Saturday, March 18, 2017

K-12 at the mid-point - A legislative update

Some overarching concerns with K-12 education:

  • Are expectations high enough? A lot of students with developmental disabilities aren’t graduating with a regular diploma.
  • Lost learning time - this includes disproportionate suspension and expulsion, as well as time spent pulled out of class, but kept in school.
  • Time with paraeducators. On one hand, they are essential to making general education accessible to students with disabilities. One the other, they are not certified, generally don't have access to training, and there are no shared professional standards for the field. Paraeducators need recognition and support, and schools need funding to cover necessary staffing levels. Students in special education spend about 60 percent of their learning time with paraeducators.
  • Whole child support: That is, the social, emotional and behavior support and skill building needed - along with the standards and core staffing.

The bills:

Weighing in is easy: To comment on any bill, click on the number. That will take you to the bill page. Once there, click on “Comment on this bill” button. (Hint: Legislative staff said some users have reported problems with the “verify district” step when using phones or handheld devices. You need to double click that button. Also, be sure the state is “WA” and not “Washington.”)

Education and health in the schools

HB 1346 - Clarifying the authority of a nurse working in a school setting
Sponsors: Springer, Muri, Dolan, Harris, Appleton, Tarleton, Cody, Santos, Ortiz-Self

  • Specifies that a registered nurse or an advanced registered nurse practitioner working in a school setting is authorized and responsible for the nursing care of students to the extent that the care is within the practice of nursing. 
  • Provides that a school administrator may supervise a registered nurse or an advanced registered nurse practitioner in aspects of employment other than the practice of nursing.
  • Provides that only a registered nurse or an advanced registered nurse practitioner may supervise, direct, or evaluate a licensed nurse working in a school setting with respect to the practice of nursing.
SB 5448 - Concerning no required psychotropic medication use for students
  • This falls into the category of “already can’t do that.” But it doesn’t hurt to remind schools
Sponsors: Rivers, Chase, Zeiger, Walsh, Miloscia, Fain, Warnick, Becker
  • Prohibits school staff from denying a student access to programs or services because the parent or guardian refuses to place a student on psychotropic medication.
  • Prevents school staff from having a student undergo psychological screening unless the parent or guardian gives prior written consent.
  • Prohibits a child being taken into custody solely on the grounds that the parent or guardian refuses to consent to the administration of psychotropic medication.
HB 1377 - Improving students' mental health by enhancing nonacademic professional services.

Sponsors: Ortiz-Self, Stonier, Santos, Lovick, Gregerson, Peterson, Ryu, Appleton, Fitzgibbon, Goodman, Bergquist, Doglio
Specifies the roles and duties of school counselors, school social workers, and school psychologists.
  • Requires, beginning in the 2018-19 school year, first-class school districts to provide a minimum of six hours of professional collaboration time per year for school counselors, social workers, and psychologists that focuses on recognizing signs of emotional or behavioral distress in students.
  • Establishes the Professional Collaboration Lighthouse Grant Program to assist school districts with early adoption and implementation of mental health professional collaboration time, subject to funding by the Legislature.
  • Directs the Professional Educator Standards Board to convene a task force on the need for school counselors, psychologists, and social workers, the capacity of the state to meet the need, and the preparation of these professionals.

Early learning

SB 5357 - Establishing a pilot project to license outdoor early learning and child care programs
  • We like this for access and inclusiveness. Outdoor preschools have been good options for some kids with developmental disabilities
Sponsors: Ranker, Fain, Billig, Sheldon, Hunt, Palumbo, Zeiger, Hobbs, Rolfes, Pearson, Rivers, Carlyle, SaldaƱa, Walsh, Liias, Conway, Kuderer, Hasegawa

  • Establishes a 4-year pilot project to license outdoor, nature-based early learning and child care programs.
  •  Requires the Department of Early Learning to explore options for a quality rating and improvement system for outdoor preschools and provide recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature.-
HB 1719 and SB 5247 - Updating certain department of early learning advising and contracting mechanisms to reflect federal requirements, legislative mandates, and planned system improvements
  • These two are basically the same bill. We like them because they add someone with a background in developmental disability to the Early Learning Advisory Committee. We need that to design and facilitate inclusive early learning options.
House sponsors: Lovick, Dent, Kagi, Senn, Frame
Senate sponsors: Zeiger, Mullet, Fain, Billig, Chase, Kuderer
  • Changes membership of the Early Learning Advisory Committee. 
  • Transfers the administration of home visiting programs from a nongovernmental private-public partnership to the Department of Early Learning.
HB 1661 - Creating the department of children, youth, and families

  • The purpose is to take a proactive approach to investing in and supporting children and families. Early Support for Infants and Toddlers as well as oversight and support for early learning and child care will be housed in the new department. Our concern: Will the state create something that supports children with developmental disabilities, or will this new department set them aside, much like the K-12 system has?

Sponsors: Kagi, Sullivan, Dent, Senn, Muri, Kilduff, Klippert, Frame, Goodman, Ortiz-Self, Wilcox, Lovick, Hargrove, Clibborn, Lytton, Appleton, Fitzgibbon, Orwall, Kloba, Sells, Fey, Macri, Bergquist, Pollet, Hudgins, Robinson, Stanford, Slatter
  • Creates the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) and moves responsibility for early learning from the Department of Early Learning and child welfare programs from the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) to the DCYF on July 1, 2018, and juvenile justice programs from the DSHS to the DCYF on July 1, 2019.
  • Creates an Office of Innovation, Alignment, and Accountability within the Office of the Governor with the duty to develop a plan for the establishment of the DCYF.
  • Creates an Oversight Board for Children, Youth, and Families established by the Office of the Family and Children's Ombuds for the purpose of monitoring and ensuring that the DCYF achieves its stated outcomes.

Support for complex students and their families

HB 1618 - Concerning family and community engagement coordinators

  • Home-school partnership is the cornerstone of special education and securing 504 accommodations. We like this for flagging the importance of working with families
Sponsors: Ortiz-Self, Harris, Santos, Johnson, Bergquist, Kagi
  • Changes the terms "parent involvement coordinator" in the prototypical school funding formula statute and "parent and family engagement coordinator" in the LAP statute to "family and community engagement coordinator." 
  • Specifies the minimum duties for a family and community engagement coordinator. 
  • Provides that funding allocated to school districts for family and community engagement coordinators may be used only for family and community engagement purposes.

SB 5070 - Concerning paraeducators
  • This is a stronger bill than the House version, with requirements, not options. Funding it will be important. This version is supported by PSE/SEIU 1948.

Sponsors: Rivers, Mullet, Braun, Hobbs, Rolfes
  • Adopts statewide minimum employee standards for paraeducators.
  • Establishes a paraeducator advisory board to administer policies and rules for paraeducator preparation and certification.
  • Provides for volunteer school districts to field test new paraeducator programs. 
  •  Requires school districts to begin implementing the paraeducator certification and professional development standards by September 1, 2019.
  •  Requires the professional educator standards board to design and implement a training program for teachers and principals as it relates to their role working with paraeducators.
  •  Requires the development of an advanced paraeducator endorsement, training modules, and renewal process by September 1, 2019.
  •  Adds new standards to the paraeducator associate of arts degree and community and technical college apprenticeship program requirements.
  •  Requires a study on the effectiveness of paraeducators in improving student outcomes
HB 1713 - Implementing recommendations from the children's mental health work group

  • This is not a DD-specific issue, but we do see a lot of co-occurring mental health diagnoses in youth with I/DD. Children with a mental health diagnosis also make up some of the students receiving special education services and 504 accommodations.

Sponsors: Senn, Dent, Kagi, Kilduff

  • Requires the Health Care Authority to coordinate mental health resources for Medicaid-eligible children and require health plans to cover annual depression screenings for children aged 12-18 and mothers of children aged birth to six months.
  • Requires the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to fund two Educational Service Districts to pilot a lead staff person for mental health and substance use disorder services.
  • Requires the University of Washington and Washington State University to each establish one additional 24-month residency position specializing in child and adolescent psychology.
  • Requires behavioral health organizations to reimburse providers for the use of telemedicine to deliver medically necessary services to Medicaid clients
Social emotional learning - No separate bill advanced, but a budget proviso is expected that would continue funding the SEL work group and its next phase of bringing in diverse groups for guidance on best practices. Rep. Senn is the legislative lead on social and emotional learning.

Funding for core staff will be critical, including:
  • Social workers
  • Counselors
  • Psychologists
  • Nurses
  • Family engagement coordinators
This SEL work supports other efforts around mental health, support for students with disabilities, and trauma-informed practices. It also connects dots to Universal Design for Learning and culturally responsive learning experiences.

Related: Last year funding was designated to build instructional modules. That work is now getting underway. These will target different groups (including families) and will be translated.

Bills that did not make it: 

A bill that would ban suspension and expulsion of kindergartners never made it out of Rules. … A bill to set up language access pilots never made it out of Appropriations.

On the federal front:

  • The Senate pulled back from its accountability rule in ESSA; this affects outreach to parents and community, as well as how states demonstrate that they are being accountable for students with disabilities
  • There may be cuts to professional development programs for teachers, and to grants that supported after-school programs
  • There are ongoing concerns about vouchers. Parents sign away their child's rights under IDEA when they accept vouchers for private schools.

K-12 funding:

Special education is part of basic education, and state funding needs to cover services for all students who qualify – not a subset. Here are recommendations to support special education.

RE-ASSESS THE CAP: The state only funds for up to 12.7 percent of FTE students in a district – even if there are more students who qualify. Federal law requires districts to serve all who qualify, but the state cuts off its funding after an arbitrary number that’s not based on math, science or actual incidence rate, and that disregards demographics. We are asking both House and Senate to support the cap workgroup included in the House’s K-12 funding plan, SHB  1843. As part of this, the Safety Net should also be assessed. It was actually cut in the last budget. (It has less than $42 million to award, and last year less than $2 million of that went to districts with caps above 12.7 FTE)

FILL THE GAP: In 2014-15, according to an amicus filed by the state superintendent’s office in the McCleary case, districts spent an additional $266 million in excess of state allocations for special education. Special education is a component of basic education, but there has been no discussion of how the state will absorb this cost, even as the legislature moves to ban use of local funds for basic education. (In all, $1.71 billion was spent on special education services in 2014-15. The Safety Net has less than $42 million to award.)

SUPPORT PARAEDUCATORS: Currently, students receiving special education services, learning assistance, or transitional bilingual instruction spend about 60 percent of their learning time with paraeducators – but the state funding formula doesn’t include enough paraeducator positions, and state doesn’t require training, certification or professional standards for paraeducators. All other care providers for people with I/DD have training requirements, and paraeducators are also responsible for student learning. These staff members are critical to making education accessible to children with developmental delay or disabilities. We need to support them. We are asking House and Senate to support funding for the Senate’s version of the paraeducator bill, as well as funding for 1 paraeducator per grade in a school. (Up from 1 per school.)

Students with I/DD rely on special education services to access general education so they can learn, graduate, get a job and participate as citizens, along with every other child in Washington. For adults with I/DD, living an independent, productive life links back to high expectations growing up and access to a general education diploma.

What’s wrong with the cap?

  • It doesn’t reflect actual cost of basic education, the foundational principle of the McCleary school funding decision.
  • It is not based on national incident rates or known at-risk factors in a community
  • It is not equitable. Some districts have to spread their funding thinly because their qualifying percentage of students exceeds the cap (legally, those districts must still provide services for all who qualify).
  • It doesn’t factor in cost considerations such as districts serving more children exposed to trauma or high poverty, or districts with higher percentages of foster children.
  • It doesn’t even fund at 12.7 percent of full-time enrollment - districts receive funds for up to 12.7 of full-time enrolled students. This means state funding for special education averages less than 12.7 percent.
  • There is no nationally accepted incident rate for students qualifying for special education, but research published in 2016 by the Centers for Disease Control found a 15.4 percent incident in children ages 2 to 8 for mental, behavior and developmental disabilities.
  • Funding drives services: As districts near the cap, we see anecdotal evidence that they delay or deny services to children who rely on them to access a general education.