Whiplash. That’s what lawmakers, advocacy organizations and activists say they are feeling as they switch from last week’s long days of deadline-driven floor action back to fast-moving hearing schedules and the second half of the 2023 session of the Washington State Legislature.
Throughout the session, the League of Education Voters (LEV), will continue to advocate for policies and laws that provide all students equal opportunity for success. The league represents the voice of students and has led the charge on many of the landmark funding and policy decisions that have improved the education landscape in Washington. Prior to the start of the 2023 session, LEV set an aggressive legislative agenda and has been working to educate lawmakers and the public about what kids need to thrive in schools.
Don’t miss LEV’s Nothing About Us Without Us Act Webinar
It is critical that the legislative process meaningfully include people from underserved populations who have direct, lived experience with policy issues when working to improve how policies serve communities. League of Education Voters (LEV) will hold a FREE webinar Thursday, March 23 at 12:30 p.m to discuss House Bill 1541, the Nothing About Us Without Us Act, why it’s needed, what it would do and how you can help make it law. Registration is required.
Education bills moving forward
Many LEV priority bills made it through the March 8 cutoff date, the day by which bills had to be approved by the full chamber of their legislative house of origin – that is the House of Representative or the Senate. Among the bills moving forward in the legislative process are:
- Engrossed Substitute House Bill 1479 (ESHB 1479), which places limits on when schools can use harmful isolation and restraint practices on students. The bill passed off the House floor with a strong vote of 63-31. An amendment to the bill would allow the practice of isolating to continue to be used in certain circumstances for students in grades 3-12 until December 2025. Another amendment put a stronger focus on professional development and training of school personnel on more effective practices. The bill is now waiting to be scheduled in the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee where the Senate will have an opportunity to debate the proposal and the added amendments.
- Engrossed Senate Bill 5462 concerning inclusive curriculum in schools. ESB 5462 directs the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to update state learning standards at all grade levels to include the histories and contributions of the LGBTQ+ community and other historically marginalized and underrepresented groups. After an emotional debate on the floor where several members spoke of their own personal experiences while attending school and the difference “seeing themselves” in their learning experience would have made for them, the bill passed off the Senate floor with a partisan vote of 29-19. The bill will be heard in the House Education Committee this week.
- House Bill 1308, establishes a performance-based learning experience graduation pathway. The sponsor, Representative Monica Jurado Stonier (D-Vancouver) has said that she wants to create this pathway in an attempt to correct some of the inequities being felt in the current system. Allowing students to demonstrate knowledge through a very personalized framework may help those who don’t feel the current pathways work for them. As advocates for students, we at LEV understand that many unknowns remain around how the new and existing pathways will impact a student’s post-high school experience. Creating feedback loops that allow us to understand how our systems impact students is important to make sure we are designing systems that work for students. We believe that our end goal shouldn’t be to only get students through high school graduation, but to help them achieve their post-high school educational and career goals. House Bill 1308 will be heard in the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Committee this week.
Last week’s house of origin cutoff represented a turning point in the legislative session – it moved us to the downhill side of the process. The amount of bills that are still moving through is much smaller, the time between cutoffs is shorter, and the budget process is coming to a close. Rumor is that most of the budget development is nearly complete – we are just waiting for the March Revenue Forecast on March 20th. State budgets (Operating, Capital, and Transportation) will then have to be adjusted up or down, depending on forecast information.
Next critical deadline
The next cutoff for policy bills in the opposite chamber from which they originated is March 29th, and a lot is expected to happen between now and then.
Committee time is limited, so this is when hallway conversations have a bit more importance. Often your only opportunity to check in with a legislator or staff member about possible amendments or to encourage action on a bill is when you are both quickly walking from one hearing room to the next. The pace is also reflected in the hearing schedules – bills are being added daily to committee schedules for public hearing or executive action. Every time this happens, the committee, through leg.wa.gov, sends out an email to alert that there has been a change. LEV phones seem to be buzzing with notifications multiple times an hour as notices go out.
Parents, teachers, students and others interested in these and other bills critical to equity among Washington students are a critical part of LEV’s legislative work.
Here’s how you can stay up-to-date and get involved in the advocacy work of League of Education Voters and it’s advocacy partners:
- Follow which education-related bills we are watching in the LEV Bill Tracker.
- Check out our Youth Advocacy Hub on how to engage with legislation in Olympia.
- Contact key members of the Washington state Legislature and ask them to support the elimination of isolation, and mechanical and chemical restraint of students.
- Register for our March 23 LEVinar on the Nothing About Us Without Us Act.
- Watch the recording of our LEVinar on Ending Isolation Practices in K-12 Schools.
- Watch our LEVinar on the Special Education Funding Cap.
- Read our guest blog by students from the Washington State Legislative Youth Advisory Council (LYAC) on why we need inclusive education.
- Read our 2023 Legislative Platform and Field Report.
- Join Investing in Student Potential, our coalition to champion students who need special education services.
- Read frequently asked questions about the Washington state Legislature.