Archive for Education

Toddlers race around Capitol for early learning investments

By | March 26, 2015 | 0 Comments

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Dozens of preschool students raced through the Capitol Thursday as part of a push to ask lawmakers to invest more in early learning.

“We’re here to remind legislators to start and finish strong for our littlest learners,” organizer Lauren Hipp said. “Early learning really set our kids up for success, not only in school, but in life in general.”

Before the toddlers took off running in their sweatbands and race bibs — all No. 1 — they listened while Gov. Jay Inslee, budget writers Sen. Andy Hill and Rep. Ross Hunter and other lawmakers talked about ways to boost spending.

“I don’t think they were that interested in what they had to say, but hopefully they’ll be interested in what the lawmakers do for these kids,” executive director of the state’s Head Start and Early Childhood Education and Assistance (ECEAP) programs Joel Ryan said.

Mostly, they focused on  House Bill 1491, the so-called Early Start Act. Childcare and preschool providers who accept state subsidies for low-income families would be required to participate in the Early Achievers Program.

Right now, the program is free, but voluntary. It provides training to childcare facilities and state- and federally-funded preschool program, such as Head Start, ECEAP and Working Connections Child Care.

By requiring participation, lawmakers hope to improve kindergarten readiness for low-income students. “If we get our way,” Inslee told the runners. “We’re going to have more kids who are ready for kindergarten, more kids who do well in first grade, more kids who go into STEM fields, more kids who graduate.”

The measure passed 67-31 in the state House and is under consideration in the Senate. It was voted out of a committee in the chamber Wednesday. Prime sponsor Rep. Ruth Kagi said during the event she expects a hearing in Senate Ways and Means on Friday.

Thursday recap on ‘Legislative Review’

By | March 20, 2015 | 0 Comments

Here’s our 15-minute recap of Thursday’s legislative activities on “Legislative Review.” We cover a bill that aims to help more foster care students graduate from high school, a bill that would allow low-income families to get state assistance for health-related improvements to their homes, and several bills related to military veterans and their families.

“Legislative Review” airs nightly at 6:30 and 11 p.m.

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Wednesday recap on ‘Legislative Review’

By | March 5, 2015 | 0 Comments

Here’s our 15-minute recap of Wednesday’s legislative activities on “Legislative Review.” It includes debate over a bill that would provide low-income students with breakfast after the bell, as well as a measure that would expand dual language programs in Washington schools. Plus, the Senate passes a bill to make changes to the state’s Presidential primary elections.

“Legislative Review” airs nightly at 6:30 and 11.

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House passes bill that limits use of restraints, isolation in Washington schools

By | March 3, 2015 | 0 Comments

Washington schools would no longer have the option to restrain or isolate special needs or autistic children except in limited circumstances, under a bill passed by the state House on Monday.

Special needs children, under federal law, must have an individual learning plan. In Washington, that plan can include isolating the student, binding his or her limbs together or tying the student to an object to correct bad behavior.

The plans could no longer include restraint or isolation as planned interventions under House Bill 1240. School districts could only use the interventions if the student poses an imminent risk of harm.

Rep. Gerry Pollet, Seattle Democrat and prime sponsor of the bill, said teachers have better tools to deal with a student’s behavior. “We should not be planning to use handcuffs, to use physical restraints, to lie on top of a child,” he said.

But some worry the bill removes necessary measures for teachers to protect themselves and other students. Rep. Brad Klippert introduced amendments to give teachers more discretion, but both failed.

“Some of these children are very large and very strong,” the Kennewick Republican said. “We’re asking teachers who are not as large and as strong to teach every child and they need to be able to take some action to protect all children, all staff members and all property of the school.”

The measure moves over to the state Senate after a vote of 68-29.

Lawmakers in that chamber are also considering a bill that focuses on positive interventions. Senate Bill 5688 would require the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to set social and emotional learning standards. It passed out of committee, but so far has not received a floor vote.

Categories: Education

Lawmakers address questions of teacher COLA

By | February 27, 2015 | 0 Comments

Voter-approved teacher cost-of-living-adjustments, or COLAs, have been tabled for the past six years. So, midway through the 2015 session, Republican and Democratic lawmakers addressed questions about whether this is the year the teacher COLA would come back.

Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, told reporters at a press conference Tuesday that she was happy to see the 3 percent cost-of-living-adjustment for teachers built into the state’s balanced four-year budget outlook.

She said teachers in her district have been seeing take-home pay shrink in recent years.

“Their paychecks are declining because they are actually paying more for their health care, and they are bringing home significantly less money, and I’m not just talking a little bit,” she said. “So I was really thrilled to hear Sen. (Andy) Hill say that he built in the 3 percent COLA into the four-year balanced budget.”

Rivers was one of several Republican panelists at a weekly media availability.

The Economic and Revenue Forecast Council, which produces the Budget Outlook, projects expenditures and revenue for the next four years based on current law. Hill not only chairs the council, he is the Senate’s chief budget writer as chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

While Initiative 732, an annual cost of living adjustment for teachers, was approved by voters in 2000 and is written into law, it has been suspended by the state during economic downturns. However, the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council did include the initiative in the most recent iteration of the Budget Outlook, which shows a positive balance over the next four years.

For the Democrats, Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Seattle, at a press availability on Thursday, said there was strong support for a teacher raise in their caucus, but declined to fix on a percentage.

“They’ve gone six years without a COLA,” he said. “I think there will be strong support on our budget team and in our caucus for a COLA.”

The House proposed budget is expected to be released in March, followed by the Senate’s proposal.

Gov. Jay Inslee‘s 2015-17 budget included a 3 percent cost of living adjustment the first year and 1.8 percent the following year, which will cost $386 million over the two years.

The press conferences followed the week after the release of the state revenue forecast for 2015-2017, which showed a moderate increase of $140 million over previous predictions. 

Categories: Education, Uncategorized

Vaccines debated as lawmakers consider eliminating personal belief exemption

By | February 17, 2015 | 0 Comments

A House committee held a public hearing Tuesday on a bill that would end a parent’s ability to exempt a child from vaccines for personal or philosophical reasons.

Rep. June Robinson, D-Everett, said she introduced House Bill 2009 in response to the recent measles outbreak. “These are diseases that were eradicated and are now coming back largely due to the fact that people are choosing to not immunize their children,” she said.

Children in Washington must be vaccinated for school unless they are exempted for medical, religious or personal reasons. Last year, 3.6 percent of school-age children were exempted from vaccinations for non-medical reasons.

Some Washington schools have exemption rates as high 40 percent, said Kathy Lofy of the state Dept. of Health. She worries those schools will serve as “tinderboxes” for diseases that are easily spread through crowds.

Kathy Hennessy of Bellingham said her child caught pertussis from an unvaccinated classmate in preschool. “I’m frustrated that so many people are choosing not vaccinate their children based on misinformation and pseudoscience,” she told legislators.

More than a dozen opponents testified Tuesday, asking lawmakers to keep the personal exemption in place.

Grant Keller said the people who oppose vaccinations are “not conspiracy theorists,” but often well-educated parents with high incomes. “They are capable of reading and digesting scientific information, and they are making informed decisions regarding the health of their children,” he said.

Other parents who testified say they are not immunizing their children because they worry about a negative reaction to the vaccine.

Josh Swenson said drug allergies and sensitivies run in his family, and he worries how vaccines could affect his children. “I’m not wiling to sacrifice my children’s health and future for the good of all,” he said.

If the bill passes, Swenson said his only choices would be to take his children out of public schools or move out of state. “You cannot force me to hurt my child,” he said.

Senate hearing focuses on bullying, emotional health in schools

By | February 5, 2015 | 0 Comments

The emotional well-being of Washington students was the focus of a state Senate hearing Thursday, as lawmakers heard bills to prevent bullying and promote social skills.

Senate Bill 5526 would address bullying of transgender students in state schools, requiring districts to adopt a policy to prevent harassment and train more educators to help when it occurs.

Transgender students regularly face physical and verbal abuse at school, Sen. Marko Liias, Mukilteo Democrat and prime sponsor of the bill, told committee members.

More than 80 percent of transgender students report verbal abuse, he says, 40 percent report physical abuse. Forty percent of transgender young people attempt suicide before age 20, he said.

“We know that there are harmful consequences for kids in our schools,” Liias said. “It’s our obligation to take every step we can to provide a safe, supportive learning environment.”

Another bill considered by the committee aims to teach students how to better recognize emotions, manage stress and resolve conflicts.

It’s called social emotional learning and “it is not sitting around and singing songs,” Melanie Smith of Seattle-based Committee for Children told lawmakers. “It is building blocks of how we learn to interact with people, how we communicate with people and how we resolve conflicts with people. It’s how to pay attention and how to learn.”

Senate Bill 5688 would require the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the body that sets Washington’s learning standards, to study benchmarks for teaching students the skills. An OSPI work group would have until Oct. 1, 2016 to submit a plan to lawmakers for implementing social emotional learning-based curriculum for state schools.

Both bills were heard Thursday in the Senate early learning and K-12 committee. Neither has been schedule for a committee vote.

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Bill to boost preschool quality passes out of House committee

By | February 3, 2015 | 0 Comments

Photo by Barnaby Wasson via Flickr.

A bill that aims to improve kindergarten readiness for low-income students by boosting the quality of providers that accept state subsidies passed 8-3 out of the House Early Learning and Human Services Committee.

The Early Start Act requires childcare and preschool providers who receive state subsidies for low-income families to take part in the state’s Early Achievers Program. The bill would apply to providers who accept subsidies from the Head Start, ECEAP and Working Connections Child Care programs.

The program would rate the providers on how well they get kids ready for kindergarten, and also provides additional training for employees.

In response to several concerns brought up at a hearing last week, the Early Learning and Human Services Committee adopted an amendment that would allow the Department of Early Learning to take into account accreditation programs for private preschools. The amendment also opens ECEAP to faith-based providers.

The committee also adopted another amendment that would allow tribal-run preschools to provide information on kindergarten-readiness directly to parents interested in enrolling, rather than posting their information on the Department of Early Learning website.

Bill sponsor and committee chairwoman Rep. Ruth Kagi, D-Seattle, said many child care providers miss chances to improve the early learning of children as young as infants.

“It’s just providing that information and education to them so that those babies have a learning-rich environment for the first few years. We know how critical it is,” she said.

Rep. Elizabeth Scott, R-Monroe, voted against the bill, listing a number of concerns.

“It’s too top-down, top-heavy. This could have the unintended consequence of creating a shortage of day care options for parents particularly in high poverty areas,” Scott said.

Scott also had concerns that the Early Start Act would be a step toward requiring pre-kindergarten programs for all children in the state.

However, Rep. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, says she’s a strong supporter of the bill, saying while she shares some of the concerns of skeptics, it’s important to ensure quality programs for children.

“I also believe that if we are spending millions and millions and hundreds of millions of dollars subsidizing child care, we want a return on our investment. We don’t want to throw our money down a hole,” Walsh said.

Rep. David Sawyer, D-Tacoma, voted against the bill, saying that he would prefer if there were a sunset clause that would force legislators to review the changes and make sure they are effective and equitable to all children in the state.

“Nobody has bad intent, I just want to make sure that we get it right,” Sawyer said.

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Wednesday recap on ‘Legislative Review’

By | January 29, 2015 | 0 Comments

Here’s our 15-minute recap of Wednesday’s legislative activities on “Legislative Review.” We cover a bill known as “Sheena’s Law” named after the victim of a murder-suicide in Spokane. Plus, mobile home owners and landlords clash over a bill that would make changes to leases. The show also has highlights from a debate over a bill known by supporters as the Early Start Act.

“Legislative Review” airs nightly at 6:30 and 11 p.m. on TVW.

WSU, UW propose fixes to doctor shortage

By | January 27, 2015 | 0 Comments

The state’s top two universities have different ideas about how to train more doctors, but both agree: Washington State University can establish and operate a new medical school if it’s not at the expense of the existing University of Washington program.

Washington faces a dire shortage of primary care providers, particularly in underserved rural communities on the eastern side of the state. The state’s only medical school struggles to train enough doctors with only enough funding to admit 140 students to study within the state each year.

Both universities have different proposals to improve healthcare access. WSU wants funding to hire staff and secure accreditation for a new school while UW wants to expand an existing program to accommodate more students. Spokane lawmakers have introduced a bill that would allow both.

The University of Washington has since 1917 had exclusive rights to operate a medical school in the state. Now, state Sen. Michael Baumgartner and Rep. Marcus Riccelli have introduced joint bills to remove the restriction and allow WSU to create its own program on the other side of the mountains. The bill also removes UW’s sole rights to medicine, forestry products and logging engineering majors.

UW doesn’t mind giving up its exclusive rights, but worries about the financial impact for its existing program, spokesperson Genesee Adkins said. WSU last year announced it was withdrawing from WWAMI, a doctor training program operated in partnership with the University of Washington’s School of Medicine. WWAMI trains doctors for Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho. It’s an acronym for the first letter of each state.

In 2013, WSU accepted nearly $6 million in state money to help support existing students at the Spokane branch of the WWAMI program. Now, WSU plans to reallocate the funding to pay for its own program.

Adkins says UW does not want the money reallocated. “Do not explore this one concept at the expense of another,” she told the House Higher Education committee on Tuesday.

UW wants $8 million to expand the WWAMI program in order accommodate 80 students in Spokane per year by 2017. “The need for expansion of medical professions is absolutely clear and we recognize that need,” University of Washington President Michael K. Young told lawmakers on Thursday. “Our program is scalable.”

Washington State President Elson S. Floyd says the two programs don’t have to be mutually-exclusive. “We are not duplicating what already exists,” Floyd said. “The teaching model at the University of Washington can continue. It is our hope and desire that it would be augmented.”

WSU wants $2.5 million to launch a community-based medical school, using partnerships with medical facilities instead of building its own research hospital. Michigan State and Florida State universities – as well as UW – use similar models.

The university hopes to welcome its first class of 40 students by 2017 and grow to accommodate 120 by 2021.

House Bill 1559, which only removes the restriction and doesn’t provide funding for either program, has more than 60 bipartisan sponsors signed on. The bill needs only a simple majority to pass the chamber of 98 lawmakers. Senate Bill 5487 is a companion.

Categories: Education, Healthcare