Friday, March 27, 2015

McCleary Funding - Better - But Still Falls Short

The Washington State House of Representatives offered up their version of the 2015-17 biennial budget today.  Representatives Patrick Sullivan, Ross Hunter and Reuven Carlyle held a press conference at 11:30AM.  As was widely expected, the House Democrats raised the bar on funding McCleary, but many people believe that even this effort falls short of what will be necessary to completely fund basic education.  Washington State PTA McCleary Issue Team lead Eden Mack reviewed the budget after the press conference.  She shared with us her thoughts on the long road that we will need to take in order to see the dream of an amply funded education system become a reality.  

"I think that our Legislators need to remember that the Paramount duty of the state is to amply fund basic education (K-12, not early learning or higher ed) for ALL children, not just some.  The House budget gets a bit closer to the mark, but it is still not nearly enough. As Superintendent Dorn has said, we need at least 4.5 billion more to meet McCleary this biennium just for operations, and 1.4 billion is far short of that.  With all of the proposed budgets currently on the table not meeting the mark, the question becomes: what sanctions will the Supreme Court bring down at the end of session?"

The House Budget proposal includes the following:
  • K-3 Class Size Reduction - $412 million
  • Textbooks, Supplies, and Operating Costs (MSOC) $741 million
  • All Day Kindergarten - $180 million
  • College and Career Readiness - $70 million

Funding for these changes are proposed to come from the following resources:
  • 5% Capital Gains Tax on investors who receive $25,000 individually or $50,000 as a couple
  • Raising the B&O Tax on services gross receipts from 1.5% to 1.8% and increasing the exemption for small business from $56,000 to $100,000
  • Changing the rules on sales tax in border counties from exemption to reimbursement
  • Repeal the exemption for bottled water
  • Repeal exemption for extracted fuel
  • Limit the real estate excise tax on foreclosure sales
  • Eliminate the preferred B&O tax rate on royalty income, travel agents, and prescription drug re-sellers

After reviewing the proposal, Washington State PTA Legislative Director Sherry Krainick said "I feel this proposal may be the high water mark for McCleary funding."  She, along with others, expect a much smaller revenue package from the Senate.  “I think that unless there are some future attempts to expand revenue to address some of the shortfalls Eden mentioned, we still fall short.  The PTA will be eagerly anticipating the efforts by Senators on fulfilling the promise of McCleary.”

The budget will be heard Monday in committee, then voted on by the House Appropriations Committee the following day.  It is expected to be passed off the House Floor next week.  You can read the budget in its entirety here.

House Budget Unveiled: SEL and Breakfast Funded

This was an eventful day for the Washington State PTA.  Although funding for McCleary was not as high as we would have hoped, we were able to take solace in the fact that two of our top five issues were funded in the House Budget. Representative Ross Hunter's proposal called for funding Social and Emotional Learning and offering grant funding for Breakfast after the Bell.  Breakfast team leader Heather Lindberg shared her thoughts on the news that Breakfast programs received funding. 

"The inclusion of Breakfast After the Bell in the House Budget shows that our Representatives understand that improving educational outcomes starts with providing for students' basic needs. I am thankful that the House understands the importance of this research-backed legislation and hope the Senate Leadership allows for a floor vote in the near future."  Both Heather and her daughter Ginny testified on behalf of the legislation earlier this year.  Their picture is below.

Guest Column by King County Councilwoman Kathy Lambert on House Bill 1865 to Expand Vision Screenings

Last week, we shared information on House Bill 1865 which expands student vision exams. The bill passed the House and was heard in the Senate this week. King County Councilwoman Kathy Lambert came down to testify in support of the bill in Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education.  Several years ago, Councilmember Lambert teamed up with Overlake Hospital's Dr. Mary Baker to urge passage of a similar bill. Although the Op Ed from the Redmond Reporter was drafted in 2008, it's still a good piece by a supporter of vision screenings and the work of the WSPTA.  Please click here to read it in full. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Senate Bill 6080 - Good Start - But Not Enough to Meet Student Needs

This week, PTA activist and McCleary team lead Eden Mack from the Seattle Council PTA joined us in Olympia for the hearing on Senate Bill 6080 which starts the conversation on how to fund additional classrooms in the wake of all day Kindergarten and class size reductions required by McCleary.  In her testimony, she thanked the committee for starting the process, but, as a parent and leader in the Seattle School District, highlighted that the proposal did not go far enough to satisfy the growing need for classroom space in Washington.

Her testimony and the follow up question and answer session between her, Senator Keiser, and Senator Honeyford is well worth the five minutes.  This is our PTA in action and it's great when members are able to take the time to let our legislators understand the real world implications derived from their bills. Testimony on SB 6080 starts at the 1:10 mark and Eden's testimony starts at the 1:39:40 mark. Check it out!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Sound of Drums - House Budget Due to be Released by the End of the Month

The first big movement on McCleary in the legislature was the release of Governor Inslee's budget last December.  His version fully funded MSOC, and jump started the K-3 class size reductions and all day Kindergarten for the 2016 school year.  Now it is the House's turn to pitch their version of the budget, which is expected to be unveiled the week of March 30th, but could come as early as next week.

The PTA is hoping that the plan may address fully funding teacher compensation and that levies should pay for extras, not funding portions of basic education.  This will, however, be an expensive ask and we may need to come out fighting for the changes that our kids need. Expect more information on how you can help at a later date. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

PTA Advocates for Increased Foster Care Services

Our PTA Legislative Director, Sherry Krainick, was in Olympia on Wednesday, and took time out of her meeting schedule to swing by the House Early Learning and Human Services Committee to share our support for Senate Bill 5740 by Senator Joe Fain would expand services for foster children who age out of foster care at age 18.  

The WSPTA went on record last year, working with the Mockingbird Society to help pass the first round of legislation concerning this issue.  The other major foster care bill, HB 1999, is also supported by the Association. That bill, offered by Rep. Carlyle, would move coordination of educational programs from DSHS to OSPI and the Student Achievement Council.  It also sets up a demonstration program to improve foster youth outcomes.  

Both bills are moving forward in the legislative process and have bipartisan support.  If you want to help advocate for these programs - click on the bill links to "comment" on the bills with your legislators!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Social and Emotional Learning Hearing Successful in House Education

One of our Key Top Five Issues passed yet another hurdle this week when Senate Bill 5688, the Social and Emotional Learning Bill, was heard in the House Education Committee. Sarah Butcher, the Legislative Team Lead on SEL, was present along with Issaquah PTA leader Essie Hicks, pictured above, with her son who joined her in testifying.  Also on hand were the Student Ambassadors who gave an emotionally charged testimony concerning their own experiences.  It's worth a look, but, bring a hankie.  The public testimony starts here with the Student Ambassadors at the 1:33.00 mark. They are followed by Sarah then Essie.  Have a look.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

National PTA Applauds Administration’s Commitment to Ensuring Students Have Access to Healthy Foods

Last week, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, joined by National PTA President Otha Thornton and Rayburn Elementary PTA President Norma Cavazos, announced that more than $30 million in grants will be awarded to help schools prepare healthy meals for students. Of the grants, $25 million will be provided to help schools purchase needed equipment to make preparing and serving healthier meals easier and more efficient, and $5 million will provide additional training for school food service professionals. 

“With more than 31 million students participating daily in the National School Lunch Program, ensuring children have access to nutritious foods is critical to help them learn and develop a healthy lifestyle into adulthood,” said Otha Thornton, president of National PTA. “It has long been a top priority of National PTA to improve school meal programs as it makes a difference for the lives and futures of our nation’s children. National PTA applauds the Administration’s commitment to supporting schools as they work hard to provide a healthier environment for students.”

Friday, March 20, 2015

Vision problems can be major roadblock to childrens' school success

By Kathy Lambert and Dr. Mary Baker

As thousands of children head back to school this month, it is a good time to make sure they are well prepared for academic success. In addition to equipping them with backpacks, notebooks and pencils, it is important to ensure that students are ready to learn. Good vision is fundamental to learning success.

Although most schools do screen students with the basic Snelling test for 20/20 vision at a distance, they rarely test for a host of other vision skills such as close vision and tracking. School screenings typically detect only 5 percent of all vision problems. However, in the average classroom, 20 to 30 percent of students may have a vision problem. This issue raises two fundamental questions: What do we know? What can we do?

Follow the Latest With Our New Legislative Bill Tracker.

With over 2000 bills being offered in Olympia, it can sometimes be difficult to determine which bills are which. This session, however, you can follow our legislative exploits in two ways.  First, with our new Bill Tracker. Second, you can still follow us on Twitter @WSPTALEG.  Drop us a line sometime at legconsultant@wastatepta.org and let us know what your priorities are as we hit our stride in the 2015 Legislative Session.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

WSPTA in the Other Washington for National Legislative Convention.

While Washington State holds its annual legislative assembly in October, National PTA holds its Legislative Conference in Mid-March. This year, a delegation of WSPTA members attended the three day event and spoke with congressional leadership about issues concerning the proposed update of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (Currently known as No Child Left Behind) and expanding family engagement.

In addition to lobbying activies, the delegation took time out to present our own Senator Patty Murray with National PTA's Congressional Voice for Children Award.  Pictured below is incoming National PTA President and former WSPTA President, Laura Bay; Vice President Barbara Martin; Legislative Director Sherry Krainick; Senator Patty Murray; President Heather Gillette; National PTA board member and former WSPTA President Scott Allen, and Region 6 legislative chair Heidi Bennett.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Second Half of Session Leads Off With Financial Literacy Hearing

The legislative session is now officially half over.  Bills which did not pass out of their house of origin are now likely dead for the remainder of the season.  As you know, once a bill passes from the house that it originates in, it needs to pass the other legislative body and be signed by the governor in order to become law.  

For supporters of financial literacy, the first hurdle has been cleared with the Thursday afternoon hearing on Senate Bill 5202.  The WSPTA was represented by Acting Region 4 Director Kristi Shafer who focused on her own experiences to help drive our message home.  If you would like to help us on the legislative team to advocate for upcoming bills in Olympia, e-mail us at legconsultant@wastatepta.org.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Key McCleary / Capital Funding Bill to be Heard in Senate.

One of the less often talked about concerns with fully funding basic education in Washington State is the lack of adequate facilities in many districts to accommodate the reduced class sizes that the McCleary Decision and the recently passed I-1351 require.  The Washington State Senate is offering bipartisan legislation to help address the growing need for facilities and the bill, SB 6080, will be heard in the Ways and Means Committee on March 19th at 3:30PM.  McCleary Issue lead Eden Mack is working to get a good representation of WSPTA members to attend the hearing.  If you can join us, e-mail us at legconsultant@wastatepta.org.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Support Access to Student Vision Screenings

Kids do not learn to read from 20 feet away, and yet, with the current school requirement of only screening for distant vision, undetected near vision issues are missed which prevents kids from excelling in reading and their education.

The bill to provide near vision screenings to students in schools was voted out of the House and currently sits in the Senate’s Early Learning/K-12 committee.  HB 1865 updates the current school screenings by requiring near vision screenings in conjunction with distance and color blindness screenings.


Getting a hearing for HB 1865 in the EL/K-12 committee is the next step toward moving the bill to the Senate floor for a vote.  An email to committee chair steve.litzow@leg.wa.gov requesting a hearing as well as contacting committee members  requesting their support would help get Washington kids the vision screenings they need for the educational success they deserve.

Sam Ames, Northshore School District Parent

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Breakfast after the Bell Clears House and Social & Emotional Learning Clears Senate with Bipartisan Vote!

The PTA was thrilled to have two of our priority bills pass their house of origin well before the cut-off on Wednesday. House Bill 1295, Breakfast after the Bell, passed the House with a wide margin last Wednesday and Senate Bill 5688, the Social and Emotional Learning Bill, passed the Senate with an equally wide margin last Friday afternoon.  Both bills have already been referred to Senate and House Education Committees respectively. We expect hearings on both bills to be heard next week. Thank you to all for your help and support in moving these bills forward!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

House and Senate in All Day Sessions until Wednesday Cut-off

As we enter the middle of the official legislative session, the House and Senate are meeting until late in the evening all this week and through cut-off on Wednesday.  Our PTA record for passing key legislation has been great so far - with our two Top 5 priority platform issues that had bills attached passing both houses this week. Both Breakfast after the Bell and Social & Emotional Learning had strong coalitions supporting them and our combined efforts helped put them over the top for the first round of legislative hearings.  


After cut-off, most legislators will be heading home for the weekend to host town halls.  When they return, hearings will resume on bills heard in the house opposite their origin.  In addition, the House is expected to release their budget near the end of the month and the Capital Funding / McCleary discussions will burst out into the open. Watch here for details on how our PTA will be shaping the debate on basic education funding!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Stand up, Speak up, and Show up to Legislative Town Halls this Weekend.

At the beginning of the Session, the PTA called on its members to "Stand Up, Speak Up, and Show Up" on McCleary.  This coming weekend, you will have the ability to do so in the comfort of your own community. Starting on Thursday evening, legislators from across the state will be hosting town hall meetings to discuss state issues.  We need to be heard on McCleary and deliver a simple message to our legislators.  

Levies are for extras, not for funding basic education. Teacher compensation is the job of the state, not the local district. We support your need to stay in Olympia until you fix this.

To find out where a town hall is for you legislators, click here.

Remember when you go to town halls, you are helping spread the message of the PTA.When you speak, remember, you are not alone, and we are united in our efforts.  Be firm, but be respectful. We understand the legislators have a tough job ahead of them.  We are there to be strong for them and to help them succeed.

Stand Up, Speak Up, and Show Up this weekend!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Rep. Gerry Pollet's Higher Education Tuition Planning Proposal Gaining Traction in the House.

House Bill 1238 by Representative Pollet is one of many bills that looked at finding solutions to the rising costs of higher education tuition in Washington State.  Pollet's bill aims to task the Washington Student Achievement Council (WASC) to develop a roadmap with the ultimate goal of restricting higher education costs to no more than 10% of the state's median family income.  The study requires WASC to develop a series of potential solutions to the problem in a report due no later than December 15, 2016. &n bsp;What sets this bill apart from the others is the comprehensive scope and direction in developing a plan to control price hikes. The bill passed out of committee and is currently awaiting action in House Rules.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Family Engagement in Education Act of 2015

Yesterday, the Family Engagement in Education Act of 2015 was introduced in the US House of Representatives by Congressman Glenn Thompson (R-PA) and Congressman Mark Desaulnier (D-CA), and in the Senate by Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Chris Coons (D-DE).

These Congressional champions need our help!  Contact your members of Congress and ask them to cosponsor the Family Engagement in Education Act of 2015. The evidence is clear—schools need parents to help close the achievement gap, and we stand ready to help them with this important task. We need Congress to make sure that family engagement is a cornerstone of the ESEA reauthorization.

Please take a moment to Take Action, contact your Members of Congress today and ask them to co-sponsor the bill today!

Proponents of Change for Education Capital Budget hit a roadblock - key bills not moving forward.

Whereas other segments of our "Top 5" priorities experienced success this week, supporters of change in how we allocate and obtain capital funding dollars for schools hit the skids.  Although Senate Bill 5859 by Senator Jamie Pedersen had been moving forward with substantial bipartisan support, the bill failed to be voted out of committee on Friday. This bill would have reduced the threshold requirements for school districts to qualify for matching funds for projects. Current law discriminates against larger, high growth districts.  This bil l is an attempt to strike a balance in the name of fairness.  The statutory changes offered by the bill are unlikely to be enacted this session. However, and we stress the "However" quite strongly here - this does not mean that parts of the bill will not make their way into the Senate's proposed Capital Budget later this year. Consider this to be "Schroedinger's Bill" - it is both alive and dead at the same time.   

House Bill 1941 on the other hand, is truly dead. This bill would have reduced the bond requirements from 60% voter approval to a simple majority in general elections. The bill was imperfect - it only offered a change for November general elections and it split many allies in the education community.  Some representatives saw the proposal as at least a start in the process to have a bill moving forward while others saw challenges with only allowing for a November vote.  PTA leaders testified on behalf of the bill in committee while urging amendments to allow for more opportunities to run bond issues bey ond the originally offered November date.  Supporters have declared they will continue to work this issue during the interim.