This Week in the Legislature: Update from Jim Kainber

March 2, 2009 at 1:54 pm Leave a comment

As the fiscal cutoff approached, Stand’s three primary legislative objective bills are still alive, albeit in a different form that was originally expected.

The original basic education reform bills, SB5444/HB1410, met their end this week as the House and Senate committees to which they were referred failed to act upon them. From the ashes of these two fine works of legislation, Stand has been helping to push forward SB 6048, which passed unanimously from the K12 committee, and Ways and Means, and is now in the rules committee awaiting a date to be heard on the floor of the Senate. The companion bill, HB2261 is scheduled to be passed from committee in the House on Monday.

The Senate version is very much intended to be a complete outline for the legislation that will be crafted through an intensive series of meetings and both public and private negotiations with interest groups and legislators. It is expected the House version will go a bit further in its scope, not only outlining the basic structure of the bill, but also including language enabling many of the consensus items, such as the model schools approach to school finance allocation, a rigorous definition of basic education, a robust data collection system and a statewide advisory committee to oversee public school financing.

Stand for Children participated in another broad work group on the Senate bill this week, led by Senator Eric Oemig. Despite a wide chasm between the positions of some of the major opponents to the original basic education bills, there was slight thawing of everyone’s stance on the issue of needing a bill this year that would become a roadmap for reforming the system.

As part of our coalition, Stand for Children has advocated aggressively for additional public pressure and this week helped broker an agreement with a coalition partner, Apple Computers, represented by the Seattle-based public relations firm Strategies 360, to put together a newspaper editorial board committee. This committee, made up of an expert, a local education official, and an active parent or education advocate, would meet with newspaper editorial boards across the state. This is an exciting break in the effort to put additional pressure on legislators and the Governor, to make meaningful changes this session.

In addition to our legislative advocacy, Stand for Children joined with the PTA in celebrating their annual Lobby day which brought hundreds of parents and teachers to the halls of the Legislature wearing stickers which read “It’s Basic!” The presence of reform-minded parents could not have come at a better time and sets the tone for moving into the next steps as these new bills move into committee for additional work.

Senator Oemig’s bill on a statewide education data system, SB5941 is scheduled for executive session Friday and has a majority of the committee in which it is being heard as co-sponsors. While not assured, movement from this committee seems very likely.

HB 2000, another of Stand for Children’s priority items, has yet to have a hearing in the Ways and Means Committee. One week remains for HB 2000 to be heard so we are hopeful it will be brought to a vote and sent to the full House.

As the public pressure pushing education reforms continues to escalate, the power of our collective voices as a coalition is growing stronger every day. Every time our members and supporters reach out to elected officials we make another small step toward our goals. Keep up the good work and keep the communications heading to our leaders in Olympia.

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Entry filed under: News Updates.

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