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Education bill round-up: Where 2021 education bills are at in the legislative process
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Education bill round-up: Where 2021 education bills are at in the legislative process

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Several big education bills, including emergency graduation and school day requirement waivers for students, support for counselor services and changes in school transportation funding to offset pandemic losses, made it over the legislative hurdles this week.

Others, including bills for “year-round school” and making bonds easier to pass, did not make a Monday deadline and cannot advance this session. There are several cutoffs dates in the legislative session, and Feb. 22 marked the last day to move bills out of fiscal committees and onto the next step.

The next cutoff day is March 9, which is the last day bills can be passed in their house of origin.

Bills are first introduced by a member of the House or Senate. The bill can be referred to a committee that is specific to the topic of the bill. The bills have to be passed out of that committee into a rules committee, which then decides which bills get voted on by the house of origin. After it passes its house of origin, it goes through the same process in the opposite house.

If a bill makes it through all those steps, then it goes to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

Here is a brief look at education bills as of Feb. 23.

Bills in rules committee:SB 5030 would require school counselors to spend 80% of their time on student services, instead of administrative tasks or other duties like recess supervision or testing. Schools would need to have a written plan for a comprehensive school counseling program by the beginning of the 2022-23 school year. It would add an estimated $275,000 per year to OSPI’s operating budget.

SB 5128 addresses the effect of COVID-19 on school transportation funding. Typically, schools get funds based on the number of students riding buses, but the pandemic disrupted that. The bill would provide an alternative student transportation allocation formula for use during local, state and national emergencies, as well as allow districts to apply for additional funding and use older data to calculate ridership. The added cost is not yet determined, because depends on how much funding districts need.

SB 5321 would expand access to the College Bound Scholarship by eliminating the requirement that students sign a pledge to be eligible for the scholarship, creating a way to “auto-enroll” eligible students and give some eligible students a $500 stipend each year for books or school materials. The College Bound Scholarship was established in 2007 to give guaranteed four-year tuition to students from low-income families. The stipend would cost an additional $700,000 to $1 million per year, and the increased access is not estimated to change until about 2026, when it would add about $1 million to the cost that year.

SB 5249 would give further instruction to the Mastery-Based Learning Work Group created in 2019 to develop a Washington State profile of a high school graduate by Dec. 10. Mastery-based learning is a program model where students advance after they demonstrate mastery of the content. The bill would cost about $330,000 in 2022.

SB 5147 would create a pilot program of “year-round” school through the 2025-2026 school year to offset pandemic learning loss. The up to 30 schools in the pilot would adopt a school calendar that limits breaks to a maximum of four weeks at a time and has instruction in at least 11 months of the year. The added cost is not yet determined, because depends on how many districts are involved.

SB 5043 would allow school district to build teachers’ cottages or other single or multifamily housing for school district employees. The state cost is not yet determined.

SB 5265 would create a “bridge year pilot program” to allow students in the graduating classes of 2021 and 2022 an additional year to take courses at the student’s high school, an institution of higher education, or a combination of the two. The state cost is not yet determined, but the state financial estimate said the cost would likely be absorbed into OSPI’s current operations.

SB 5194 would require community and technical colleges to have a diversity, equity and inclusion strategic plan that establishes a faculty diversity program. There is no state capital budget cost, but each school would have costs related to planning.

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HB 1208 would change the learning assistance program to require that school districts expend funds to identify and address the learning gaps from the COVID-19 pandemic and to give schools more flexibility in how to use the funds. It would cost OSPI an estimated $275,000 from 2021-2023.

HB 1295 would change how public education is given to youth in institutional education facilities, requiring that students in the facilities get the same help in on-time grade level progression and graduation as students experiencing homelessness and students in foster care. The bill would also require school districts to provide students with access to language proficiency tests and general education development tests and have OSPI and the DCYF jointly develop recommendations for reform of the institutional education system by Nov. 1, 2022. It would cost OSPI, DCYF and the state Office of Financial Management an estimated combined $1.5 million in 2021-2023

Bills passed out of the Senate:

SB 5181 would authorize school districts to create partnerships and limited liability companies and enter into leases, loans and other agreements with public or private entities to finance school facilities with federal tax credit programs, which is intended to help rural and low-income schools. The bill moved out of the senate on Feb. 18 and will now move to the house. No added state cost.

Bills introduced in the House:

SB 5044 would add equity, diversity, inclusion and anti-racism to existing cultural competency standards and training for school board directors and all staff. The bill was referred to the house education committee on Feb. 1. It would cost OSPI an estimated $30,000 in staff work from 2021-2023.

Bills passed to the Governor’s desk:

HB 1121 will allow the State Board of Education to continue to issue emergency graduation requirements waivers to students in public and private schools due to a local, state or national emergency. The bill also requires school districts to maintain records of waiver usage and the SBE to provide waiver data on the graduating classes of 2020 and 2021 to the Legislature. No added cost.

HB 1131 will allow emergency waivers of instructional hours and days at private schools. No added cost.

Bills that did not move out of committee:

SB 5070 would have required schools to provide free menstrual products.

SB 5252 would have required district directors take tribal consultation training.

SB 5161 would have required districts to incorporate curricula about the history, culture and government of the nearest federally recognized Indian tribe or tribes into social studies lessons.

SB 5334 would have required districts to use a standardized template when providing information about levies. Sponsored by John Braun.

SB 5374 would have required students to study political systems and the negative effects of communism. Sponsored by Jeff Wilson.

SB 5386 would have amended the Constitution to allow school bonds to pass with 55% approval instead of 60%.

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