Thursday, December 27, 2007

educational legislation: 2007 House Bills in review

In 2007, regional media types paid all kinds of attention to the fate of various Washington State educational laws. Joint Resolution 4204, which passed by a Gregoire-thin margin to allow simple majorities for levies, was probably the best-known, while HB 2079 was the most controversial. But lots more were passed. Here are the highlights from the House's year in educational legislation. (I've focused on the elementary and secondary level, with a few postsecondary bills thrown in there as they relate to high school instruction. If I've missed one, let me know.)

Kevin's Law: ESHB 1050
IEP students must be allowed to walk in a grad ceremony with their peers, even if all they receive at the time is a "Certificate of Attendance."

Completing High School at a Community College: HB 1051
The most concise summary comes from Governor Gregoire's partial veto:
Sections 1 through 8 of this bill provide for the development of two pilot programs at community or technical colleges. The programs are intended to support certain students as they work to meet the State's academic standards in reading, writing, mathematics or science. For these students, demonstrating proficiency in one or more of these subjects is the final step in meeting their high school graduation requirements and obtaining a high school diploma. The legislation outlines the student eligibility and program criteria, authorizes the financial support, waives student tuition and fees, and provides for a study of the program's results in two years' time.

Section 9 of the bill creates and recognizes a new state certificate for high school students who do not meet the requirements for a high school diploma, the Certificate of Academic Completion (Certificate). The Certificate may be conferred by school districts to students who meet all state and local requirements for graduation with the exception of passage of one or more of the high school assessments in reading, writing and mathematics. Our students are working very hard to achieve the skills necessary for success in their endeavors beyond high school. By creating the Certificate of Academic Completion we will be sending a message to these students that they do not need basic skills required for the high school diploma. This is wrong.

Get Students Involved: HB 1052
This little bill provides greater access for middle and high school students to the Legislative Advisory Council, plus grants for students to participate in civic education competitions such as Model UN.

Postsecondary Opportunities: HB 1096
Globalization, according to the legislature, requires need-based grants for workers to gain certification or skills training in "high demand occupations" from community or technical colleges.

Book Savings For All: HB 1224
Community colleges were added to the ranks of institutions that must pursue policies that keep book and material costs down, or, at the very least, make options and alternatives publicly known.

Cash for Computers: HB 1280
If I understand this correctly, this bill allows districts to pay for major technology upgrades out of existing "capital projects" levies, instead of having to run a special techno-levy. (Another minor bill, HB 2357, would allow districts to use timber money for capital projects, too.)

Service Credit for ESAs: HB 1432
Might as well quote the bill itself:
Beginning in the 2007-08 school year, the calculation of years of service for occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech-language pathologists, audiologists, nurses, social workers, counselors, and psychologists regulated under Title 18 RCW may include experience in schools and other nonschool positions as occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech-language pathologists, audiologists, nurses, social workers, counselors, or psychologists. The calculation shall be that one year of service in a nonschool position counts as one year of service for purposes of this chapter, up to a limit of two years of nonschool service.
It's only for the salary schedule; retirement counts only school service.

Dealing With the Dropout Problem: HB 1573
Sections 1 through 7 of this bill provide for the development and implementation of a grant program that, through collaborative school district, family and community partnerships and services, support vulnerable students who are at risk of dropping out of middle or high school. The grant program will be called the Building Bridges Program.
This is perhaps the most ambitious attempt the state has made at reducing the dropout rate. I still see this as the problem at the high school level, come low or high WASL.

Defining a Counselor: HB 1670
Up until this year, for all legal intents and purposes, school counselors didn't exist. Now they do.

Agency Shop Fees Clarified: HB 2079
10 + 10 - 10 = 10. Now, which 10 is left? This bill says: not yours, shop fee payer, that the Supreme Court may be mollified. Whew. That was a dire emergency.

Add a Little Spice: HB 2154
Now ESD board members will come up for election in odd, rather than even, years. That oughtta bring out the vote.

Bonus Bonus: HB 2262
Become certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, collect $5,000--or more, if you teach in an impoverished district. For me, this was the incentive that tipped the scales away from ProCert to NBPTS. Apparently, a lot of other teachers feel the same way.

Investing in the Common Schools: HB 2396
On the same day she signed the Rainy Day Fund into law, Gregoire also allowed the state to invest its permanent common school fund in equities, in hopes that it would earn at a rate at least equal to inflation.

Killing Gainsharing: HB 2391
On that same day, gainsharing died, and teachers mourned.

Let's Have a Poet Laureate: HB 1279
Why not? By the way, it's Samuel Green.

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