Prepared for the Washington State PTA
By Legislative Consultant Marie Sullivan
For the first time since 2009, the Washington State Legislature ended a 105-day budget session on time with just minutes to spare. This was the second year in a row, however, for lawmakers to make the deadline. The two-year operating budget – the largest ever passed – includes revenue growth driven by a strong economy and new taxes and fees to support higher education, special education, and mental health.
Like the 2018 session, Democrats controlled both chambers and the Governor’s office. The size of the majorities differed this session, with several seats flipping parties, 28 new legislators¹ elected in the 2018 November election and two members appointed in January due to resignations. House Democrats held a 57-41 majority, while Senate Democrats increased their majority to 28-21 (with Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Shelton, continuing to caucus with the Republicans). Click here to read the full report.
Good year for WSPTA priorities
Washington State PTA adopted a two-year prioritized platform in October 2018 at the Legislative Assembly. It was a robust proposal that received much support during the 2019 session. Top priorities were: changes to local levy authority, increased funding for special education, codifying social emotional learning, improving school construction funding, preventing gun violence, addressing the teacher shortage, and changing policies related to state assessments and school safety.
More than 40 WSPTA members testified before House and Senate committees, and several bills were introduced at the association’s request. Despite the cancellation of Focus Day due to “Snowmageddon,” many WSPTA members organized their own trips to Olympia to meet with legislators and promote the legislative agenda.
Specific legislation supported by the WSPTA platform that passed this session includes:
- Creation of the Social Emotional Learning Work Group in statute and formal adoption of the SEL framework by OSPI after a review by the newly constituted workgroup;
- Additional levy authority and protection of Local Effort Assistance for school districts struggling to provide student-focused enrichment programs;
- Funding increases (although not fully closing the gap between the cost to deliver services under a student’s IEP and state funding) for students receiving special education services, and a focus on inclusionary classrooms for students with disabilities;
- Passage of comprehensive bills to address the teacher shortage issue and improve school safety, including the addition of student/family reunification as part of school safety planning;
- Adoption of legislation to address gun violence, including new laws to review the opportunity for a single point of reference on background checks, prohibiting undetectable firearms, clarifying Extreme Risk Protection Orders, removing firearms from certain individuals, and new requirements for individuals seeking Concealed Pistol Licenses;
- Funding for demonstration sites to prove the concept of 20-minutes seated school lunch;
- Funding for two days of training in the Fundamental Course of Study for paraeducators, starting with the 2019-20 school year;
- Expansion of the opportunity for income-eligible preschool students to attend ECEAP;
- Removal of barriers to individuals applying to teacher preparation programs to improve diversity in the classroom without lowering standards; and
- Raising the legal age to use tobacco and/or vape products to 21.
In addition, WSPTA was engaged and partnered with other state associations and legislators on a variety of other issues, which are highlighted in this report.
Legislature increases levy authority, starting January 1, 2020
On the last day of the session, lawmakers agreed to increase levy authority. Specifically, ESSB 5313 (Chapter 410, Laws of 2019) increased the existing levy limit of $1.50 per $1,000 assessed value to $2.50 per $1,000 assessed value. The bill maintained the per student maximum level of $2,500 for districts with fewer than 40,000 students and increased the per student maximum level to $3,000 for districts with 40,000 or more students (Seattle Public Schools). So, the new formula for all districts but Seattle for Calendar Year 2020 is: $2.50 per $1,000 assessed value or $2,500 per student, whichever is less.
Also, under ESSB 5313, local effort assistance (LEA) is provided to school districts that do not generate an enrichment levy of at least $1,550 ($1,593 with CPI inflation) per student when levying at a rate of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value. According to legislators, this was put in place to protect any districts that did not or could not change their levy authority above the $1.50 per $1,000 assessed value. For school districts under the $1.50 threshold, LEA will be pro-rated at the new rate.
In exchange for the increased local levy authority, the new law requires detailed annual reporting (Section 3 of the bill) and directs the State Auditor’s Office to report to OSPI use of local levies for “basic education” activities. See page 29 for the new supplemental expenditure schedule by revenue source that requires the amount spent by object for enrichment activities beyond the state-funded amount.
Additional one-time funding, special education
The legislature also took an unprecedented step of tapping $58.4 million from the Budget Stabilization Account (Rainy Day fund) to provide one-time funding to an estimated 95 school districts. The bill, ESHB 2163, was signed by the Governor May 21st.
On special education, the legislature passed E2SSB 5091 (Chapter 387, Laws of 2019), which increases the student excess cost multiplier from 0.9609 to 0.995 for the 2019-20 school year. For the 2020-21 school year, the multiplier will increase to 1.0075 for students receiving special education services who are included in general education classrooms 80 percent or more of the school day; and remain at 0.995 for students spending less than 80 percent of a school day in a general education classroom. To help districts prepare for more inclusive classrooms, the legislature appropriated $25 million for professional development. (See page 19 for a description of the training.)
In addition, accessing the special education safety net should be easier starting in the 2019-20 school year: awards will be considered if the student’s IEP costs exceed 2.3 times the average per-pupil expenditure under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015.
High school assessments “delinked” from graduation requirements, new “pathways” adopted
Since 2006, a high school student has been required to earn a Certificate of Academic Achievement by meeting a cut score set by the State Board of Education on statewide-administered assessments in English Language Arts, math and science (e.g., WASL, Algebra or Geometry end-of-course exams, biology end-of-course exams, or SBAC). Under E2SHB 1599, this requirement ends after the class of 2019.
The expedited appeals waiver, which allows a student who hasn’t met one or more of the required state tests from the classes of 2014-2018 to graduate, was extended to the classes of 2019 and 2020, and the waiver and appeal requirements for this year’s seniors are posted to the OSPI website.
Starting with the class of 2020, to graduate with a high school diploma, students will need to complete a High School and Beyond Plan, meet all the district and/or high school requirements, and meet the state credit requirements set by the State Board of Education.
In addition, starting with the class of 2020, in order to demonstrate “career and college readiness” a student must achieve one or more of the following pathways in English Language Arts and Mathematics:
- Meet or exceed the Smarter Balanced Assessment scores set by the State Board of Education;
- Complete and qualify for college credit in dual credit courses, such as those earned through Running Start, College in the High School, or other programs where the student earns both high school and college credit after completing the course;
- Earn credit in a high school transition course (e.g., Bridge to College), when completion of the course will ensure college-level placement in a community college or state college or university;
- Earn high school credit, with a C+ grade or score of 3 or higher on the AP exam; C+ in relevant courses in International Baccalaureate courses or a 4 on the IB exam; or C+ in Cambridge International courses (but no score equivalent);
- Meet or exceed the scores established by the State Board of Education for the SAT or ACT;
• Meet any combination of at least one ELA option and at least one Math option above;
- Meet standard in the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery; and
- Complete a sequence of CTE courses that are relevant to a student’s postsecondary pathway, including those leading to workforce entry, state or nationally approved apprenticeships, or postsecondary education, and that meet either:
• The curriculum requirements of Core Plus programs for aerospace, maritime, health care, information technology, or construction and manufacturing; or
• The minimum criteria identified in RCW 28A.700.030.
The bill charges the State Board of Education (SBE) with reviewing the new graduation pathways and discussing with “interested parties” more options or pathways. It also directs OSPI to survey school districts on pathways offered to students in each high school and share that information with the SBE. A report by the SBE on additional pathways is due to the education committees of the legislature by December 1, 2022.
In addition, starting in the 2021-22 school year, every school district must adopt an academic acceleration policy that would automatically place a student meeting or exceeding standard on a federally mandated test in the next available most rigorous course. Parents and/or guardians would have the option of opting out their student and the course is required to align with a student’s High School & Beyond Plan.
For a more detailed description of the entire assessment bill and other changes, see Appendix A, beginning on page 33.
How to read this report
Pages 4-9 describe Top 5 positions, including successes and status of work to go. A summary of what passed related to Also Supported Positions and Resolutions begins on page 10, and a summary of bills being tracked that didn’t pass begins on page 13. On pages 17-22, highlights of the operating and capital budget are described. On pages 22-28, a summary of new work groups and reports required is provided. Those interested in how policy or budget provisos will affect the school district by school year will find that information on pages 28-32.
¹ New member breakdown includes: 12 House Democrats, 11 House Republicans, 6 Senate Democrats, 1 Senate Republican.