Senate & House budgets, COLAs, mental health – session week 6
Taking Action in Olympia, Session Week 6
Speak up for students at WEA Member Lobby Day 2022
Nobody knows like educators what our students and schools need. That's why we're raising our voices as part of WEA's 2022 Member Lobby Day on Monday. We’re sharing our stories and calling on our state lawmakers to take action to support public education, stressing the need for more student mental health supports and full funding for COLAs.
Take action! Coming up this week…
- House and Senate supplemental operating budgets will have public hearings Monday afternoon; more below.
- Funding more mental health supports for students (HB 1664), a WEA legislative priority, is scheduled for a hearing on Tuesday in Senate Ways & Means. Email your legislators in support of student mental health support.
- The bill to allow the state to create and enforce ergonomic standards (HB 1837) to reduce work-related injuries has a hearing Wednesday. Send an email in support now, and if you’ve been injured on the job, share your story.
- Levy equalization funding (HB 1590), a school funding safety net for districts with lower property values, will be heard in Senate Ways & Means on Tuesday.
- The bill allowing retirees to work more hours (HB 1699) is scheduled for a possible vote in Senate Ways & Means on Tuesday.
- Retiree plan 1 COLAs (SB 5676) have a public hearing in the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday and WEA Retired will be there to support it.
- A bill to expand options for graduation pathways (HB 1162) has a hearing Monday in Senate Early Learning & K-12 Ed committee.
- The bill to make Juneteenth a school holiday (HB 1617) which WEA Vice President Janie White testified for is scheduled for a possible vote in Senate Early Learning & K-12 Ed on Monday.
- The bill recognizing January as Chinese American History Month (SB 5264) and the voting rights bill (SB 5597), both of which WEA supports, are scheduled for a vote on Monday and Wednesday, respectively, in the House Committee on State Government & Tribal Relations.
- The two bills to make higher education more accessible (HB 1659 and HB 1835) and the bill expanding student loan forgiveness for nurse educators (HB 2007) are scheduled for Tuesday’s Senate Committee on Higher Education, with a hearing on 1659 and 2007 and possible vote on 1835.
- Last week WEA raised concerns about band-aid solutions for a broken education funding system, SB 5181 and SB 5202. Both bills are scheduled for possible vote Tuesday or Thursday in the House Education Committee.
If you’re interested in testifying on these bills, please contact WEA Lobbyist Simone Boe.
Senate and House supplemental operating budget proposals coming on Monday
Educators are keeping a close eye out for the release of both the House and Senate proposals for the 2022 supplemental operating budgets (SB 5693 and HB 1816). Both budgets have hearings on Monday afternoon and WEA members will be speaking about our priorities -- COLAs, equitable funding, and student mental health supports. It’s critical that any final budget includes sufficient COLAs to recruit and retain educators plus funding for more student mental health supports. Stay tuned!
March 21 end to mask mandate means time to address staffing
When educators heard the governor announce the school and indoor mask mandates will be lifted on March 21, the first thing we thought about is the ongoing staffing shortages. If removing masks increases the spread of COVID, we may see more staff taking sick leave, stretching others even thinner. Lawmakers can do two things right now to improve staffing in our schools starting in fall 2022: pass HB 1664 to increase nurse, counselor, social worker, and psychologist staffing and fully fund Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs) to recruit and retain educators. Tell your lawmakers now!
WEA members who testified this week
James Andrews (North Kitsap EA) for visual and performing arts instruction; Robert de Grouchy (Clover Park EA) for ; Kathryn Salveson (Lake Washington EA) for active shooter drills that are trauma-informed and developmentally appropriate.
If you provided verbal or written testimony before the legislature, we’d like to do a shout-out to you! Please contact WEA Lobbyist Simone Boe.
Tracking our priorities
- A few WEA-supported bills were not passed in time for house of origin cutoff on Tuesday, Feb. 15. These include legislation creating a school employee leave pool (HB 1992 1992), allowing bond issues with a 50% majority (HJR 4200, HB 1226), improving equity, diversity, and access to culturally appropriate mental health supports at our community and technical colleges (HB 1840), and allowing more plan 2 members to join PEBB (HB 1911). Where possible, we continue to look for opportunities to move these policies forward this session.
- While it looks unlikely that the wealth tax (SB 5426) will move forward, WEA continues to prioritize proposals to fix our upside-down tax code and make the wealthy pay their fair share. The judge could rule any day now on the corporate-backed lawsuit challenging the capital gains tax we helped passed last year—we will send an update when the court makes a ruling.