Monthly Archives: March 2019

Measure changing school bond threshold dies on Senate floor

March 12th, 2019|

A measure that would have made it easier for local districts to pass school bonds failed today after it didn’t receive the required vote in the Senate.

Senate Joint Resolution 8201, sponsored by Sen. Lisa Wellman (D-Mercer Island), would have amended the state constitution to change the school bond threshold for passage from 60 percent to a simple majority. Changing the state constitution requires a two-thirds vote in each body of the Legislature — 33 votes in the Senate.

The resolution received only 28 votes. The entire Senate Democratic Caucus voted for the resolution, while no members of the Senate Republican Caucus voted for it.

“We’ve been hearing from schools for years, for decades, that we need to change the 60-percent requirement for school bond passage,” Wellman said. “Meanwhile, student health and safety is being put at risk as school districts are unable to raise the funds for necessary school improvements.

“We’ve heard stories of black mold, of roofs caving in, and still a minority of this body is keeping us from making this meaningful change.”

Implementing a simple majority for school bonds would have required both SJR 8201 and Senate Bill 5066.

Representatives from large and small school districts throughout the state testified in support of these bills — including administrators, students and teachers from the Bethel School District in Pierce County, Reardan-Edwall School District in Lincoln County, North Thurston Public Schools in Thurston County, and Sequim School District in Clallam County.

Wellman also received letters, emails and photographs from students asking for a change in the school bond threshold. “This bill is really about local control,” Wellman said. “Oftentimes, a large majority of a community supports a bond — 51, 55 or 59 percent. And still, the bond fails and school districts don’t have the funding to make improvements or build new schools. It’s disappointing that some senators don’t trust their local communities enough to make this important change.”

Public Testimony on school bond measures from the Feb. 6 Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee Hearing:

South Kitsap School District

Video 1: The deputy superintendent of the South Kitsap School District recalls how many bond measures have failed in recent years — despite having more than 50 percent of the vote.

Video 2: The assistant superintendent of the South Kitsap School District explains the safety challenges and space constraints that come with an inability to pass school bonds. The district’s newest buildings are about 30 years old, while the rest are 50 to 70 years old.

Bethel School District:

Video 1: A student from Graham-Kapowsin High School, in the Bethel School District, explains the challenges her school faces because of overcrowding. She’s also concerned about school safety.

Port Angeles School District:

Video 1: A Port Angeles School District senior explains the challenges caused by his school’s aging building — including a time a classroom roof caved in.

Video 2: A Port Angeles High School senior explains what it’s like to attend a school that’s more than 60 years old. The heating doesn’t work and the roof leaks — and eventually it caved in.

Rearden-Edwall School District:

Video 1: A representative from a small, rural district describes several failed attempts at passing bonds. He also explains why this is a school safety issue.

Yelm Community Schools:

Video 1: The superintendent of Yelm Community Schools asks the Legislature to change the threshold for school bonds, explaining the burden the current model places on “property poor” school districts.

North Thurston Public Schools:

Video 1: A North Thurston Public Schools administrator describes the expensive process of passing school bonds in his district.

Sequim School District:

Video 1: A school board member recounts the district’s history of trying to pass bonds.

Battleground School District:

Video 1: A science teacher from the Battleground School District explains the importance of changing the school bond threshold.

Video 2: A community member recalls all of the bonds that have failed over the decades, and asks for a lower threshold for school bonds.

Video 3: A school board member explains why changing the school bond threshold is a matter of safety and equity.

Senate passes bill to increase special education funding

March 9th, 2019|

A bill passed today by the Washington State Senate increases funding for special education, paving the way for more inclusive learning environments. The bill passed with a unanimous vote.

Senate Bill 5091 is sponsored by Sen. Lisa Wellman (D-Mercer Island), who chairs the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education committee. The additional special education funding comes at the request of parents, teachers and schools.

“We know that Washington’s special education students aren’t as successful as students in other states, and that is absolutely unacceptable,” Wellman said. “In order to make meaningful changes, including more inclusive learning environments, we must allocate additional funding to implement evidence-based practices.”

The bill changes the state’s cost multiplier for special education funding from 0.9609 to 1. This multiplier would be applied to calculate the amount of general education funding that each student receives in a given school district. For example, in a school district with $1,000 in per pupil funding, the district would be allocated $2,000 for each special education student.

The bill also replaces federal funding for the special education safety net with state funding – which allocates additional funding to schools with students who have high-cost Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). This frees up the federal funding to be used for other services such as professional learning for special education teachers.

Wellman amended the bill on the Senate floor to apply the same special education cost multiplier to incarcerated youth who qualify for special education. Currently, state and county institutions do not receive additional funding for these students, even though more than half of students in these facilities qualify for special education services.

In Washington, less than 4 percent of students with disabilities are identified as having an intellectual disability, and more than 90 percent have above average intellectual functioning, according to data from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. But only 55 percent are placed in general education for 80 to 100 percent of the day. For students of color, the number is even lower — only 47 percent.

“Evidence shows that students who are included in general education have better outcomes,” Wellman said. “We know that this takes more resources, but it’s what we should be working toward.” These bills now heads to the state House of Representatives for consideration.

Senate passes bill to promote career connected learning

March 9th, 2019|

A bill passed Friday by the Washington State Senate would expand career connected learning opportunities, helping students understand available career pathways and better plan for their future. The bill passed on a 45 to 3 vote.

Senate Bill 5327, the Career Connect Washington Act, is sponsored by Sen. Lisa Wellman (D-Mercer Island) and was requested by Gov. Jay Inslee.

“Teaching youth about a wide variety of career opportunities will help them connect with 21st century economic opportunities,” Wellman said. “Students have different learning styles, one size does not fit all. We must recognize that when it comes to education and career readiness. We want students leaving high school to have pathways to careers.”

Career Connect Washington brings government resources and the private sector together with a sustainable career connected learning system to address persistent educational opportunity gaps and meet employers’ workforce needs. It offers programs to advance students’ academic learning and allow them to discover, explore and prepare for jobs and careers that allow them to grow and succeed.

It comes as a result of a career connected learning initiative launched in 2017 with the goal of connecting 100,000 Washington youth with high demand, high paying jobs over a five year period.

The bill would create a cross-agency work group to build a statewide system of career launch programs. It would direct each of the state’s Educational Service Districts to employ someone to work with regional networks to expand career connected learning opportunities.

A grant program would be created to dispense funds for expanding career connected learning opportunities across the state. The bill would also direct higher education institutions to hire coordinators to develop and expand opportunities for academic credit for career launch programs.

SB 5327 now heads to the state House of Representatives for consideration.

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    Senate passes bill to focus agencies on people’s needs – not immigration

Senate passes bill to focus agencies on people’s needs – not immigration

March 7th, 2019|

A bill passed today by the Washington State Senate would ensure that state and local agencies focus on the needs of Washingtonians instead of doing the work of federal immigration officials. The bill passed on a vote of 30 to 16.

Senate Bill 5497, the Keep Washington Working Act, would limit the amount of information that state and local agencies share with federal immigration officials, and joint immigration enforcement activities. It is sponsored by Sen. Lisa Wellman (D-Mercer Island).

 “We’re a nation of immigrants; that is the foundation that the United States was built on,” Wellman said. “Our country thrives when we welcome the hard-working people who come to our country and boost our economy. Agencies must do their part in safeguarding the rights of our immigrants.”

“This bill also ensures that our tax money pays for Washington services and Washington values,” she added.

Wellman worked with state agencies and law enforcement while crafting the bill. It is supported by Gov. Jay Inslee and by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, whose letter of support can be found here.

In addition to imposing limits on information sharing and joint immigration enforcement activities, the Keep Washington Working Act requires that state agencies provide services regardless of a person’s citizenship or immigration status. Agencies would develop and implement secure information systems to use when storing information about people who use state services and facilities.

A statewide Keep Washington Working workgroup would work within the state Department of Commerce to develop strategies to expand immigrants’ career pathways within Washington state.

“We need local law enforcement to do its job effectively. That means keeping communities safe, and we need all Washington residents to feel safe so they can focus on school and work,” said Rep. Lilian Ortiz-Self, who introduced the House companion bill. “This legislation helps students do better in school and workers do their jobs knowing they are valued and respected. The result will be communities that flourish and businesses that grow.”

SB 5497 now goes to the state House of Representatives for consideration.

Bill to expand broadband service passes state Senate

March 6th, 2019|

A bill passed today by the Washington State Senate would expand broadband access to underserved communities. Senate Bill 5511 is sponsored by Sen. Lisa Wellman (D-Mercer Island), and was requested by Gov. Jay Inslee.

“I want every school child to be able to go on the internet and have the richness that exists in that world available to them,” Wellman said. “So many children in Washington’s rural communities are falling behind because they don’t have access to this critical modern infrastructure. This bill is truly about equity.”

The bill would establish the Governor’s Statewide Broadband Office. This office previously existed in Washington state but was eliminated in 2014. It would also require the Public Works Board to establish a competitive grant and loan program to provide broadband service to unserved or underserved areas.

Some public utility districts would temporarily be allowed to provide retail telecommunications services, and port districts would be able to provide telecommunications services within and outside of their district limits, as a result of the bill.

“Broadband is also a necessary tool for participation in the modern economy,” Wellman said. “Access to internet will do wonders for small businesses throughout Washington state.”

SB 5511 now heads to the state House of Representatives for consideration.

School safety bills pass state Senate

March 6th, 2019|

A package of bills to make Washington schools safer passed the state Senate today.

Sen. Lisa Wellman (D-Mercer Island) prioritized the comprehensive and bipartisan list of legislation following a statewide Educational Service District tour and after reviewing recommendations by the state’s Mass Shooting Workgroup.

“Students, teachers, parents and school administrators throughout the state are coming to us with one common message,” said Wellman. “They want our schools to be safe and be a place where they can focus on quality education. These bills are the first part of our safety package worked with partners in the House of Representatives. ”

Wellman chairs the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee, which many of the bills passed through.

Senate Bill 5027 would amend Washington’s Extreme Risk Protection Order statute so that it applies to minors. The bill is sponsored by Sen. David Frockt (D-Seattle). The bill came at the recommendation of the Mass Shooting Workgroup, which met during the 2018 interim, and is designed to keep guns out of the hands of minors who could pose a danger to themselves or others.

Senate Bill 5141 would make training on de-escalation, mental illness and other topics mandatory for school resource officers. The bill, sponsored by Wellman, would also require districts with school resource officers to adopt agreements with law enforcement agencies, including parents, students and community members in the process.

Senate Bill 5514 would require law enforcement agencies to inform all known local schools, including private schools, if any circumstances in the area could require a lockdown or evacuation. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Mike Padden (R-Spokane Valley).

“These bills are reasonable, and I am convinced they will make a difference for the safety of our schools,” Wellman said. “One bill alone cannot solve this problem. We must take a holistic systems approach.”

The Senate also previously passed several bills that would improve student safety:

Senate Bill 5689, sponsored by Sen. Marko Liias (D-Mukilteo), would protect transgender students from bullying. The bill passed the Senate on Feb. 27.

Senate Bill 5395, sponsored by Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn), would require schools to teach comprehensive sexual health education. The curriculum would teach students about consent, decreasing sexual violence and promoting healthier relationships. The bill passed the Senate on Feb. 27.

These bills now head to the state House of Representatives for consideration.