Monthly Archives: May 2019

Legislature increases funding for special education

May 13th, 2019|

A bill signed today by Gov. Jay Inslee increases funding for special education, paving the way for more inclusive learning environments.

Senate Bill 5091 was 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.”

“Improving our special education practices will take more work in coming years, but the changes we made this year are a great step,” she added.

The bill includes a two-year phase in of increased special education funding, with schools receiving more money when they offer more inclusive learning environments.

During the 2019-20 school year, the state’s cost multiplier for special education funding increases from 0.9609 to 0.995. 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 $1,995 for each special education student.

Beginning in the 2020-21 school year, the state’s cost multiplier would increase to 1.0075 for special education students learning in a general education environment for 80 percent or more of the school day. For example, in a school district with $1,000 in per pupil funding, the district would be allocated $2,007.5 for each special education student.

The state’s cost multiplier would remain at 0.995 for special education students learning in a general education environment for less than 80 percent of the school day.

School districts that demonstrate significant extra need beyond what they receive from this formula would be eligible for safety net funds.

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.”

Governor signs Wellman bill to expand broadband service

May 13th, 2019|

Gov. Inslee signed a bill today to expand broadband access to underserved communities. Senate Bill 5511 was sponsored by Sen. Lisa Wellman (D-Mercer Island).

“Expanding internet access throughout Washington state will increase equity in both education and business,” Wellman said. “Many of us simply can’t get through the day without accessing the internet. But we still have so many rural communities that don’t have access to this essential service.”

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

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

“I want every child in Washington to have access to the rich learning experiences that internet access provides,” Wellman said. “Far too many kids in rural communities lack that access, which is truly necessary to a modern education.”

Governor signs bipartisan school safety measure

May 8th, 2019|

unding K-12 education is the paramount duty of the state, yet students need far more than just academics in school. More resources, more coordination, and more support is needed to help all schools improve training and safety measures. Those are the guiding principles behind House Bill 1216, the bipartisan school safety measure by Rep. Laurie Dolan (D-Olympia), vice chair of the House Education Committee.

The bill was signed into law by Governor Inslee today.

The legislation is the product of a 10-month stakeholder process with parents, teachers, students, school leaders, and community safety experts that began after the 2018 legislative session, to create a robust plan for school safety and student well-being.

The bill will create “Regional School Safety Centers” across the state to provide training, support, and coordination to educators and students. Amended into the legislation are the provisions of Senate Bill 5141 by Sen. Lisa Wellman (D-Mercer Island), chair of the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee, regarding School Resource Officer (SRO) training and policies. Wellman also introduced the companion to Dolan’s bill in the Senate.

“We’ve heard from students, parents, teachers and administrators that school safety is a growing and ongoing concern,” Wellman said. “Each and every student should feel safe and secure as they go to class, and every parent should know that their child will return home at the end of the day. This bill is a great step toward ensuring that reality.”

The bill requires each of our nine educational service districts to establish Regional School Safety Centers to provide training in behavioral health coordination, suicide prevention, school-based threat assessment, as well as staff assistance in crisis situations, technical assistance, and partnership development and collaboration. The final 2019-20 state operating budget provides funding for one FTE in each Regional Safety Center.

“Moving forward, I plan to continue working with budget leaders to provide funding for additional FTEs to maximize the efforts of the Regional Safety Centers,” said Rep. Dolan.

A State School Safety Center is also established within the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to serve as a clearinghouse and to disseminate information regarding school safety. It will also develop model policies and procedures, identify best practices, and provide training on school safety. The state center will work with the regional centers to help school districts meet state school safety requirements.

Public engagement will continue through the School Safety and Student Well-Being Advisory Committee. The advisory committee will meet at least quarterly to make recommendations on policies and strategies, and identify emerging safety issues. By Jan. 1, 2020, the Washington State School Directors’ Association (WSSDA), in collaboration with the OSPI, must develop a model policy and procedure to establish a School-Based Threat Assessment Program. During this process, WSSDA, OSPI and the advisory committee will work with organizations with expertise in school safety, behavioral health, the rights of students with disabilities, and protecting civil liberties.

The bill also mandates training for SROs in school districts that choose to have them. The school district must confirm that every SRO has received training on twelve topics — including relevant federal and state laws — best practices on working with youth, and alternatives to arrest and prosecution. By the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, school districts must annually review and adopt an agreement with the local law enforcement agency that incorporates specified elements, such as defining the duties of a SRO, confirmation that SROs are trained, and a complaint process.

“As a grandparent, an educator for 30 years, and now as a legislator, there’s probably nothing more important to me than school safety and student well-being. Those two have to go hand in hand because kids not only need to be safe, they need to feel safe in our schools,” said Rep. Dolan.