We reached the one-year anniversary of school closures to in-person learning this past week, and work continues to get all school buildings open once again. The ever-changing requirements and guidance for our schools keeps coming, among them being Governor Inslee’s announcement last Friday that requires all school districts to provide all K–12 students with the opportunity to receive at least two days per week of in-person learning no later than April 19. OSPI published a Q&A document that you may find helpful.
Today, the CDC announced that it "now recommends that, with universal masking, students should maintain a distance of at least three feet in classroom settings.” We would hope that our state’s Department of Health will soon provide this same recommendation for our schools, specifically for school next fall. We know you are all working hard right now to make staffing and scheduling plans for the 2021–22 school year.
In my regular Friday meeting with the Department of Health and the Governor’s Office, they said they had just received this new information from the CDC and would take time to read it and consider feedback. They are working on updated guidance for graduation and moving up ceremonies to fall in line with indoor and outdoor events as a part of the Roadmap to Recovery plans as our state moves to Phase 3. Right now, Phase 3 guidance for sporting events for indoor facilities is for up to 400 people, not to exceed 50% capacity for the location, and physical distancing and masking protocols are enforced. Larger venue events are capped at 25% occupancy, or up to 9,000 people, whichever is less, and must follow spectator guidelines. Expect more information on graduation ceremonies next week.
Our Legislature received good news this week when the state Economic and Revenue Forecast Council projected an additional $1.3 billion for this current, two-year budget cycle. An additional $1.9 billion increase is forecast for the 2021–23 budget cycle. Budget writers are working hard to determine how state revenues will intersect with the federal funds that will be coming to our state through the American Rescue Plan. K–12 schools in Washington will receive a combined total of $2.6 billion from three rounds of federal funds.
The Senate and the House are expected to release their budgets next week and we hope to see our state legislators at least hold district funding steady for the 2021–22 school year despite changes in enrollment and transportation ridership this past year. It is important in these next few weeks you keep telling your stories about the need for consistent staffing levels, as well as what additional supports your students and staff may have. Contact your legislators from our Advocacy & Action Center to share your story. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on “Compose your own Message”. Thank you!
A big thank you to an incredible group of principals who took part in a lunchtime webinar hosted by the League of Education Voters, titled “Principals from across Washington state on education in the time of COVID.” These leaders spoke passionately and eloquently about the challenges and successes of dealing with the pandemic over the past year and how we should move forward to reform our education system. They also have very specific ideas for how our state and districts can support the work of building principals. Grab your headphones or earbuds, head out for a walk, and listen in to the webinar.
It was a busy week for hearings and we send more thanks to Patrick Vincent, principal at Union Gap School, who testified in support of HB 1113 regarding attendance policies. Thank you also to Michael Harrington, principal at Finley Middle School, who testified in support of HB 1214, which adds training requirements for classified school staff. Additional thanks to AWSP’s Kurt Hatch who testified in support of HB 1426, which would add requirements to the certification renewal process for teachers and administrators with regards to equity, leadership, and government-to-government relationships with tribes.
Other bills considered this week include:
House bills heard in the Senate:
- HB 1139 | Taking action to address lead in drinking water
- HB 1273 | Concerning menstrual products in schools
- HB 1365 | Procuring and supporting appropriate computers and devices for public school students and staff
- HB 1484 | Concerning the statewide first responder building mapping information system
- HB 1113 | Concerning school attendance
- HB 1162 | Concerning high school graduation credit (20 credits) and pathway options (performance exhibition)
- HB 1176 | Access to higher education (fines and fees)
- HB 1214 | Providing K–12 public school safety and security services by classified staff
- HB 1426 | Continuing education requirements for administrators and teachers
Senate bills heard in the House:
- SB 5043 | Providing housing to school district employees
- SB 5128 | Concerning student transportation funding
- SB 5242 | Supporting media literacy and digital citizenship
- SB 5265 | Creating a bridge year pilot program
A few more bills will be heard next week. Friday, March 26th is the last day to pass bills out of policy committees from the opposite house. The following Friday is fiscal committee cut-off.
We also stay in touch with our partners in the “other” Washington. We look forward to April 20th when NASSP holds their virtual Advocacy Conference. Find more information and register for free.
Stay tuned for more advocacy news and thank you for all that you do for students and staff.