Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are now past the halfway point of the 2017 legislative session. We spent all week on the floor voting on bills ahead of the next major session deadline — house of origin cutoff on March 8. By the end of the day next Wednesday, all bills must pass the chamber in which they were introduced (House bills in the House, Senate bills in the Senate), or else they will be considered “dead” for the year. At any time, bills can be designated NTIB or NTPB — necessary to implement/pass the budget — but the vast majority of dead bills will remain that way until next session.
The latest on the education-funding debate
Last week, House Democrats brought their education-funding bill, House Bill 1843, to the floor for a vote. A robust debate was held over a two-hour period, with Republicans introducing seven amendments to improve the bill. Just one of those amendments was accepted by the majority party, and at the end of the day, the bill passed on a party-line vote. Unfortunately, there are fundamental problems with the bill, including the fact it lacks a funding source. If you ask taxpayers to support a proposal that will cost more than $6 billion per budget cycle once fully implemented, it's important to explain to them how you're going to pay for it. The majority party failed to do that.
Other major problems include the bill's lack of equity and accountability, and its continuance of the current failed K-12 funding system that relies too heavily on local levies. As I mentioned in my last email update, there will be one comprehensive plan at the end of session that is a hybrid of the plans currently on the table. However, it would have been nice if the majority party had presented a realistic plan with a funding source and reforms to address the core McCleary problem.
Two of my bills unanimously approved by House
On Monday, the House unanimously approved my bill to reduce the frequency in which some certified teachers and principals receive an eight-point comprehensive evaluation. Instead of every four years, House Bill 1319 would allow teachers and principals who have already met a performance rating of at least three out of four, to receive a comprehensive evaluation every six years. This bill would help our highly rated teachers worry less about this specific evaluation and focus more on their classrooms and the day-to-day work involved with helping students succeed. It would also empower our principals to let the school's most effective teachers thrive while devoting more of their attention to those who need the most assistance.
Yesterday, the House unanimously approved another bill I introduced this session. House Bill 1654 would address the state's teacher shortage by expanding opportunities for individuals to obtain their teaching certificate through nontraditional teacher prep programs — also known as alternative route programs. There are just 400 individuals currently enrolled in these programs, so I believe it's important we take the necessary steps to significantly boost these numbers.
My bill would authorize the Professional Educator Standards Board (PESB) to create new alternative routes for individuals looking to transition to full-time teaching. It would also provide the opportunity to bring individuals who have expertise in specific fields — but have not yet received a teaching degree — into the classroom much more quickly. These are bright individuals, and we should be looking at every opportunity to provide our school districts with the help they need.
I want to thank fellow public school teacher and Rep. Steve Bergquist, D-Renton, for working with me so diligently on these bills to give much-need relief to our teachers. Both bills now await a hearing in the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee.
In addition to addressing the state's teacher shortage through House Bill 1654, I was also recently appointed by Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, to a teacher shortage task force. I look forward to contributing to the conversation about how we can incentivize individuals to become teachers (raising starting teacher pay would be a good start), as well as how we can incentivize teachers to remain in the classroom doing what they love.
House Bill 1341 also passes House
One of the bills I co-sponsored and have strongly supported this session is House Bill 1341, which is sponsored by Rep. Bergquist. The bill, which passed the House Tuesday, would require the PESB to develop a third pathway for teachers to become professionally certified. Currently, teachers must either earn a National Board Certificate or meet performance on the ProTeach Portfolio assessment. In a survey of more than 1,000 professionally certified teachers, 80 percent said they believed the ProTeach Portfolio assessment was either not helpful or unnecessary.
The new pathway would allow teachers to become professionally certified by earning 75 professional development credits within five years following completion of provisional status. This is a great bill that would ease burdens and frustrations on our teachers and keep them in Washington state classrooms.
Please continue contacting me with your comments, questions and concerns about the 2017 legislative session. As always, I value and appreciate your feedback.
It is an honor to serve you in the state House.