28 01, 2016

Nelson: Latest Republican distraction won’t keep us from fixing education

January 28th, 2016|Uncategorized|

Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson on Thursday issued the statement below after the Senate Republicans at taxpayer expense hired yet another investigator to address the Department of Corrections computer error:

“Senate Republicans gutted the McCleary education plan early Thursday and later in the day wasted taxpayer money on a duplicative and politically-driven investigation.

“We are all concerned with the Department of Corrections error; we must make sure it never happens again. The investigation is on-going and in good, nonpartisan hands.

“The Senate Republicans have no plan for education. Maybe they could spend a little less time on political theater and a little more on Washington’s one million school kids.”


28 01, 2016

Senate Republicans gut bipartisan McCleary bill

January 28th, 2016|Uncategorized|

A cornerstone bill to address Washington state’s education funding obligations is at risk of being made irrelevant by amendments that will be proposed by Senate Republicans in the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education committee on Thursday, Jan. 28 at 8:00 a.m.

SB 6195 is the result of months long negotiations between both parties in the Senate and House as well as the governor’s office. Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Kitsap County and Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, were the lead negotiators for Senate Democrats.

“It is extremely disappointing that Senate Republicans will turn a bipartisan agreement into a partisan plan,” said Rolfes. “They commit only to addressing local levies, without a commitment to the state paying its fair share – which is the reason the state was sued in the first place. People following this issue thought the plan couldn’t get weaker. Unbelievably, the Senate Republicans have lowered the bar.”

“I’m disappointed that after participating in a productive bipartisan workgroup, the Senate Republicans have decided to abandon our agreement,” said Billig. “It is our constitutional duty to fully fund education and it’s frustrating that the Republicans don’t see this as an urgent issue, because our more than one million public school kids and their families surely do.”

• Only commits to addressing local funding
• Removes the only commitment in the bill to increase state funding
• Pushes timeline from 2017 to 2018, a non-budget year
• Removes any reference to capital considerations for K-3 class size reductions

You can view the amendment here.

25 01, 2016

Bill to expand access to dental care for tribal members heard in committee

January 25th, 2016|Radio|

Sen. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, is sponsoring a bill that would allow tribal members better access to dental care. (TRT: 0:63) CLICK TO DOWNLOAD


A bill heard on Monday would expand access to dental care for tribal members through the creation of dental health aide therapists. This is the 11th time that Sen. McCoy of Tulalip has sponsored similar legislation, the second time before the Senate Health Care Committee.

Sen. John McCoy, D-Tulalip: (TRT: 0:20) CLICK TO DOWNLOAD: “We are in dire need of access to the tribes throughout Washington state. We took a hard look at the Alaska model, and the Alaska model is working, and it’s has been taken to Minnesota and it’s working. So, I find it difficult to understand why there is so much opposition for Washington state over the years.”

Senate Bill 5159, follows the successful Alaska model, which has been very effective in training dental therapists who can provide access to dental care until a patient may visit a dentist for more serious treatment. Under McCoy’s plan, only federally recognized Indian tribes, tribal organizations, and urban Indian organizations would be authorized train and employ a dental health aide therapist.

At the state capitol in Olympia, Nicole Vukonich.

25 01, 2016

VIDEO: Sen. Nelson outlines priorities for 2016 legislative session

January 25th, 2016|Uncategorized|

25 01, 2016

Nelson: House makes education a priority, time for Senate Republicans to do the same

January 25th, 2016|Uncategorized|

Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson on Monday issued the statement below following the House’s passage of several important bills to address Washington’s education system:

“The House on Monday made it crystal clear – education is the most important issue we must address this year.

“We only have a limited amount of time with which to work. The sense of urgency displayed by the House showed where their priorities lie. I hope the Senate Republicans will follow suit.

“I’m calling on Senate Republican leadership to act quickly on these critical education bills. We owe it to Washington’s one million school kids to address issues like unfair high stakes testing, the state’s teacher shortage and a bill to reaffirm our commitment to take action during the 2017 legislative session in order to fully fund education.

“Our time is limited. I applaud the House for acting so quickly. I encourage Senate Republicans to do the same.”

20 01, 2016

Many Senate Democrats concerned about charter school debate

January 20th, 2016|Radio|

Many Senate Democrats expressed concern over the charter school bill that passed on Wednesday. (TRT: 63) CLICK TO DOWNLOAD


On Wednesday, the Washington State Senate took its first votes of the 2016 Legislative Session. Much of the day’s debate centered on a bill that would address our state’s charter schools. Sen. Andy Billig of Spokane:

Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane: (TRT: 12) CLICK TO DOWNLOAD: “Our goal with this policy that we’re considering today is to provide educational certainty to the children and their families that are in these charter schools. The underlying bill does not achieve that goal.”

Many Senate Democrats spoke of their concern that Senate Bill 6194 does not go far enough to provide a solution to existing charter school law and will not be able to withstand a constitutional challenge. The bill passed largely along party lines, 27 to 20 with 2 excused.

Sen. Dean Takko of Longview expressed frustration that the charter school debate has come before a plan to fully fund K-12 education for the one million public school students in our state.

Sen. Dean Takko, D-Longview: (TRT: :07) CLICK TO DOWNLOAD: “I want to see us put the money and the time and the energy and the passion that we see on this floor into doing the right thing for all the schools in this state.”

At the state capital in Olympia, Nicole Vukonich.

20 01, 2016

Billig: Lawmakers should put students ahead of politics

January 20th, 2016|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, issued this statement today following the defeat of an amendment to charter school legislation that would eliminate the state charter school commission and permit local school districts to authorize the creation of new charter schools. The amendment would have permitted all nine charter schools that were created by I-1240 to remain open.

“This amendment was about finding a middle ground so that we could provide certainty and stability for the children who attend charter schools.

“Had the amendment been adopted, we would have put local districts and local communities in control while also providing educational certainty for the children currently enrolled in charter schools.

“Unfortunately, because this amendment was not adopted, I fear that this bill will not be able pass the Legislature, be signed into law or withstand a court challenge, which will likely result in these kids being uprooted from the schools of their choice.

“By refusing to compromise and sticking with the more extreme, and likely unconstitutional version of the bill, I have serious concerns that the Republican majority in the Senate is choosing to make this a political issue at the expense of the students. These kids and their families are desperate for a solution that provides them educational stability; the students should be our priority, not political partisanship.

“Despite this setback, I will continue to work to find a way this session to help these charter school students and our more than 1 million public school students find a way to access a world class education that meets their learning needs.”

14 01, 2016

Nelson: Focus on education now, save the politics for November

January 14th, 2016|Uncategorized|

Sen. Sharon Nelson on Thursday urged the Legislature to allow the independent investigators examining the Department of Corrections early release error to continue their job without interference:

“The investigation into the appalling mistakes made at DOC are underway. I look forward to the findings of the former federal prosecutors handling the investigation so that we can fix and prevent situations like this from happening ever again. Unfortunately, based on recent statements made by Senate Republicans, it is clear that politics – not good government – are what’s at play here.

“The Legislature must tackle education funding, address the homelessness crisis that continues to grow in communities throughout Washington and focus on continuing to rebuild our economy. Our classrooms are in desperate need of teachers and we have just 57 days to address these issues. Let’s get to work.

“Our duty to the citizens of Washington is to ensure that government works and to fix it when it doesn’t. That is happening. I urge my Republican colleagues to join us in building a Washington for all, and to save the politics for November.”

12 01, 2016

Charter schools are not the only education fix of the session

January 12th, 2016|Radio|

Two proposals to fix our state’s charter school law were heard in committee on Tuesday, however, priorities still remain focused on basic education. Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane is featured in the wrap. (TRT: 52) CLICK TO DOWNLOAD


Sen. Andy Billig of Spokane is a member of the Senate Early Learning, K-12 Education Committee and a sponsor of one proposal to help find a solution to our state’s charter schools. Sen. Billig:

Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane: (TRT: 23) CLICK TO DOWNLOAD: “We should try to provide educational certainty for the kids and the families in these charter schools, but I think we have to remember that our priority really, our paramount duty as our state constitution says, is to fully fund basic education. That’s number one on our list of things to do. That doesn’t mean we can’t do other things this session including helping the charter school families to have some certainty moving forward.”

In September of 2015 the Washington State Supreme Court ruled charter schools unconstitutional. Finding a legislative fix to this issue is one of the education priorities, as two proposals were heard in the education committee Tuesday.

At the state capitol in Olympia, Nicole Vukonich.

5 01, 2016

Billig introduces charter schools legislation

January 5th, 2016|Uncategorized|

OLYMPIA – Charter schools would be accountable to locally elected school boards, making them constitutional and able to continue to receive funding under bipartisan legislation introduced today by Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane.

“At this point, it’s no longer about how you voted on the charter school initiative,” said Billig. “The fact is we have real kids in charter classrooms who deserve certainty about their education. We should find a way to provide stable funding for these schools and ensure they are complimentary and accountable to the rest of the local public school system, which benefits the children in the charter schools as well as the entire community.”

Billig’s bill creates “District Charter Schools” within the local school district, which not only complies with the Supreme Court decision because they will be under the control of the locally elected school board, but also means funding will be stable and reliable since these schools will be well within the definition of basic education. This bill creates a charter option for local school districts but a district would not be required to create a district charter school.

Charter schools were approved by voters in 2012. This past September, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that charter schools were operated in ways that violated the state’s constitution and could no longer receive public funding.

“This bill could work in concert with other charter policies or stand on its own as the charter school solution,” added Billig. “Either way, it can be utilized to help current charter schools continue as well as create increased options for school districts seeking more varied choices for students and families in their community.”

As a result of this legislation, district charter schools created by local school districts may be afforded independent elements similar to traditional charter schools such as formulating curriculum, freedom from some district policies, management of portions of the schools’ budgets, and the ability to manage the school’s staff more independently.