January 16, 2024

WSPTA Testifies: Students and Leaders Convene in Olympia for Focus on Advocacy Day

Advocacy in Action!

Washington State PTA was rocking Olympia on January 15, testifying both in person and remotely before three different committees and talking with their legislators. Here’s a look at the day’s testifiers.

While he was in town for Focus on Advocacy Day, Paultoro Tanaka, a student at Robert Eagle Staff Middle School, testified in favor of HB 2282, which would convene a work group to identify African American studies curricula for use by students in grades 7-12. Paultoro spoke about his middle school experience and encouraged House Education Committee legislators to not only pass the bill but to add his school principal to the work group! He was joined by 201 people, mainly parent advocates, who signed in Pro, not wishing to testify.

Watch Paultoro’s testimony here.

Also testifying before the education committee was Emily McKenzie, an 11th grader at North Creek High School. Emily spoke in favor of HB 1915, a bill that would make financial education a 0.5 credit requirement for high school graduation and direct instruction in elementary and middle schools. Using compelling remarks, Emily shared the value of her financial education class and hoped all students could have similar access.

Watch Emily’s testimony here.  

Rounding out the House hearing was former WSPTA President Michelle Nims, testifying in support of HB 1843, which would lower the threshold to pass bonds to 55%. In addition to citing statistics about bond measures that had passed with majority or 55% votes, Michelle asked committee members to pass the bill and let Washington voters decide in the next election whether or not to support a lower threshold to pass bonds (HJR 4207).

Watch Michelle N.’s testimony here.

Over in the Senate education committee, WSPTA’s Family and Community Engagement Director Lizzy Sebring asked the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee to consider not just lifting the cap on student enrollment for special education services from 15% to 17.25%, as proposed through SB 6014, but to support full removal this session. The clip linked below includes a statement following Lizzy’s testimony from committee Chair Lisa Wellman, D-Mercer Island, who said she was not ready to remove the cap because she is worried that some students with an IEP may have been overidentified and don’t need special education services.

Watch Lizzy’s testimony here.

Speaking directly after Lizzy was Seattle Council PTSA parent Michelle Campbell, who echoed the concerns about the artificial cap and asked committee members to stop debating what the right percentage should be and focus their work on identifying, including and educating all students in Washington schools.

Watch Michelle C.’s testimony here.

Also speaking in person on SB 6014 was Michelle Whitehead, a parent in the 5th legislative district. Michelle was also in Olympia for the Focus on Advocacy Day.

Watch Michelle W.’s testimony here.

Another panelist, not necessarily a WSPTA member, testifying before the committee was Olympia parent Collette (last name not heard). We showcase her testimony here as an inspiration to all parents who are nervous about testifying because they are “just a parent.” Collette’s testimony is a great reminder that parent voice is always appreciated and super impactful.

Listen to Collette’s testimony here.

Finally, in the Senate Law & Justice Committee, Dr. Gwen Loosmore, one of the authors of WSPTA’s Top 5 Priority “Preventing Gun Violence and Youth Suicide,” told legislators that members had amended their position at the 2023 Legislative Assembly specifically to support bills like SB 5444, prohibiting firearms in locations where children, youth, and families gather.

Watch Gwen’s testimony here.

Category: Advocacy , Education , Legislative

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