation requirement; and would suspend until the 2015-16 school year the requirement to annually submit a report to OSPI on how schools are meeting the Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALRs) and any classroom-based assessments in civics.
Early learning expansion and kindergarten readiness
Using the $60 million federal grant Washington received recently for early learning programs, both the House and Senate are considering bills that would require the mandatory use of the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WAKIDS) beginning with the 2012-13 school year. In addition, as reported following the QEC December meeting, implementation of a pre-K program for three- and four-year-olds is also being considered.
· HB 2586/SB 6326 would require districts that receive state-funded all-day kindergarten to begin using WAKIDS, with full implementation by the 2014-15 school year for all kindergarten students. School districts that don’t receive state funds for all-day kindergarten but have a kindergarten readiness assessment tool would be allowed to continue using it with a waiver from OSPI through the 2013-14 school year. The Senate has held a hearing on their version; the House Education Committee will hear the bill Monday, January 23 at 6 p.m.
· HB 2448 would establish a voluntary preschool program, beginning in the 2014-15 school year for all three- and four-year-old children in the state. Families with incomes that are more than 250 percent of the federal poverty level would have a copayment established by the Department of Early Learning. Full implementation would be by the 2024-25 school year. In addition, the bill would establish an “early learning advisory council” to make recommendations for a concurrent phase-in for children birth-to-three, along with high quality child care programs. The bill will be heard by Monday, January 23 at 6 p.m. by the the House Early Learning & Human Services Committee.
Student achievement – lab schools and a new state agency
The House Education Committee took public comment on a governor-backed bill to create “laboratory school partnerships” between school districts and Washington’s four-year teaching colleges. In addition, the Governor has also introduced bills to create the Office of the Student Achievement Council.
· HB 2606/SB 6348 would create a voluntary partnership program between a school district with a low-achieving school and one of the state’s four-year universities to accelerate student achievement and strengthen the skills of educators. The partnership would be for four years, and would be funded through a state appropriation. Partners would submit an application to the SBE and the Professional Educator Standards Board. Lab schools would remain under the jurisdiction of the locally elected school board. The Senate bill is scheduled for a public hearing January 25 at 8 a.m. with the Senate EL&K12 Committee.
· HB 2483/SB 6232 would create the Office of the Student Achievement Council and the Student Achievement Council (SAC). The office would be a new state agency, and would replace the Higher Education Coordinating Board that was scheduled for elimination in the 2011 session. The purpose of the Office would be to set goals for increasing educational attainment and monitor progress, including how to smooth student transitions from secondary to postsecondary education and training, and between and among postsecondary institutions. The SAC would be comprised of nine voting members, including the Superintendent of Public Instruction. The Office would be directed to “connect the work of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the State Board of Education, the State Board for Community & Technical colleges, the workforce board, and the four-year institutions of higher education, as well as the independent schools and colleges.” On Monday, the House Higher Education Committee will continue to take public comment on the House version, while the Senate Higher Education & Workforce Development Committee has it scheduled for Tuesday, January 24 at 10 a.m.
Reducing the state debt limit
As many of you will recall from the 2011 session, conversations were heated about what to do with the state’s debt capacity and the amount the state pays on debt, to the point of holding up the 2011-13 capital budget until a solution was found. Over the interim, the Commission on State Debt met and discussed options. Their recommendations can be found in several bills – all of which are on this week’s schedule.
· HB 2494/SB 6262 would set a working debt limit of 8 percent during non-recessionary times, to be increased to 8.5 percent during recessionary periods as defined by a newly established Debt Advisory Council. For the purposes of determining the state’s debt capacity, the bill also would count property taxes as general state revenues. The bill is predicated on the success of a constitutional amendment (next).
· HJR 4226/SJR 8221 would ask state voters to approve an amendment to the constitution that would reduce the state debt limit from 9 to 8.75 percent of general state revenues for the six preceding fiscal years (up from three years). For the purposes of calculating what constitutes “general state revenues,” property taxes (ad valorem taxes levied by the state) would be included in the calculation. However, moneys received from taxes levied for specific purposes and required to be deposited into specific funds or accounts other than the general fund would be exempt from this requirement.
What about the budget? Of levies and program funding …
As reported previously, during the first two weeks of session, House and Senate policy and fiscal committees heard from respective legal advisers on their interpretation of the McCleary v. State Supreme Court decision.
While the House seems to be taking a strong stance against cuts to basic education and changes to ESHB 2261, since it was referenced by the Court as a positive step forward, some in the Senate may seem poised to change the basic education definition to meet the current economic situation.
For a review of the discussion, check out the Senate Ways & Means Committee hearing on TVW last Tuesday, January 17. In response to questions from lawmakers, assistant attorney general Dave Stolier repeatedly stated that the Court deferred to the legislature on matters of what constituted the state’s program of basic education, and would be accorded the “latitude” to construct education policy that serves students best.
In the meantime, legislators are introducing bills designed to relieve fiscal pressure on school districts, as well as a bill to create a process of dissolution for districts facing financial insolvency.
· HB 6099 would allow school districts with an existing M&O levy to go back out to voters if they have excess levy authority when their budget is reduced due to decreases in Local Effort Assistance or federal funding cuts under Title VIII. The hearing is Wednesday, January 25 at 8 a.m. in Senate EL&K12.
· HB 2533 would require the legislature to enact an operating budget that funds education first before other appropriation legislation.
· HB 2534 would repeal the nonresident sales tax exemption and direct the increased resources to fund all-day kindergarten.
· HB 2617 would set up a process by which a school district would be dissolved due to financial conditions if the district is not able to get on firm financial footing. The bill would target districts that have been on binding conditions for two or more school years with no improvement and no solid plan to improve. The bill would create a Financial Oversight Committee, which could recommend options other than dissolution. OSPI is in the process of creating a system of financial indicators as an “early warning system” that could be used to flag financial issues. The bill is a result of a report completed last month by OSPI and ESDs, and was required by SHB 1431 of 2011.
· SB 6377 would repeal increases in teacher COLAs, and would set the amount per skills center student in the omnibus budget.
Odds and ends
· On Thursday at 1:30 p.m., the Senate Health & Long-Term Care Committee will hear a bill that would create a consolidated health benefits system for K-12 employees. The bill doesn’t have a bill number yet, but is available here.
· HB 2406/SB 6109 would make video and audio recordings of an executive session exempt from public disclosure. However, a majority of the voting body could waive the exemption. The bill was requested by the Attorney General and State Auditor, and the Senate bill is scheduled for a public hearing before the Senate Government Operations committee Tuesday, January 24 at 1:30 p.m.
· HB 2336 would require WSSDA to convene an advisory committee to develop a model policy by December 1, 2012 for the open licensing of courseware created with state funds. The bill would require school districts to post within one year of creation to a Creative Commons attribution license; courseware is broadly defined. The bill is scheduled for a public hearing Tuesday, January 24 at 8 a.m. with the House Education Appropriations committee.
· HB 2337/SB 6231 as written would divert 1.5 percent of the allocation for textbooks and curriculum to OSPI to create openly licensed courseware aligned with the common core state standards and EALRs. At a House hearing last week, House bill sponsor Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, indicated he would be seeking an appropriation rather than a diversion to support the concept of free courseware available on the web. SB 6231 has a hearing before the Senate EL&K12 Committee on the 26th at 1:30 p.m.
· SB 6300 would encourage school districts to implement a program at least once a year that educates students on the content and importance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
· SHB 1470 would require school districts that provide access to postsecondary occupational or educational representatives to provide the same level of access to military recruiters and others. The bill was introduced in 2011 and passed the House January 16 by a vote of 89-2.
WSSDA/WASA/WASBO Legislative Conference
Just a quick reminder that you still have time to register for the combined legislative conference that brings together your peers and top-notch speakers on January 29 in Olympia, and our “Day on the Hill” January 30 where you meet directly with legislators.
Unfortunately, the state’s chief economist Dr. Arun Raha – who entertained us all last year – has resigned and will not be presenting. Fortunately, attorney Thomas Ahearne of Foster Pepper PLLC, who argued successfully on the McCleary v. State case, has agreed to join us for his take on the Supreme Court decision.
Registration opens at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, with our program starting at 1 p.m. Following the presentations and a meeting with peers in Director Areas, participants will enjoy a reception at the Olympia Red Lion that begins at 6 p.m. To register, click here or go to www.wasa-oly.org.