Leg Update #10 Week 10 of Session Friday, 3/22/2013

CONTENTS

SINGLE BEST INVESTMENT OF THE WEEK:

Tell your legislators you support HB 1369 which strengthens the family connection component of WaKIDS, our state’s kindergarten transition process. HB 1369 will help teachers honor parents as their children’s first and most important teachers and improve the effectiveness of WaKIDS implementation.

What does HB 1369 do?

  • HB 1369 makes it easier for parents and teachers to meet at the start of the school year by allowing the meetings to take place during non-instructional days (i.e. days of no class). Per HB 1369, schools could have up to five days for this family connection component of WaKIDS.
  • These meetings benefit families by giving them an opportunity to begin the relationship with the teacher focused on the child’s strengths. For instance, families can make teachers aware of their child’s culture and language, learning style, demeanor, and strengths and areas for growth. Typically teachers and parents meet during the fall, after school has started, at a time when a child’s performance is measured which can create a sense of pressure or unease for parents, especially those new to the K-12 education system. At the same time, these meetings give families exposure to their child’s teacher, classroom routines, and general kindergarten expectations.
  • The meetings also benefit teachers through starting the parent-teacher partnership in a positive way as well as learning about their students’ early childhood experiences, interests, and strengths which can then inform an individualized instructional approach.
  • HB 1369 is a result of recommendations developed by a WaKIDS workgroup that found that these meetings are valued by teachers and parents and result in benefits to students. Yet it is challenging for teachers to find the time to have meaningful connections with all of the parents of their students when they are also responsible for teaching a full day and preparing for future instruction. Allowing teachers to use non-instructional days to meet with parents at the start of the school year will make implementation of the family connections component of WaKIDS more successful.

What is happening with HB 1369?

  • The House approved HB 1369 and it then advanced to the Senate where it received a public hearing on 3/18 in the Early Learning and K-12 Committee. The Committee heard supportive testimony from kindergarten teachers as well as Thrive by Five Washington. The Freedom Foundation testified in opposition. The five non-instructional days included in the bill are carved out from the required 180-day school year, thus potentially kindergarten students would receive up to five less days of classroom instruction which is the source of the Freedom Foundation’s concern.
  • HB 1369 now awaits executive action, or a vote, from the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Committee. An affirmative vote on/by the 4/3 deadline is needed in order for the bill to continue advancing.

Why is WaKIDS, and specifically the family connection component, important?

  • It helps students and families. WaKIDS sets Washington apart from other states with its intentional aim to honor the family’s preeminent role in a child’s life and support children from a strengths-based and individualized approach.
  • It helps teachers. The information and relationship building with families at the beginning of the year, the data from the observational assessment, and the alignment between early learning and kindergarten professionals provide teachers with additional tools to ensure they are able to best support all of their students through individualized instruction.
  • It helps decision makers on policy and financial investments. The data coming out of WaKIDS helps paint a picture of our students’ preparedness for kindergarten. For the first time, data will be available to better target resources to support our youngest learners. This data can also inform kindergarten teachers’ instruction by building on the strengths of our students from a whole-child perspective.

What can you tell your elected officials?

  • WaKIDS, our state’s kindergarten transition process, is a holistic approach that recognizes essential components in a child and family’s transition between early learning and K-12, which is a significant step. WaKIDS includes three components: (1) family connection; (2) a whole-child observational assessment; and (3) connections with the early learning professionals who have nurtured and taught the incoming kindergarten students.
  • WaKIDS is a key strategy named in our state’s successful federal Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge grant application. We have been awarded $60 million in federal funds for 2012-2016 to make comprehensive improvements to the quality of early learning and development programs. Thus, ensuring the effective implementation of WaKIDS is critical.
  • As part of the family connection component, family meetings with kindergarten teachers take place at the beginning of the school year. These meetings set-up positive relationships between families and teachers in support of their children and their successful transition into kindergarten. Teachers gain valuable insights into the child’s background, learning style, and experiences which help them tailor effective instructional approaches. Families are better prepared their children for kindergarten when they know what the expectations and learning culture is.
  • Teachers and families alike value these meetings. Schools need time at the beginning of the school year to meet with all families in a kindergarten classroom.
  • HB 1369 was crafted in response to recommendations from a WaKIDS workgroup. It aims to make the implementation of WaKIDS more effective.
  • Help our schools and kindergarten teachers honor families as the first and most important teachers in a child’s life. Please support HB 1369.

How do you contact your elected officials? 
Use the Legislature’s new e-comment function for HB 1369! Go to the bill page and click on “Comment on this bill” (the green box to the right of the bill number). Indicate you support the bill. Then copy and paste in the message above or write your own personal message (note there is a limit of 1,000 characters). For first time users you will be asked to create an account (e.g. enter your name and email address) to ensure WA citizenship. Your message will go to your elected officials and statistical reports may be generated using aggregated data. Bill sponsors will now have a way to see public opinion of their bills through this medium. Otherwise you can use the legislative district finder to learn your state senator and two representatives. You can email, write (via postal letter), or call them (1-800-562-6000). Be sure you include your address in your email or letter so they know you are a constituent.


WEEK AT A GLANCE

Legislative committees busy reviewing bills. This week, legislative policy committees held hearings on bills that have already been approved in the opposite chamber. Bills must receive approval by the policy committee they are assigned to on/by 4/3 to continue progressing. In addition to the testimony in support of HB 1369 noted above, committees also reviewed the following bills: HB 1671, the child care reform bill; SB 5809 which makes clarifying changes to the Home Visiting Services Account; and, SB 5578 which would exempt family child care providers with more than five years experience from the requirement to have a high school diploma. Because these bills received public hearing it is anticipated they will come up for a vote by the 4/3 deadline.

Revenue Forecast released. On 3/20, the State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council released its updated revenue projections for the state. Although the forecast suggests better than anticipated revenue growth, our state still faces a significant budget gap for the upcoming biennium that begins 7/1/2013. Taking into account expected revenues, the state is still an estimated $1.3 billion short of meeting its current financial obligations. In addition to this $1.3 billion shortfall, policy makers must also identify an additional estimated $1 billion to meet the State Supreme Court McCleary directive to amply fund basic education.

Now that the revenue forecast is public, we can expect to see the start of meaningful budget negotiations. Next week, Governor Inslee is expected to release a list of potential tax loophole closures that could provide revenue. This revenue would serve as a down payment toward strengthening our state’s education system. It is unclear at this time if the Governor’s proposal will include support for any early learning programs. Additionally, it is anticipated that the Senate Majority Caucus will release its proposed budget around or by 4/1. Thus, these two proposals will join the House Republican “Education First” proposal that was already released (see the 3/15/2013 UWWA update for more info). These proposals will be compared and contrasted and details will be debated. All of these proposals will inform the negotiation process that will ultimately result in a budget package that will go before both the House and Senate for final approval.

As state budget negotiations get underway, trade-offs are imminent. As attention turns to the task of balancing the state budget, we continue to see bold policy proposals being scaled back as the realities of budget constraints hit. Facing a budget gap of more than $2 billion, legislators will likely be unable to secure adequate funding to maintain support of existing expenditures, much less to support the magnitude of requests before them, regardless of their policy merit.

Early signs of this include amendments to both HB 1671 and SB 5595 which originally attempted to increase the subsidy rate for Working Connections Child Care (WCCC). The rate increase was removed from both bills due to concerns about cost.

Further, the proposed investment increases to ECEAP, Home Visiting, and WCCC included in HB 1723 were all made dependent upon necessary funding being provided by 6/30/2013 (7/1/2013 is when the next fiscal year begins, when the 2013-2015 state biennial budget begins). HB 1723 in its current form indicates tax revenues from I-502, which legalized small doses of marijuana, will be a source of revenue for the policy expenses. Yet many questions remain unanswered about the implementation of I-502. Thus, it is unclear when I-502 will generate tax revenue and how much leaving the increased investments to ECEAP, home visiting, and WCCC as proposed in HB 1723 uncertain.

Staking claim to the tax revenue from I-502 is a symbolic gesture around the need to secure a dedicated funding source for early childhood development and learning programs that support our youngest learners during a unique time in their lives when the quality and nature of their experiences has an impact on their social skills and cognitive development, particularly for those children most at-risk.

A key question around the funding for the items included in HB 1723 is whether any state general fund dollars will be included in the budget to support the policy aims (e.g. increased investments to ECEAP, Home Visiting, and WCCC) of the bill. Further, if state general funds will be targeted at any early learning items included in HB 1723, important questions are: what items will be funded; and at what level. Thus, the budget negotiations are critical in determining what policy items in HB 1723 (and other bills generally) will get funded. If bills are not funded, the policy objectives of the bill will not be achieved.

Advocates are fighting on all fronts to increase early learning investments and advance policy objectives.Early learning advocates are pursuing both budget line items and the passage of policy bills to strengthen the early learning system. Advocates are supporting increased investments through the budget process while simultaneously supporting HB 1723 that looks to I-502 revenue as one source of early learning funding. This dual strategy is reflective of the level of uncertainty this year given the unique leadership in the State Senate; questions about the timing and predicted level of I-502 revenue; and the Legislature’s ultimate response to the budget gap and McCleary decision.  At this stage in the process it is impossible to predict how these issues will settle and align.