Monday, January 8, 2018

Action for housing advocates

The 2018 state legislative session starts today! In this post:

  • Register for Housing Alliance updates - biweekly calls on legislative action
  • Hearings scheduled for important housing bills. You can comment!
  • Sign up for housing advocacy day, action alerts; read 2018 housing priorities


Join the Housing Alliance for biweekly updates on the 2018 state legislative session. We welcome all affordable housing and homelessness advocates to join. These calls will take place every other Friday at 10 am on each of the following dates:
  • Friday, January 12, 10-11 am
  • Friday, January  26, 10-11 am
  • Friday, February 9, 10-11 am
  • Friday, February 23, 10-11 am
  • Friday, March 9, 10-11 am
You can register for the Housing Alliance session updates for advocates at:

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Call to save Housing Bond

The Washington Low Income Housing Alliance has issued a call to action around the federal tax plan being negotiated in Congress.

Phone call message:

This is the time to make investments to solve the affordable housing crisis, not to make it even worse by eliminating tools like the Housing Bond as the House tax plan does. Please make sure the Housing Bond is protected in a final tax plan.


Both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate passed different versions of a tax bill. The chambers now need to conference and negotiate one version of the bill. The House version eliminates Housing Bonds. The Washington State Housing Finance Commission uses those private activity bonds to create rental homes that are affordable for low-income households. If these bonds are eliminated more than 2,000 rental homes in Washington won’t be built in the next two years as planned.


At the federal level, you have two senators representing you in the U.S. Senate, and one representative in the U.S. House of Representatives. Together the U.S. Senate and U.S. House make up Congress. Please contact your senators and your district representative. You can look up your federal district here, (Be sure to select Congressional under District Type). 

Here is contact information for the King County delegation:

Washington's ABLE program delayed

Sharing information from the Department of Commerce Disability Workgroup:

This is to let you know that due to unforeseen circumstances, Washington’s ABLE program will not be available until sometime in 2018. Once it launches, it can be found at The toll free call center phone number will activate when we launch.

If you are interested in signing up for an account immediately, we recommend you go through Oregon’s ABLE for ALL program  This is the non-resident ABLE site we are using. The ABLE for All website has frequently asked questions plus a list of the required information needed to open an account via the online or paper route. The investment options and enrollment processes at ABLE for ALL are identical to the WA ABLE program for in-state residents. The toll-free number is available to help with the site or answer ABLE questions - 1-844-394-ABLE from 9 am-8 pm ET or 1-844-888-ABLE (TTY) from 9 am-8 pm ET.

Once WA ABLE opens, beneficiaries can transfer their ABLE for All accounts to the WA ABLE for free. We will be waiving the first year’s $35 account maintenance fee for WA ABLE enrollees.

We know this news is incredibly disappointing for many of you … we are disappointed as well, and ask for your patience and continued support.

Chris Gagnon
Department of Commerce Disability Workgroup
1011 Plum Street SE
PO Box 42525, Olympia, WA 98504-2525
WA State Department of Commerce, Disability Workgroup
WA State ABLE Savings Plan
WA State Developmental Disabilities Endowment Trust Fund

Friday, December 1, 2017

How the tax bill might affect you

Medicare, affordable housing, and employment of people with disabilities are all caught in the net cast by the federal tax bill. This is because in addition to ending popular deductions favored by the middle class, the bill would trigger across the board cuts because of something called "Pay-go."

The tax bill before Congress is expected to pass the U.S. Senate 51 to 49 Friday night. The House could take it up as soon as Monday. 

Following is a Q&A on how the bill might affect you, followed by an update on Friday's Senate action.

Q: Why are people saying there will be cuts?
A: There is a rule called “Pay-go”: If Congress passes tax cuts or increases spending on mandatory programs (e.g. entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid), this cannot add to the federal deficit for more than 10 years.

According non-partisan Congressional staff analysis, the tax cut would add $1 trillion to the federal deficit, even with growth to the economy. This triggers mandatory across-the-board cuts to non-defense discretionary spending on such things as Head Start, vocational rehabilitation, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and other programs that benefit people with disabilities.

Q: Is Medicare on the block?
A: Yes. The 2010 bill that established “Pay-go” allows Medicare to be cut by 4 percent, which comes to $25 billion. This amounts to roughly $500 million in cuts in Washington state, according the Governor Jay Inslee.

Q: Does this affect affordable housing for people with disabilities?
A: Yes. According to the governor’s office, the federal bill would immediately stop development of affordable housing, worsening our region’s homelessness crisis. The bill would “immediately halt the development of more than 2,000 affordable housing units in Washington, by eliminating tax-exempt bonds that have already produced almost 55,000 apartments and supported more than 87,000 jobs across the state. The immediate effects would deny affordable housing to an estimated 4,000 families in Snohomish, King, Clark, Pierce, Whitman and Spokane counties, including more than 1,000 elderly households and over 300 people with disabilities.”

Q: Does it affect employment of people with disabilities?
A: Yes. The bill ends incentives to hire veterans and people with disabilities by eliminating the Work Opportunity Tax Credit  (WOTC). This credit helped more than 50,000 disadvantaged workers in Washington find jobs last year.

Q: Are there other effects?
A: Yes. This bill does away with deductions for charitable contributions. According to the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), 32 million fewer Americans would donate to charitable causes under the House bill    — and charitable donations would drop by $95 billion each year

It also eliminates medical expense deductions and student loan interest deductions. It also would impose massive tax and tuition increases on thousands of graduate students at the University of Washington and Washington State University, and would prevent major employers in our region — such as Amazon and Starbucks — from continuing to offer tax-free tuition assistance programs to their workers.

The bill also ends the deduction for local and state taxes. According to Governor Inslee, 1 million Washingtonians would no longer be able to claim this deduction, increasing their federal taxes by hundreds of dollars each year on average. Eighty-five percent of Washingtonians who claim this deduction are middle-income.

Here is an update on bill action:

The Senate negotiated changes Friday that they hope the House will pass on Monday with no need for conference. 

Bill text is still not yet available, but a summary of changes was made available Friday. These changes added tax cuts ($307.7 billion) and reduced other tax cuts ($320 billion). 

The list of amendments includes mentions of:
  • Paid family leave provisions
  • Changes in low-income housing tax credit (preferences for veterans and rural areas
  • Deductions for religious education (can be used for schools which do not have to comply with IDEA) 
  • 2-year increase in medical expense deduction (allowable if costs exceed 7.5 percent of AGI, compared to 10 percent under current law for people under age 65)
  • Allowing for property tax deduction (up to $10,000) of state and local tax deduction (SALT). All other state and local taxes are not deductible from federal taxes.
  • The House has scheduled a vote for Monday evening.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Funding adjustments for students with disabilities?

State Superintendent for Public Instruction Chris Reykdal has made three requests for the state's 2018 supplemental operating budget that would have a direct impact on students with developmental disabilities:

  • Fund a technical assistance team to help schools reduce exclusionary discipline
  • Adjust the multiplier for special education, increasing funding to cover actual costs
  • Increase funding for the Safety Net to cover costs of high need individual students

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Action is not the same as discipline

Comments submitted to OSPI on proposed discipline rules:

November 11, 2017

Dierk Meierbachtol, Chief Legal Officer
Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction
Re: Proposed Student Discipline Rules, Chapter 392-400 WAC

Dear Mr. Meierbachtol,
At The Arc of King County, we are concerned that language used in 4SHB 1541 was changed during the rules making process, with “alternative action” being replaced by “discipline.” Discipline, as commonly defined in dictionaries and understood by students and families, means “punishment.” “Punishment” is also a likely translation that non-English proficient families would arrive at. 

Advocates suggest improvements to proposed discipline rules

You can download a copy of the letter here

November 13, 2017

Dierk Meirbachtol, Chief Legal Officer
Officer of Superintendent of Public Instruction
PO Box 47200
Olympia, WA 98504-7200

Dear Mr. Meirbachtol,

The undersigned organizations (which include legal services providers, education advocates, social service providers, communities of color, disability rights organizations, and organizations representing parents and students) submit these joint comments on the proposed school discipline rules. 

Monday, November 6, 2017

What is in a definition?

Great resource for federal advocacy also raises some questions about what "substantial" means when it comes to developmental disabilities

From The Arc's national staff:
Chapters of The Arc have a long and proud history of mobilizing advocates to share their views on public policy and pending legislation. To assist you in your grassroots advocacy, The Arc’s Position Statements and Public Policy Agenda are readily available on our website. Thanks to all of you who have shared your strategies, accomplishment and photos – they truly make our day.

From us (The Arc of King County): 

These are great resources and will help you engage with Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and your Congressional representative.

But it is interesting that the definition of developmental disability listed in these brochures is a lot different from the one used by Washington state, and from others that may be used by policymakers. It is especially important to advocacy because policy makers may think they are helping certain people when in fact those individuals are not covered by state's Medicaid-funded home and community based services.

At issue is definition of the term "substantial."

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Discipline rules change, but will it matter?

What will move the needle for students with disabilities?

Suspension rates for students special education: 7.9%. Suspension rates for all students: 3.7%
Courtesy of the ACLU of Washington
Students receiving special education services
face the second highest discipline rates in Washington.

For years, advocates have worked to implement social emotional learning, positive behavior interventions and supports, and de-escalation strategies to help schools prevent avoidable disciplinary issues. And while some schools and districts have made headway, prevention strategies as a general practice are still not required by the state and are not uniformly supported through professional development.

In 2013, new legislation and advocacy efforts put a spotlight on discipline. Data showed schools suspended and expelled certain types of students more than others; and students of color faced more severe discipline for the same offenses.
Courtesy of the ACLU of Washington

In the years since, discipline rates have fallen for some subgroups of students:
  • 7.4 to 6.6 percent in 2016 for American Indians over the last 4 years, and
  • 10.3 to 8 percent for African American students in that time
But rates for students in special education have hovered near 8 percent. The needle hasn’t moved nearly enough for students of color, and hasn’t moved much at all for kids with disabilities.

How to weigh in on student discipline rules

In 2016, the state legislature passed House Bill 1541 to tackle some of the issues causing opportunity gaps in education. Part of this involved changing how schools could discipline students. That, in turn, required updating state discipline rules to govern how these changes in the law would be enforced.

If you are a parent or student, these rules tell you what schools are supposed to be doing and what should or should not be happening when a student is suspended or expelled.

The proposed discipline rule changes are now ready for review, and the public has several ways to weigh in on them. (See Attend a Public Hearing and Send Written Comments, below.)



  • Districts still need to offer educational services to students, even if students are excluded from the classroom.
  • The state put parameters on when long-term suspension or expulsion can be used and defined "discretionary discipline." For instance, students cannot be expelled for violating the dress code or using an electronic device (though they can be disciplined).