• Spatial Autonomy Can Promote Children’s Sense of Self

    by Marty Fortin | Apr 10, 2019
    More reasons children should spend more time outdoors.
    The exercise of spatial autonomy can promote children’s sense of self with places in their environment
    This research used child-led tours to investigate how young children’s spatial autonomy is enacted in two contrasting environments: their home and a forest setting. Spatial autonomy, by inviting children to form a relationship with their environment, can promote agency, a sense of self, self-confidence, and a healthy relationship with their environment.   
    Green, 2018. Young children's spatial autonomy in their home environment and a forest setting. 
  • Retirement & Health Benefits for April 5, 2019

    by David Morrill | Apr 05, 2019
    nexus-group-retirement_042415

    Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt. – Mark Twain

    “No! No! No!” was the constant refrain heard as the committees and floor debated numerous amendments to the budget proposals. Requests for spending totaled more than the amount either house was willing to spend or to make a priority.

    Concurrently, policy committees continued to hear and then move bills. All of which have been reported previously in greater detail.

    Retirement Related Proposals

    SB 5360/ESHB 1308 changes the present retirement plan default for new hires from Plan 3 to Plan 2. SB 5360 passed the Senate, 39–9. ESHB 1308 passed the House 74–22. Both are in their respective Rules’ Committees awaiting further action. The only difference between the two bills is the date applicable to new employees. ESHB 1308 applies to any one hired after 7/1/2019; SB 5360 after 7/1/2020.

    Substitute Options for early Retirees

    E2SHB 1139 expands the current and future educator workforce supply has now been scheduled for a public hearing before the Senate Ways and Means Committee on April 5th. This large bill has a section that would allow early certified and classified retirees to return to work for a limited time. WASA testified and asked that the exclusion of administrative positions be removed.

    SB 5400/ HB 1390 requires beneficiaries who are receiving a monthly benefit from the PERS or TRS plans 1 to receive a one-time 3% cost of living adjustment. HB 1390 had a public hearing in February and was unanimously voted out of the House Appropriations’ Committee and sent to Rules. This bill is considered a ‘trailer bill’. If the money is appropriated in the budget, this bill would then need to be passed. Hopefully, it will be moved to the floor calendar.

    Note: The original House budget did not include a COLA. However, through extensive lobbying, a floor amendment sponsored by Rep. Drew MacEwen (R) was adopted on a 94–0 vote. Representatives Leavitt and Kloba were the advocates and leaders within the Democratic caucus.

    The Senate budget did not include a COLA, nor the increase in Medicare health insurance benefit. The House proposed an increase from $168 to $183. An amendment to grant a COLA sponsored by Sen. Holy was defeated in the Senate. Senator Steve Conway, chair of the Select Committee on Pension Policy, spoke in opposition even though the SCPP recommended this COLA.

    SB 5350/HB 1413 authorize an individual at the time of retirement, to purchase an optional actuarially equivalent life annuity benefit. SB 5350 passed the Senate 48–0. HB 1413 passed the House 90–7. Both are in their respective Rules’ Committees awaiting movement to the floor calendar.

    School Employee Benefit Board (SEEB)Health Related Proposals

    HB 2096 asks for a 2-year delay in SEBB implementation for ESD’s. This proposal never moved out of committee. However, an amendment to the budget was adopted by the Senate Ways and Means Committee. This change now has to be approved in the House budget.

    Regarding SEBB: As stated last week, this whole SEBB cost projection and process is all built on assumptions. There are few, if any, facts available. Until the plan is up and running on January 1, 2020, the real effects and costs will not be known. So, to repeat what a cynic might say, “It appears that one set of figures is as good as any other”. That is certainly the case here.

    The Health Care Authority (HCA) projected SEBB costs at $750 million; the House Budgeted (ESHB 1109) $650.7 million. HCA projected a funding rate of $1,114 for FY 20 and $1,127 for FY 21. The House projected $1,079 in FY 2020 and $1,106 for FY 21. The House also proposed a reduced rate for July 1-December 31, 2019 of $971. Along comes the Senate (SB 5153). The Senate proposed a rate of $994 for 2020 and $1,056 for 2021. Excluding the addition of budgeted maintenance level dollars, the House budgets $443 million; the Senate $319 million. So, the figures are all over the place.

    At this point, it just becomes like the theater of the absurd. All these figures are just thrown about as though they have some solid factual base behind them when point of fact, there is no real base. The only known is that districts will be on the fiscal hook for covering all the costs of offering this benefit. As was stated earlier, the state can use the supplemental budget process during the next shorter session to correct any errors made in the legislature’s assumptions. These are appropriation/dollar errors made by the state, but districts still have to pay whatever costs emerge.

    Thursday, April 4th, the Senate debated the budget. Two amendments proposed rejecting the SEBB collective bargaining agreement and directing the dollars elsewhere. Both failed, but if you are interested:

    Other Bills That May Have Fiscal/Hr Impacts For Districts:

    ESHB 1813 incorporates the costs of employee health benefits into school district contracts for pupil transportation.

    This bill passed the House 56–39. An amended version was moved out of Senate Early Learning and K–12 Education Committee. It will have a public hearing before the Senate Ways and Means Committee on April 5th. WASA is opposed to this bill for the additional unfunded costs that will fall on districts.

    2SSHB 1087 concerns long-term services and supports. It is scheduled for a public hearing before the Senate Ways and Means Committee, April 5th. This bill is a major AARP want.

    SHB 1399 makes technical corrections requested by the Employment Security Department in the Family and Medical Leave Act passed last session. This bill passed the House 71–23 and the Senate 40–06 and has been sent to the Governor for action.

    Caveats: At this point in the process, previous bills thought ‘dead’ may bob to the surface regardless of where they were earlier in the session. The discussion of revenue and any resulting actions has just begun. Both proposed budgets include varying amounts of assumed revenues from changes in the present systems. Clearly, some revenue bills need to be passed. No easy feat. And if they are not passed, then both budgets need to make further cuts in their proposals. Even while holding the majority, it is clear that the Democratic caucus is split. One example is HB 2158, which would change some B & O taxes and impose taxes on some services among other things. Needless to say, there was a great deal of testimony opposed and in favor of making these changes. The net effect? The Senate Finance Committee, even with a Democrat majority, has scheduled executive action on this bill twice and postponed action. The third try will on the 5th.

    Keeping to the river metaphor, each proposal to raise dollars dams the river and slows the flow. Breaching these dams will not be easy.

    Fred Yancey
    The Nexus Group


    P.S. Purely as an aside, two Republican budget amendments out of the 40+ were proposed that give a glimpse of how game playing occurs among these legislative adults. The Republican goal here was to either embarrass the Democrats or at least have them awkwardly defend something.

    One amendment transferred $1.7 million dollars budgeted to the Department of Corrections to provide hot breakfasts for inmates. The R’s proposed transferring those dollars to the Meals on Wheels Program instead pitting seniors in need against convicts. “DOC couldn’t find existing money to provide hot breakfasts? Even hot oatmeal?” Statements like “That sure must be expensive oatmeal.” and “Our seniors could benefit from this expansion.” were heard. This was debated and then defeated on party lines.

    The other amendment took $3.5 million dollars from the Governor’s biennial budget for security costs related to his executive protection unit and transferred those dollars to increase breast, cervical and colon cancer screening. The R’s wanted the Governor’s Presidential Campaign Committee to reimburse the state for any campaign related travel and resulting security coverage pitting a run for President against increasing cancer screens. (Senator Ericksen cattily pointed out that Inslee’s campaign may not even have enough money to reimburse the state.) After an awkward debate, this was also was defeated with a party line vote.

    Such is Olympia.

  • AWSP News for April 3, 2019

    by Xenia Doualle | Apr 03, 2019


    Welcome to another episode of AWSP News, where we discuss:

    • this year’s National Assistant Principals Week,
    • how Vicki Puckett and the Mercer Island School District empower and use student voice,
    • how the Association of Washington Student Leaders can help you harness student voice, and
    • a great example from Bob Walters on how to use our pay gap video with your district administration.

    Prefer to read the news? Check out the script.

  • Retirement & Health Benefits for March 29, 2019

    by David Morrill | Mar 29, 2019

    retire_040315

    “Life is like the river, sometimes it sweeps you gently along and sometimes the rapids come out of nowhere.” ― Emma Smith
    The big news this week was the release of the House budget. Released at noon, Tuesday, public hearing on same day at 3:30, passed out of committee the next day and to be voted out of the chamber Friday. Wham! Bam! Done deal.

    That same Friday, (March 29th), the Senate will release its budget. The public hearing will be Monday, April Fools’ Day, so at least there is some time to review prior to that time.

    Meanwhile, committees were holding hearings and moving some bills out through Executive Session. Following is a brief summary of bills that have had some action. If there was mention in the House budget, comments are noted in italics.

    Retirement Related Proposals

    SB 5360/ESHB 1308 | Revises provisions in the public employees’ retirement system, the teachers’ retirement system, and the school employees’ retirement system with regard to plan membership default. It would change the present retirement plan default for new hires from Plan 3 to Plan 2. SB 5360 passed the Senate, 39–9 and had a public hearing March 20th. ESHB 1308 passed the House 74–22 and had a public hearing on March 18th and is scheduled for Executive Session on April 1st.

    Substitute Options for early Retirees

    E2SHB 1139 | Educators that are members of Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) Plans 2 or 3 that retired under the 2008 Early Retirement Factors are permitted to return to work before age 65 in any non-administrative position, not just in substitute teaching and instructional positions, and work for up to 867 hours per year without suspension of pension benefits. The ending date on the current provisions of August 1, 2020, as well as the separate section expiring the section of law, are removed, making the section effective indefinitely. A provision similar to the TRS provision is created for School Employees’ Retirement System, which is for classified school employees. It passed the House 93–2, had a public hearing on March 18th and has yet to be scheduled for executive action. WASA testified in support with the request that the exclusion of administrators be removed.

    Sidenote: Now might be the time to mention the games that legislators often play. Allegedly, this House bill, awaiting Senate committee action, is being held hostage because the House is reluctant to move some of the Senate’s favored bills, like the ones dealing with Sex Ed and Bullying. So, it’s like a game where one side is waiting for other side to blink. Meanwhile the bills are stalled and the time is ticking away. Stay tuned for the outcome.

    Moving on…

    SB 5400/ HB 1390 | Requires beneficiaries who are receiving a monthly benefit from the public employees’ retirement system plan 1 or the teachers’ retirement system plan 1 on July 1, 2018, to receive, effective July 1, 2019, an increase to their monthly benefit of three percent multiplied by the beneficiaries’ monthly benefit, not to exceed sixty-two dollars and fifty cents. HB 1390 had a public hearing in February. These bills are NTIB.

    The House budget did not include any COLA for Plans 1 members, although it did raise the Medicare health benefit from $168 to $183 which was the amount previously paid prior to 2011.

    This proposal is being lobbied extensively by WSSRA, WEA-Retired and RPEC and includes advocacy on multiple fronts. Most notably, Representatives Mari Leavitt and Shelley Kloba circulated a letter to all House members following the release of the budget. This letter argues for a COLA for these retirees. Thirty-five house members signed on in support. The question becomes, “Will they (particularly the Democrats) still vote “Aye” on the budget if a COLA is not granted?” Certainly this is an issue that the R’s will debate through a proposed amendment as an opportunity to embarrass the D’s. (Note earlier remarks about game playing.)

    SB 5350/HB 1413 | Authorizes the following, at the time of retirement, to purchase an optional actuarially equivalent life annuity benefit. SB 5350 passed the Senate 48–0 and has been scheduled for Executive Session on April 3rd before the House Appropriations Committee. HB 1413 passed the House 90–7, had a public hearing before the Senate Ways and Means Committee, was voted out and moved to Rules where it sits until moved to the floor calendar.

    School Employee Benefit Board (SEEB)Health Related Proposals

    HB 2096 | Concerning educational service district health benefits is a bill that asks for a 2-year delay in SEBB implementation for ESD’s. Although scheduled for Executive Session on Feb. 28th, no action has yet been taken. This bill is entwined with whole SEBB issue. It can be seen as NTIB.

    The House budget funded SEBB. The Health Care Authority (HCA) projected SEBB costs at $750 million; the House Budgeted $650.7 million. HCA projected a funding rate of $1,114 for FY 20 and $1,127 for FY 21. The House projected $1,079 in FY 2020 and $1,106 for FY 21. Why the difference?

    Simply put, this whole SEBB cost projection and process is all built on assumptions. There are few, if any, facts available and until the plan is up and running on January 1, 2020, the real effects and costs will not be known. So, a cynic might say, “One set of figures is as good as any other”. That is certainly the case here.

    However, there was some thought to the House’s proposal. As mentioned in earlier reports,

    • the House lowered the assumed medical inflation rate to 5%. The HCA’s rate allegedly ran from 6.5%–9%.
    • Also, prior to January 1, 2020, districts will be paying benefits based on their existing labor contract(s) “They could conceivably gain some extra dollars during this period,” said one staff member since the state will be paying SEBB rates and it’s assumed district benefit costs are less than they will when SEBB requirements begin.
    • Delaying the payback of the loan to the HCA to set up SEBB and changing the speed in which to build up a cash reserve were some other machinations done to lower the figure. The Senate is likely to fund SEBB similarly.
    • Ultimately, as the staffer said, “The supplemental budget process during the next shorter session can be used to correct any errors in assumptions.”

    Districts are left swimming with the unknowns.

    The ‘good news’ is that Medicare remittance will decrease.

    Other Bills That May Have Fiscal/Hr Impacts For Districts:

    ESHB 1813 | Incorporating the costs of employee health benefits and pension contributions into school district contracts for pupil transportation.

    This bill passed the House 56–39 and a public hearing was held on March 25th. Two districts and WASA testified in opposition because of the added costs that are likely to fall on districts as vendors pass their costs along to the users. It was pointed out as well that not only will districts be paying the employer and employee costs there was nothing in the proposal that compelled the owner/contractor to provide those benefits to his/her employees. The bill has not moved since.

    2SSHB 1087 | Concerns long-term services and supports. Creates a long-term care insurance benefit paid through an employee payroll premium, (0.058%). It passed the House 63/33 and was scheduled executive action before the Senate Health and Long-term Care Committee on March 20th, and no action was taken. It has been rescheduled for March 29th. This bill is a major AARP want.

    SHB 1399 makes technical corrections requested by the Employment Security Department in the Family and Medical Leave Act passed last session. This bill passed the House 71–23 and the Senate 40–6 and has been sent to the Governor for action.

    The budget had a number of amendments that passed. One amendment set the implicit price deflator (IPD) as the future measure when looking at inflationary increases. The traditional consumer price index (CPI) generates a higher rate of inflation using a different set of assumptions. The IPD generates a lower rate which stretches dollars wider helping those that create budgets and allocate dollars. It potentially hurts those who are impacted by inflationary increases not measured by the IPD.

    The currents continue keeps everyone moving. The struggle remains to stay above water.

    Fred Yancey
    The Nexus Group

  • April is the Month of the Military Child

    by David Morrill | Mar 28, 2019

    photo of military mom and daugther

    Did you know that the average child in a military family will move six to nine times during a school career? That's an average of three times more frequently than non-military families. The Department of Defense sponsors the Month of the Military Child to honor military children and their families who make daily sacrifices for our country.

    Supporting military children takes a school-wide effort, and professional development programs can help to inform school staff of the academic challenges that these children face. Throughout the month, we encourage schools to plan special events that applaud the resilience of military children. Also, consider incorporating the themes of this month into everyday school duties and activities. These types of efforts will highlight the importance of providing children with quality services to support them in navigating the celebrations and challenges of the military lifestyle.

    The state of Washington serves over 136,000 military families in Tacoma, Everett, Spokane, Yakima, Pierce, Silverdale, and Whidbey Island.

    Be sure that you “Purple Up” this April to celebrate the Month of the Military Child. And while you're at it, check out OSPI's website for a page full of great resources and information to support military-connected children.

    photo of Teleah Bell-Davis  

    Teleah Bell-Davis is the Assistant Principal at Sheridan Elementary in the Tacoma Public Schools. She is a military spouse, dedicated mother, and lifelong learner who values family, education, and service!
  • School Gardens for All

    by Marty Fortin | Mar 24, 2019

    Outside is in header image

    How do you create a great school garden and not just let something wither on the vine? Check out the study below and find some tips to make the school garden a success.

    School personnel and students make suggestions for improved implementation of school gardens

    This study was based on the premise that experiencing the benefits of school gardens depends on successful implementation. School personnel and students, while positive about school gardens, identified barriers to success and offered recommendations for improved implementation, including involving external organizations and parents in the development and maintenance of the gardens. | Huys et al. 2017. School gardens: A qualitative study on implementation practices.

    Read the Study

  • 21 Amazing and Inspiring Makeover Ideas for School Bathrooms

    by David Morrill | Mar 23, 2019
    painted bathroom

    Interested in adding some pop and pizzaz to your school's bathrooms, or even using them as a way to strengthen your culture? The School Leaders Now website has some great examples. 
    School bathrooms tend to have a bad rep. Historically, they’ve been known for being unkept or where mischief and bullying happen. However, many schools are taking their restrooms back and turning them into havens of inspiration, motivation, and peace.
  • Retirement & Health Benefit Report for March 22, 2019

    by David Morrill | Mar 22, 2019

    retirement-health_072315

    Time is but the stream
    I go a-fishing in. ~ Henry David Thoreau

    This week has been filled with committee hearings on various bills as both houses rush to hear, then vote bills out of committee, in order to beat the next policy and fiscal deadlines.

    The state revenue council issued the latest revenue projections and wow, the unanticipated and now new revenue shows an additional $861 million for the 2019–221 budget. Of course, remember at the start of the session, it was reported that the state was looking at over $1 billion-dollar shortfall after case load projections and funding court mandates. The Republican side and the Washington Policy Center argue that there is enough revenue now to fund all that is needed. The Democrats disagree. The focus is now on the House. They have created a package of revenue enhancements to fund all they wish and will release the budget Monday, March 25th with their suggested revenue proposals.

    Following is a brief summary of bills that have had some action. A reminder that there are yet unknown bills that will be or determined to be necessary to implement the budget (NTIB). When two bills on the same topic are still alive, italics are used to indicate the likely vehicle that will advance.

    A reminder: Again, this weekend many legislators have scheduled town halls to hear from their constituents. Some town halls were last weekend, but some scheduled them for this upcoming weekend. This remains an excellent opportunity to ask questions and air any concerns without having to come to Olympia.

    Retirement Related Proposals

    SB 5360/ESHB 1308 | Revises provisions in the public employees’ retirement system, the teachers’ retirement system, and the school employees’ retirement system with regard to plan membership default. It would change the present retirement plan default for new hires from Plan 3 to Plan 2. SB 5360 passed the Senate, 39/9 and had a public hearing March 20th. ESHB 1308 passed the House 74/22 and had a public hearing on March 18th and had action taken in Executive Session on March 21st.

    Substitute Options for early Retirees

    E2SHB 1139 | Educators that are members of Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) Plans 2 or 3 that retired under the 2008 Early Retirement Factors are permitted to return to work before age 65 in any non-administrative position, not just in substitute teaching and instructional positions, and work for up to 867 hours per year without suspension of pension benefits. The ending date on the current provisions of August 1, 2020, as well as the separate section expiring the section of law, are removed, making the section effective indefinitely. A provision similar to the TRS provision is created for School Employees’ Retirement System, which is for classified school employees. It passed the House 93–2, had a public hearing on March 18th and has yet to be scheduled for executive action. WASA testified in support with the request that the exclusion of administrators be removed.

    SB 5400/HB 1390 | Requires beneficiaries who are receiving a monthly benefit from the public employees’ retirement system plan 1 or the teachers’ retirement system plan 1 on July 1, 2018, to receive, effective July 1, 2019, an increase to their monthly benefit of three percent multiplied by the beneficiaries’ monthly benefit, not to exceed sixty-two dollars and fifty cents. HB 1390 had a public hearing in February. Although there has been no further action, this bill is NTIB and is being actively worked by the Washington State School Retirees’ Association. Legislators are being lobbied hard to include a COLA in either budget to reflect the fact that Plan 1 members have not had any substantive cost of living increase since the COLA was removed in 2011. They did receive a one-time 1.5% increase last year but that has been it.

    SB 5350/HB 1413 | Authorizes the following, at the time of retirement, to purchase an optional actuarially equivalent life annuity benefit from: (1) The public employees’ retirement system plan 1 fund; (2) The public employees’ retirement system combined plan 2 and plan 3 fund; (3) The public safety employees’ retirement system plan 2 fund; or (4) The school employees’ retirement system combined plan 2 and 3 fund, as appropriate. SB 5350 passed the Senate 48/0 and has been scheduled for a public hearing on March 20th before the House Appropriations Committee. HB 1413 passed the House 90–7, had a public hearing before the Senate Ways and Means Committee, was voted out and moved to Rules where it sits until moved to the floor calendar.

    School Employee Benefit Board (SEEB)Health Related Proposals

    HB 2096 | Concerning educational service district health benefits is a bill that asks for a 2-year delay in SEBB implementation for ESD’s. Although scheduled for Executive Session on February 28th, no action was taken. This bill is entwined with whole SEBB issue. It can be seen as NTIB and could be dealt with once the Legislature decides how to deal with the SEBB issue. In talks with various legislators, it seems that they are confronting the state cost of SEBB and will fund it (at what level is yet to be seen). As one leading legislator said, “It’s the right thing to do for individuals and families.”

    As an aside, and snarky remark coming, so much of what has been proposed this session in the social service area has been seen as ‘the right thing to do’ pitting groups against each other to compete with limited, if any, funds. Once again, the Legislature will likely end up ‘spreading peanut butter’ among all the competing interests. In short, giving everyone a slimmer slice of dollars, a smaller fish, than what they wanted or needed.

    Other Bills That May Have Fiscal/Hr Impacts For Districts:

    ESHB 1813 | Incorporating the costs of employee health benefits and pension contributions into school district contracts for pupil transportation. More detail was provided in last week’s report.

    This bill passed the House 56–39 and has been referred to the Senate Early Learning and K–12 Education Committee. A public hearing is scheduled for March 25th. WASA is opposed to this bill because of the added costs that are likely to fall on districts as vendors pass their costs along to the users.

    2SSHB 1087 | Concerns long-term services and supports. States that the creation of a long-term care insurance benefit of an established dollar amount per day for eligible employees, paid through an employee payroll premium, (0.058%) is in the best interest of the state.” This would create an optional employee paid premium that would help cover long term care coverage for an employee. 2SSHB 1087 passed the House 63–33 and was scheduled executive action before the Senate Health and Long-term Care Committee on March 20th, yet, no action was taken.

    SHB 1399 makes technical corrections requested by the Employment Security Department in the Family and Medical Leave Act passed last session. This bill passed the House 71–23. It passed out of the Senate Committee on Labor and Commerce and is in Rules, awaiting a move to the floor calendar.

    Fred Yancey
    The Nexus Group

  • AWSP News for March 20, 2019

    by David Morrill | Mar 20, 2019


    In this episode of AWSP News, we discuss:

    • March Madness in our “Walk a Mile in My Shoes” campaign,
    • our AWSP News special report on principal contracts and the pay gap,
    • a new TPEP report from UW,
    • The Main Idea education book review service you’ll soon have access to,
    • our Equity Conference with WASA and WSSDA,
    • OSPI’s MTSS Fest in Spokane,
    • an updated survey for elementary science instruction, and
    • the support of partners SPU and Horace Mann.

    Prefer to read the news? Check out the script.

  • Retirement & Health Benefit Report for March 15, 2019

    by David Morrill | Mar 15, 2019

    If it weren’t for the rocks in its bed,
    The stream would have no song. - Carl Perkins

    The legislative flow has now shifted to upcoming hearings where bills that have passed either house are scheduled for public hearings. The next deadline of note is the planned release on March 20th of the latest revenue forecast and projection. Budgets developed by both houses will follow.

    Following is a brief summary of bills that are still alive, putting aside those yet unknown bills that will be or have been determined to be necessary to implement the budget. (NTIB). When two bills on the same topic are still alive, italics are used to indicate the likely vehicle that will advance.

    As a reminder, this weekend many legislators have scheduled town halls to hear from their constituents. This is an excellent opportunity to ask questions and air any concerns without having to come to Olympia.

    Retirement Related Proposals

    SB 5360/ESHB 1308 revises provisions in the public employees’ retirement system, the teachers’ retirement system, and the school employees’ retirement system with regard to plan membership default. It would change the present retirement plan default for new hires from Plan 3 to Plan 2. SB 5360 passed the Senate, 39–9 and has been scheduled for a public hearing March 20th. ESHB 1308 passed the House 74–22 and has been referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

    Substitute Options for early Retirees

    E2SHB 1139 | Educators that are members of Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) Plans 2 or 3 that retired under the 2008 Early Retirement Factors are permitted to return to work before age 65 in any non-administrative position, not just in substitute teaching and instructional positions, and work for up to 867 hours per year without suspension of pension benefits. The ending date on the current provisions of August 1, 2020, as well as the separate section expiring the section of law, are removed, making the section effective indefinitely. A provision similar to the TRS provision is created for School Employees’ Retirement System, which is for classified school employees. It passed the House 93/2 and is scheduled for a public hearing on March 18th.

    SB 5350/HB 1413 authorizes the following, at the time of retirement, to purchase an optional actuarially equivalent life annuity benefit from: 1. The public employees’ retirement system plan 1 fund;
    2. The public employees’ retirement system combined plan 2 and plan 3 fund; 3. The public safety employees’ retirement system plan 2 fund; or
    4. The school employees’ retirement system combined plan 2 and 3 fund, as appropriate.

    SB 5350 passed the Senate 48–0 and has been scheduled for a public hearing on March 20th before the House Appropriations Committee. HB 1413 passed the House 90/7 and had a public hearing before the Senate Ways and Means Committee on March 9th and is scheduled for Executive Session on March 18th.

    School Employee Benefit Board (SEEB)Health Related Proposals

    HB 2096 | Concerning educational service district health benefits, is a bill that asks for a 2-year delay in SEBB implementation for ESD’s. Although scheduled for Executive Session on February 28th , no action was taken. This bill is entwined with whole SEBB issue. It can be seen as NTIB and could be dealt with once the Legislature decides how to deal with the SEBB issue…the high cost being the most pressing challenge for both budgets to solve.

    During the last SEBB meeting, it was mentioned that in order to lower the cost to the General Fund, the state Legislature could do a number of things. The Health Care Authority outlined some of the choices the Legislature could do in order to decrease the state’s obligation.

    During the March 7th SEB Board Meeting, it was mentioned that the Legislature could modify assumptions related to the loan repayment and premium stabilization reserve levels. Changes to any of the below items could also impact the funding rate:

    • adjusting the HCA administrative budget,
    • changing enrollment assumptions,
    • restructuring the program and changing eligibility (not likely unless the collective bargaining agreement is rejected and new legislation is adopted),
    • rejecting the CBA and changing assumptions related to employer and employee premium shares,
    • lowering benefit levels while maintaining the 88% AV (such as eliminating acupuncture or chiropractic coverage), and
    • lowering assumed trend (inflation and usage) rates for UMP plans.

    Here’s what WEA posted on their website for their message to members about the SEBB.

    Other Bills That May Have Fiscal/Hr Impacts For Districts

    ESHB 1813 | Incorporating the costs of employee health benefits and pension contributions into school district contracts for pupil transportation. As stated in the bill narrative: “Between the effective date of the bill and December 31, 2019, any pupil transportation services contract must include sufficient funds for the contract employer to provide employees of the contractor with an employer health benefits contribution equal to the allocation rate for school employees, less the retiree remittance, plus an amount equivalent to the total employer normal cost contribution rate to the School Employees’ Retirement System.

    Beginning January 1, 2020, any pupil transportation services contract must include sufficient funds for the contract employer to provide employees of the contractor with an employer health benefits contribution equal to the rate established for the School Employees Benefits Board, less the retiree remittance, plus an amount equivalent to the total employer and employee contribution rate to the School Employees’ Retirement System.”

    This bill passed the House 56–39 and has been referred to the Senate Education Committee.

    SUGGESTED ACTION: This bill will add costs to a district who contracts for transportation services with a private provider. If concerned, one should contact members of the Senate Early Learning and K–12 Education committee and express your concerns. Previous testimony by WASA expressed concerns about the potential increased costs to school districts. Furthermore, if successful, districts who privately contract food services, for example, may well find themselves having to meet the same requirements.

    2SSHB 1087 concerns long-term services and supports. The bills digest reads in part: “Addresses alternative funding for long-term care access. States that the creation of a long-term care insurance benefit of an established dollar amount per day for eligible employees, paid through an employee payroll premium, is in the best interest of the state.” This would create an optional employee paid premium that would help cover long term care coverage for an employee. 2SSHB 1087 passed the House 63–33 and has been scheduled for a public hearing before the Senate Health and Long-term Care Committee on March 15th.

    SHB 1399 makes technical corrections requested by the Employment Security Department in the Family and Medical Leave Act passed last session. This bill passed the House 71–23 and has been scheduled for a public hearing on March 14th before the Senate Committee on Labor and Commerce.

    Meanwhile, these rocks create their own song.

    Fred Yancey
    The Nexus Group

  • Parks, Even City Parks, Can Promote Activity and Decrease Risky Behaviors

    by Marty Fortin | Mar 12, 2019
    image of a city park

    City parks have opportunities for life satisfaction. While traveling to a remote outdoor setting is great, you can also look near your school.
    At-risk adolescents who participated in an Urban Forest Health Intervention Program showed an increase in life satisfaction and physical activity levels and a decrease in such risky behaviors as smoking. A control group of peers showed no such changes. (A study from Israel) | Tesler, Plaut & Endvelt (2018). The effects of an Urban Forest Health Intervention Program on physical activity, substance abuse, psychosomatic symptoms, and life satisfaction among adolescents.
  • Retirement & Health Benefit Report for March 8, 2019

    by David Morrill | Mar 08, 2019
    RHB header image

    “We try to steer the boat, we don’t alter the river.” ― J. Earp

    Both houses have been on their respective floors debating and voting on various bills and amendments or in caucus/recess privately debating what bills to bring forth. Lobbyists hover outside each chamber’s doors waiting for requested legislators to come out. A lobbyist’s hope is to either encourage vote on a bill, to influence its content via suggested amendments, or to urge defeat.

    The bulk of bills affecting pensions, health benefits, and other job-related benefits are all ‘necessary to implement the budget’, (NTIB) so action on any of the proposals is not likely to occur until a budget is released. March 23rd is the rumored date for release of the House budget.

    Just FYI, the House has had 1,314 bills introduced; passed 202 and passed 3 Senate bills. The Senate has had 1,153 bills introduced; passed 183 and passed 6 House bills.

    The next cut-off is March 13 where all bills except those determined to be NTIB have to be out of their house of origin.

    This is just a summary of bills that have either seen some movement since last week’s report or new information has come to light.

    Retirement Related Proposals

    SB 5360 revises provisions in the public employees’ retirement system, the teachers’ retirement system, and the school employees’ retirement system with regard to plan membership default. It would change the present retirement plan default for new hires from Plan 3 to Plan 2. SB 5360 is on the Senate floor calendar awaiting action. Rumor has it that it will be brought forward for a vote.

    Substitute Options for early Retirees

    SHB 1139 | This is a large, comprehensive bill that Rep. Santos has tried for three sessions to get passed. As indicated in earlier reports, a section would allow early retirees to return to work certain positions. This bill remains in Rules. Discussions with legislators indicate that she has been asked to ‘downsize’ her bill. Otherwise, it is not likely to move any further.

    SB 5350/HB 1413 authorizes the following, at the time of retirement, to purchase an optional actuarially equivalent life annuity benefit. HB 1413 passed the House 90–7. SB 5350 is on the Senate consent calendar.

    School Employee Benefit Board (SEEB)Health Related Proposals

    HB 2096 delays participation of non-represented Educational Service District (ESD) employees in the School Employees’ Benefits Board (SEBB) until January 1, 2024. Requires the Health Care Authority (HCA) to study ESD health benefits and the impact of ESD participation in SEBB. Legislators have indicated that until they decide what to do about SEBB, that this issue will be put on the back burner.

    SEBB Costs: Late last Friday, the HCA released the new SEBB fixed funding rate.

    1. Prior financial modeling in 2018 produced a SEBB Funding rate for FY20 of $1,174 per month. The Governor’s proposed budget included a SEBB funding rate of $1,170 for FY20 and $1,195 for FY21. Under the refreshed model delivered this week, the new SEBB Funding rate recommendation for FY20 is $1,114 and for FY21 $1,127.
    2. Prior financial modeling produced an estimate of $860-$900M in additional new state benefits funding (to combine with $2 billion in current state benefits funding of benefits) for the SEBB program for the 19–21 biennium. The updated estimate is now $750M for the 19–21 biennium.

    This is clearly a NTIB issue and won’t be decided until budget proposals are released. For more on the SEBB, read this blog post. Take particular of the narrative on TAB 10 of the January meeting and then the report on the meeting on March 7th. Briefly stated, employees who work a minimum of 180 hours/year have the right to organize and bargain for the same insurance benefits as those that work or are anticipated to work 630 hours. PSE indicated they are preparing for negotiations already.

    Other Bills That May Have Fiscal/Hr Impacts For Districts:

    HB 1813 | Incorporating the costs of employee health benefits into school district contracts for pupil transportation. This bill has been placed on second reading in the House.

    SSHB 1087 concerns long-term services and supports. The bills digest reads in part: “Addresses alternative funding for long-term care access. States that the creation of a long-term care insurance benefit of an established dollar amount per day for eligible employees, paid through an employee payroll premium, is in the best interest of the state.” This would create an optional employee paid premium that would help cover long term care coverage for an employee. It certainly will create additional work/monitoring for a school business office. SSHB 1087 passed the House 63–33 and has been sent to the Senate.

    SSB 5449/SHB 1399 makes technical corrections requested by the Employment Security Department in the Family and Medical Leave Act passed last session. SB 5449 has been advanced to second reading in the Senate. SHB 1399 passed the House, 71–23 and has been sent to the Senate.

    Meanwhile, the currents continue to carry everyone along as the parties attempt to navigate the stream.

    Fred Yancey
    The Nexus Group

  • March 7 School Employee Benefits Board (SEBB) Meeting

    by David Morrill | Mar 08, 2019

    Health Care Authority's SEBB logo

    The SEB Board held an all-day meeting (its 15th) covering a wide range of issues. The important sections are referenced below in terms of the TAB number in which the content was presented. They posted the agenda and presentation materials on their website.

    Under the enabling legislation and now in RCW 41.05.011(22), school districts, ESD’s and charter schools are now referred to as a “school employees benefit board organization.” Numerous references are made using that term.

    A reminder that rule making is scheduled to be completed by October 1, which coincides with when on-line enrollment is scheduled to begin for the January 1, 2020 start of this model.

    TAB 5 is a detailed presentation on the newly established ‘not to exceed’ funding rate for medical, dental, and vision insurance. The actual insurance premium rates have not yet been formally set, so their figures are the maximum projected costs. The Governor’s projected rate of $1,174 has now been reduced to $1,114. So, the projected cost to the state’s general fund went from $860 million in the Governor’s budget to $750 million. So, the good news is that projected general fund costs have decreased by $140+ million; the bad news is that legislators need to find $750 million in the budget to fund SEBB. (Not to mention, the approximate $250+ million projected costs to districts to cover the unfunded staff.)

    As pointed out by HCA staff, if the SEBB funding rate is set lower than the $1,114, that doesn’t mean SEBB is underfunded. The Legislature can change some assumptions such as granting a longer time to repay the loans made to the HCA to fund the SEBB implementation, or spread out the length of time to build reserves. It is quite possible that the Legislature in order to lower the general fund costs may well try some ‘creative’ accounting maneuvers like these. Time will tell.

    The new figure shows a doubling of the administrative cost from $16 to $32 because the HCA will need an additional loan to carry their costs to administer and pay claims until they have developed a cash reserve. The employer medical contribution (EMC) and the K–12 remittance did decrease. (From $616 to $578 medical; and $77 to $67 for remittance.)

    January, 2020 thru June will show actuals and the HCA will look at the funding rate for 2021 to see if the premiums need to change based on real usage and claims history.

    A chart on page 4 under Tab 5 shows employer/employee projected costs for Uniform Medical Plan (UMP). A reminder that the SEBB UMP Achieve 2 plan is the base upon which the EMC is set. One could choose a plan that is richer in benefit coverages or less rich. One’s choice will determine the out of pocket cost. The employer EMC amount does not change.

    TAB 6 has a number of policy resolutions. As background, RCW 41.05.740(6)(e) states that the school employees’ benefits board shall establish terms and conditions for a school employees’ benefits board organization to have the ability to locally negotiate eligibility criteria for a school employee who is anticipated to work less than six hundred thirty hours in a school year.

    Three resolutions of import are:

    (A) Resolved that, a SEBB organization engaging in local negotiations regarding eligibility for school employees under RCW 41.05.740(6)(e) must offer all of, and only, the following SEBB benefits to school employees and their dependents:

    • Medical (includes the wellness incentive program);
    • Dental;
    • Vision;
    • Basic Life; and
    • Basic AD&D.

    (B) Resolved that, a SEBB organization engaging in local negotiations regarding eligibility for school employees under RCW 41.05.740(6)(e) shall negotiate within the range of anticipated to work hours described below:

    • No less than 180 hours per school year; and 
    • no more than the threshold to meet the SEB Board’s eligibility established pursuant to RCW 41.05.740(6)(d).

    (C) Resolved that, a SEBB Organization must contribute:

    • The employer medical contribution (EMC) used for a RCW 41.05.740(6)(d) school employee multiplied by the applicable tier;
    • 100% of the monthly premium, for all tiers, for the dental and vision plans as selected by the school employee;
    • 100% of the monthly premium for the basic life and basic AD&D benefits;
    • 100% of the monthly administration fee as charged by HCA; and
    • 100% of the monthly K–12 remittance fee.

    Three members of the SEB Board voted against these resolutions. One member wanted a delay to get feedback from school officials on the effect of these resolutions, (particularly ‘B’ above.) WASA testified in opposition. All three resolutions passed showing the strong labor support on the Board.

    The net effect of this is that employee groups could bargain with districts and claim close to the same benefits as those employees who work 630 hours or more. As one board member indicated, an employee earning $36,000/year ($20/hour times 180 hours) could then have thousands of dollars’ worth of benefits. Other members including staff did point out that districts negotiate this benefit and could deny it. But, yeah, how successful was the last round of negotiations with union groups who threatened strikes, school delays, etc.? The bottom line is that districts should be prepared for negotiating with all employees.

    As an FYI, the HCA/ERB staff meet monthly with representatives from the super coalition (labor groups) and WASBO officials to discuss these resolutions and get their reactions/suggestions. Staff did not indicate any suggestions/reactions from these groups during the presentation.

    TAB 7 was a presentation on COBRA coverage, eligibility and length. Of particular import to districts is that after 1/1/2020, all future COBRA issues will be administered by HCA. Districts or third-party entities will no longer have to administer the program.

    TAB 11 presented the range of communications that the HCA has developed, is developing, and even disseminating regarding the SEBB program. Check out these materials:

    The HCA has also begun direct mailing to all K–12 employees.

    TAB 13 has charts showing a high-level view of the benefits of the various medical, prescription, dental, life insurance, long-term disability. These are an overview of each of the plan designs and coverage limits.

    Let me know if you have any questions.

    Fred Yancey
    The Nexus Group

  • Engaging Young Children in Research

    by Marty Fortin | Mar 06, 2019

    It is never too early to give our students a voice in their education.

    Engaging young children as co-researchers recognizes their agency and right to be involved in matters of relevance to them
    Preschool children played active roles as researchers in all aspects of a research project focusing on how they experienced different elements in a forest setting. Related discussion addresses the advantages, challenges, and opportunities of four interactive data collection and analysis methods. Green, 2017. Four methods for engaging young children as environmental education researchers.
  • AWSP News for March 6, 2019

    by Xenia Doualle | Mar 06, 2019


    Welcome to another episode of AWSP’s News, where we discuss:

    • our first ever “Walk a Mile in My Shoes” March Madness Campaign,
    • registering for the National Association of Elementary School Principals conference in Spokane and our own Summer Conference for a chance to win a prize,
    • the key we sent you for Future Educator’s Month,
    • five foundational blocks every school should have,
    • de-linking graduation and state assessments, and a robust and effective High School and Beyond Plan,
    • a reminder to use evaluations to build a culture of growth, and
    • calling us for support and questions about principal contracts.

    Prefer to read the script? Check it out.

  • Start a School Garden With a Scotts Miracle-Gro Grant

    by Marty Fortin | Mar 01, 2019
    Here's an opportunity to help fund the beginnings of a school garden, like you might have seen in our Lopez Island Farm Education video (which has now been viewed over 16k times over different channels and platforms!

     

    The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company announced the launch of a national initiative to bring the life-enhancing benefits of gardens and greenspaces to 10 million U.S. children over the next five years. Through its Gro More Good program, Scotts Miracle-Gro will provide monetary grants, educational curriculum and training to communities across the U.S. in collaboration with its partners, with the goal of creating more gardens, greenspaces and refurbished outdoor play spaces for children.
  • Retirement & Health Benefit Report for March 1, 2019

    by David Morrill | Mar 01, 2019

    Time is but the stream
    I go a-fishing in. - Henry David Thoreau

    The state Legislature is now about 40 percent through this year’s 105-day session and faces its second significant checkpoint on Friday, March 1. That’s the deadline for fiscal committees to send bills on for further action or leave them behind for the year. (Unless, of course, they are deemed necessary to implement the budget (NTIB)).

    A little trivia is in order. To date, 2,242 bills have been introduced – 1,206 in the House; 1,036 in the Senate. Of those totals; 307 House bills have made it to Rules; 32 have passed the House; 250 Senate bills have made it to Rules; 66 have passed the Senate.

    The following is a brief summary of bills that have moved toward possible floor action. The week has been filled with long agendas as the fiscal committees hear and act on multiple bills and because of the quantity of bills being moved through committees, bill status reports are delayed. Next week’s report will be more complete.

    The next cut-off is March 13 where all bills except those determined to be NTIB have to be out of their house of origin.

    After this Friday, all action moves to the floors of the respective houses.

    Retirement Related Proposals

    SB 5360/HB 1308 revises provisions in the public employees’ retirement system, the teachers’ retirement system, and the school employees’ retirement system with regard to plan membership default. It would change the present retirement plan default for new hires from Plan 3 to Plan 2. SB 5360 is eligible for Second Reading (floor action). HB 1308 remains in Rules.

    SUGGESTED ACTION:

    Leadership in both houses need to be contacted and urged to move this bill onto floor calendars for action by the respective bodies.

    Substitute Options for Early Retirees

    SHB 1139 – Educators that are members of Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) Plans 2 or 3 that retired under the 2008 Early Retirement Factors are permitted to return to work before age 65 in any non-administrative position, not just in substitute teaching and instructional positions, and work for up to 867 hours per year without suspension of pension benefits. The ending date on the current provisions of August 1, 2020, as well as the separate section expiring the section of law, are removed, making the section effective indefinitely. A provision similar to the TRS provision is created for School Employees’ Retirement System, which is for classified school employees. It was scheduled for Executive Action on February 28th.

    HB 1388 allows retirees who retired under alternate early retirement factors enacted in chapter 491, Laws of 2007, to use postretirement options prior to reaching age sixty-five. This is SCPP agency request legislation. It is similar to the above referenced bill but broader in that administrators are not excluded, bus drivers, para-pros, OT’s etc. are included. It also includes PERS retirees who have retired from positions with cities and counties for example. Smaller cities/counties need the expertise of their retirees for short durations. They testified in support of this change. It is NTIB.

    SB 5801 – Until June 30, 2023, in addition to returning to work as a substitute teacher, a retired teacher who retired under an early retirement option may be employed as an athletic coach, a mentor to teachers, an adviser to students in teacher preparation programs, or a counselor for up to 867 hours per school year without suspension of pension benefits. It is in Rules awaiting further action.

    SB 5350/HB 1413 authorizes the following, at the time of retirement, to purchase an optional actuarially equivalent life annuity benefit from:

    1. The public employees’ retirement system plan 1 fund;
    2. The public employees’ retirement system combined plan 2 and plan 3 fund;
    3. The public safety employees’ retirement system plan 2 fund; or
    4. The school employees’ retirement system combined plan 2 and 3 fund, as appropriate.

    This bill was agency request legislation from the SCPP. Both bills are in their respective Rules’ Committee awaiting action to move to either floor.

    School Employee Benefit Board (SEEB)Health Related Proposals

    HB 2096 – Concerning educational service district health benefits is a bill that asks for a 2-year delay in SEBB implementation for ESD’s. It is scheduled for Executive Session on February 28th. Testimony on the bills was “Pro” by ESD representatives/leadership, and WASA. “Con” was presented by WEA, PSE and the Health Care Authority (HCA).

    The HCA pointed out, as an aside, that Friday, March 1st, the HCA will be releasing the new SEBB fixed funding rate. The Governor’s budget assumed funding of SEBB at a base rate of $1,174/FTE. It was suggested that this new rate would be lower. Earlier in Session, in talking with fiscal staff, a $700 million-dollar cost was thought to be more accurate than the much more public $900 million-dollar projection. That ‘new’ figure, however, was based on staff counts, not this new, soon to be released, rate. IMHO, staff is doing its best at lowering the projected cost as much as they can. They have already indicated that staff counts furnished by OSPI may not be accurate.

    Other Bills That May Have Fiscal/Hr Impacts For Districts:

    HB 1515 – Concerning the employer-employee relationship. This bill could impact the definition and classification of a contractor versus an employee. It is in Rules awaiting further action.

    HB 1813 – Incorporating the costs of employee health benefits into school district contracts for pupil transportation. This bill is in Rules awaiting further action.

    HB 2127 – Concerning additional contribution rates for contributions made after the date the service is rendered for individual employers of Washington state retirement systems. This bill is related to the Dolan vs. King County court case. Contract employees (Defense attorneys) working with King County were determined to be employees of the county and not contractors. Therefore, they were qualified and entitled to retirement benefits. King County was ordered to pay a portion of what the Department of Retirement Systems (DRS) calculated they owed for these employees. The balance between what DRS said the system needed to be whole and what the court approved to be socialized with costs borne by increased rates in the PERS plans ($54.4 million dollars to be recouped). This bill would compel the losing party in future cases to pay all costs as determined by DRS with no court decision needed.

    SSHB 1087 – Concerns long-term services and supports. The bills digest reads in part: “Addresses alternative funding for long-term care access. States that the creation of a long-term care insurance benefit of an established dollar amount per day for eligible employees, paid through an employee payroll premium, is in the best interest of the state.” This would create an optional employee paid premium that would help cover long term care coverage for an employee. SSHB 1087 passed the House 63/33 and has been sent to the Senate.

    HB 1445 makes unemployment benefits accessible to persons with family responsibilities and other availability issues and making clarifying changes. Among other things, it revises the employment security act to: (1) Provide unemployment benefits (UI) to people with family responsibilities and other availability issues. Districts will have new claimants for UI which a district could not contest. This bill is in Rules awaiting further action.

    SSB 5449/HB 1399 makes technical corrections requested by the Employment Security Department in the Family and Medical Leave Act passed last session. Both bills are before their respective Rules’ Committees awaiting further action.

    Caveat: There are a number of other bills that are NTIB but will not see any action, if at all, until the budget(s) are released and ultimately a final one adopted. These will be highlighted occasionally just as a refresher.

    Meanwhile, the currents continue to carry everyone along…

    Fred Yancey
    The Nexus Group

  • Retirement & Health Benefit Report for Feb. 22, 2019

    by David Morrill | Feb 22, 2019

    Roll on, Columbia, roll on, 
    Roll on, Columbia, roll on.
    ~Woody Guthrie

    The first cut off is occurring as this is being written and next week will be the last cut-off deadline for all fiscal bills. The legislative field will then be winnowed down, and the focus will shift toward floor action and behind the scenes’ discussions over the budget.

    This is a very brief summary of bills that have moved toward possible floor action. Until these next two cut-offs occur, the status of various bills is unknown. And then of course, the dreaded criteria, “Necessary to Implement the Budget (NTIB)” enters the stream. Any bill that has fiscal costs can be deemed NTIB and is therefore alive until Sine Die. In fact, the legislature can bring any bill back to life. So, any certainty derived from this report, or even future ones, is illusory. Some bills may bob to the surface; others may sink.

    Retirement Related Proposals

    HB 1390 would provide a 3% cost of living adjustment (COLA) to TRS1 and PERS1 members. These bills are Select Committee for Pension Policy (SCPP) agency request legislation. HB 1390 had a public hearing before the House Appropriations Committee on February 18th. It is clearly a NTIB bill and will not be dealt with until nearer the end of session as the budget is presented.

    SB 5360/HB 1308 Revises provisions in the public employees’ retirement system, the teachers’ retirement system, and the school employees’ retirement system with regard to plan membership default. It would change the present retirement plan default for new hires from Plan 3 to Plan 2. Both bills are before the Rules’ Committee in their respective houses.

    Substitute Options for early Retirees

    SHB 1139 Sections 305–7 states that educators that are members of Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) Plans 2 or 3 that retired under the 2008 Early Retirement Factors are permitted to return to work before age 65 in any non-administrative position, not just in substitute teaching and instructional positions, and work for up to 867 hours per year without suspension of pension benefits. The ending date on the current provisions of August 1, 2020, as well as the separate section expiring the section of law, are removed, making the section effective indefinitely. A provision similar to the TRS provision is created for School Employees’ Retirement System, which is for classified school employees. It also removes the August 1, 2020 sunset date and the directive regarding substitute pay. It has moved to Appropriations. It is a NTIB bill.

    SB 5430/HB 1388 Allows retirees who retired under alternate early retirement factors enacted in chapter 491, Laws of 2007, to use post-retirement options prior to reaching age sixty-five. This is SCPP agency request legislation. It is similar to the above referenced bill but broader in that administrators are not excluded, bus drivers, para-pros, OT’s etc. are included. It also includes PERS retirees who have retired from positions with cities and counties for example. Smaller cities/counties need the expertise of their retirees for short durations. They testified in support of this change. Both bills are still awaiting hearings before their respective fiscal committees.

    SUGGESTED ACTION:

    If this is important to your district, please contact Senator Rolfes, chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee to request a hearing on SB 5430. Office: 360–786–7644

    Please contact Timm Ormsby, chair of the House Appropriations Committee to request a hearing on HB 1388. Office: 360–786–7946

    Certainly, contact your own legislators as well and urge movement on these bills.

    These proposals are much broader than either of the other proposals. (SB 5801 below; SHB 1139 above) and would allow districts the greatest flexibility over time with no need to add other exceptions as they arise.

    SB 5801 This bill is a modified/slimmer version of SB 5430/HB 1388 mentioned above. It reads:, “ (a) The retired teacher reenters employment more than one calendar month after his or her accrual date and after June 9, 2016;(2) The retired teacher is employed exclusively as either (i) A substitute teacher as defined in RCW 41.32.010(48)(a) in an instructional capacity, as opposed to other capacities identified in RCW 41.32.010(49); (ii) An athletic coach,(iii) A mentor to teachers or an adviser to students in teacher1 preparation programs; or (iv) A counselor; and (c) The employing school district compensates the district’s substitute teachers at a rate that is at least eighty-five percent of the full daily amount allocated by the state to the district for substitute teacher compensation. (2) For the purposes of this section, “mentor” means an educator who has achieved appropriate training in assisting, coaching, and advising beginning teachers or student teaching residents as defined by the office of the superintendent of public instruction, such as national board certification or other specialized training.(3) This section expires July 1, 2023 It had a public hearing before the Senate Ways and Means Committee on February 20th where testimony indicated that SB 5430 would be a much better solution to the issue of filling needed positions on a temporary basis.

    SUGGESTED ACTION:

    Senator Wellman, chair of the Senate Education Committee needs to be encouraged to focus on SB 5430 as it is broader and offers more flexibility to districts particularly in allowing use of classified retirees. The SCPP reviewed and approved this proposal. Office: 360–786–7641

    SB 5350/HB 1413 Authorizes the following, at the time of retirement, to purchase an optional actuarially equivalent life annuity benefit from: (1) The public employees’ retirement system plan 1 fund; (2) The public employees’ retirement system combined plan 2 and plan 3 fund; (3) The public safety employees’ retirement system plan 2 fund; or (4) The school employees’ retirement system combined plan 2 and 3 fund, as appropriate. This bill was agency request legislation from the SCPP. Both bills are in their respective Rules’ Committee awaiting action to move to either floor.

    School Employee Benefit Board (SEEB) Health Related Proposals

    In the words of one legislator, “SEBB and its close to $1 billion-dollar cost is taking up all budget oxygen in the room.” It appears that until legislators decide what or how to deal with SEBB and the cost issue, all other fiscal matters will be put on the wayside. That does not mean however, that districts shouldn’t continue raising questions and concerns.

    Caution: It remains important to underscore that districts are not against the principle of providing affordable health insurance. It’s the right thing to do. The unions have done a very effective campaign, resonant with many legislators, about the need to provide affordable health insurance. Complaining about SEBB runs the risk of seeming cold-hearted and callous to the issue. But the message is simple: It’s a question of cost; How much? Who pays?

    Meanwhile, the HCA has designed an online enrollment system for SEBB that is consistent, easy to use, and supports payroll and benefits staff. The result is SEBB My Account, the exclusive online enrollment system for the SEBB Program. The HCA is aiming for an October launch.

    The Health Care Authority (HCA) and SEB Board have released a demonstration video on how enrollment in the new SEBB program will operate.

    Other Bills That May Have Fiscal/Hr Impacts For Districts:

    (NEW BILL) SSHB 1087 Concerns long-term services and supports. The bills digest reads in part: “Addresses alternative funding for long-term care access. States that the creation of a long-term care insurance benefit of an established dollar amount per day for eligible employees, paid through an employee payroll premium, is in the best interest of the state.” This would create an optional employee paid premium that would help cover long term care coverage for an employee. SSHB 1087 passed the House 63–33 and has been sent to the Senate.

    HB 1445 makes unemployment benefits accessible to persons with family responsibilities and other availability issues and making clarifying changes. Among other things, it revises the employment security act to: (1) Provide unemployment benefits (UI) to people with family responsibilities and other availability issues. Districts will have new claimants for UI which a district could not contest.

    HB 1445 had a public hearing on February 21st and is awaiting further action.

    SSB 5449/HB 1399 makes technical corrections requested by the Employment Security Department in the Family and Medical Leave Act passed last session. Both bills are before their respective Rules’ Committees awaiting further action.

    SUGGESTED ACTIONS ON SELECTED BILLS:

    SB 5178/HB 1132 Concerns early retirement options for members of the teachers’ retirement system and school employees’ retirement system plans 2 and 3. It proposes changing the current option for early retirement at 62 years of age with no penalty to 60 years of age. Both bills are still awaiting public hearings before their fiscal committees and are NTIB.

    If this is important to advance as a tool to help districts retain employees and even allow some of those more expensive ones an option to retire earlier, then contact Chairs Senator Rolfes and Ormsby (contact info was given above) and request a hearing.

    SB 5414/HB 1409 Prohibits a contract year for employee benefits from exceeding two hundred sixty days, for K–12 employees. Currently, upon retirement, an individual can cash in his/her accumulated sick leave at a 1:4 ratio using a maximum of 180 days. This change would increase the maximum to 260 days reflecting the longer contract years many school employees, especially administrators work. Both bills are awaiting scheduling for a public hearing in Appropriations (House) or Ways and Means (Senate) committees and are possibly NTIB. This could be important if a person would like to cash in more than the current 180-day maximum leave accrual to place into a health VEBA account. Many school personnel work more than a 180-day contact and this proposal would set the cap at the contracted day amount rather than the current 180-day limit. Contact Chairs Rolfes and Ormsby and request a hearing.

    The legislative river continues to flow…

    Fred Yancey
    The Nexus Group

  • AWSP News for February 20, 2019

    by David Morrill | Feb 20, 2019


    In this episode of AWSP News, we discuss:

    • Future Educators Month, our Future School Leaders Day workshop, and the Give ’Em Your Keys campaign;
    • what’s happening in the Legislature;
    • some of our recent blog posts;
    • our opening for an Associate Director and the retirement of two icons;
    • sharing your stories with us; and
    • how we’re always here to pick up the phone when you need us.

    Prefer to read the news? Check out the script.

  • Retirement & Health Benefit Report for Feb. 15, 2019

    by David Morrill | Feb 15, 2019

    retirement-health_072315


    A frozen river is not a dry one, it’s just a still river on the surface but is still moving. ~Willie Nelson

     

    Snowmageddon descended on Olympia, and things came to a halt, but now that the worst (we can hope) is over, the process is moving again. Agendas have been lengthened. As cut off dates approach the list of bills for executive action by individual committees grows long.

    This is a brief summary of bills that are either moving or should be pushed to move. The last section of this report has some suggested actions on bills that need support and advocacy in order to advance before cutoffs.

    Retirement Related Proposals

    SB 5400/HB 1390 would provide a 3% cost of living adjustment (COLA) to TRS1 and PERS1 members. These bills are Select Committee for Pension Policy (SCPP) agency request legislation. HB 1390 has been scheduled for a public hearing before the House Appropriations Committee on February 18th at 3:30 PM.

    SB 5360/HB 1308 Revise provisions in the public employees’ retirement system, the teachers’ retirement system, and the school employees’ retirement system with regard to plan membership default. It would change the present retirement plan default for new hires from Plan 3 to Plan 2.

    SB 5360 was voted out of the Senate Ways and Means Committee and has been moved to Rules committee awaiting action.

    HB 1308 was voted out of committee and sent to Houses Rules awaiting action.

    Substitute Options for Early Retirees

    SHB 1139 | Sections 305–7 state that educators that are members of Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) Plans 2 or 3 that retired under the 2008 Early Retirement Factors are permitted to return to work before age 65 in any non-administrative position, not just in substitute teaching and instructional positions, and work for up to 867 hours per year without suspension of pension benefits. The ending date on the current provisions of August 1, 2020, as well as the separate section expiring the section of law, are removed, making the section effective indefinitely.A provision similar to the TRS provision is created for School Employees’ Retirement System, which is for classified school employees. It also removes the August 1, 2020 sunset date and the directive regarding substitute pay. It passed out of committee on an 18–1 vote and has moved to Appropriations.

    SB 5430/HB 1388 Allow retirees who retired under alternate early retirement factors enacted in chapter 491, Laws of 2007, to use post-retirement options prior to reaching age sixty-five. This is SCPP agency request legislation. It is similar to the above referenced bill but broader in that administrators are not excluded, bus drivers, para-pros, OT’s etc. are included. It also includes PERS retirees who have retired from positions with cities and counties for example. Smaller cities/counties need the expertise of their retirees for short durations. They testified in support of this change. Both bills are still awaiting hearings before their respective fiscal committees.

    SUGGESTED ACTION:

    Please contact Senator Rolfes, chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, to request a hearing on SB 5430. Office: 360–786–7644

    Please contact Timm Ormsby, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, to request a hearing on HB 1388. Office: 360–786–7946

    Certainly, contact your own legislators as well and urge movement on these bills.

    These proposals are much broader than either of the other proposals. (SB 5801 below; SHB 1139 above) and would allow districts the greatest flexibility over time with no need to add other exceptions as they arise.

    SB 5801 | This bill is a modified/slimmer version of SB 5430/HB 1388 mentioned above. It reads: “ (a) The retired teacher reenters employment more than one calendar month after his or her accrual date and after June 9, 2016; (2) The retired teacher is employed exclusively as either (i) A substitute teacher as defined in RCW 41.32.010(48)(a) in an instructional capacity, as opposed to other capacities identified in RCW 41.32.010(49); (ii) An athletic coach,(iii) A mentor to teachers or an adviser to students in teacher1 preparation programs; or (iv) A counselor; and(c) The employing school district compensates the district’s substitute teachers at a rate that is at least eighty-five percent of the full daily amount allocated by the state to the district for substitute teacher compensation. (2) For the purposes of this section, “mentor” means an educator who has achieved appropriate training in assisting, coaching, and advising beginning teachers or student teaching residents as defined by the office of the superintendent of public instruction, such as national board certification or other specialized training.(3) This section expires July 1, 2023 It has been scheduled for a public hearing before the Senate Ways and Means Committee on February 20th at 3:30.

    SUGGESTED ACTION:

    Senator Wellman, chair of the Senate Education Committee needs to be encouraged to focus on SB 5430 as it is broader and offers more flexibility to districts particularly in allowing use of classified retirees. The SCPP reviewed and approved this proposal. Office: 360–786–7641

    SB 5350/HB 1413 Authorizes the following, at the time of retirement, to purchase an optional actuarially equivalent life annuity benefit from: 1. The public employees’ retirement system plan 1 fund; 2. The public employees’ retirement system combined plan 2 and plan 3 fund; 3. The public safety employees’ retirement system plan 2 fund; or 4. The school employees’ retirement system combined plan 2 and 3 fund, as appropriate.

    This bill was agency request legislation from the SCPP. SB 5350 was voted out of committee and sent to Senate Rules for further action. HB 1413 was voted out of committee and sent to Rules.

    School Employee Benefit Board (SEEB) Health Related Proposals

    SUGGESTED ACTION:

    School districts need to continue contacting their legislators to educate them and express any concerns over the impending costs of SEBB. It has become clear that legislators are expressing discomfort, (some might say ‘shock’) with the $900+million-dollar cost of implementing the program and collective bargaining agreement. T.J. Kelly from OSPI released estimates that the local levy burden to districts for SEBB assuming the legislature accepts the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) would be $258 million per school year. If the benefit multipliers agreed to in the CBA were disallowed, the cost to districts would be $742 million/year.

    Caution: It is important to underscore that districts are not against the principle of providing affordable health insurance. It’s the right thing to do.The unions have done a very effective campaign, resonant with many legislators, about the need to provide affordable health insurance. Complaining about SEBB runs the risk of seeming cold-hearted and callous to the issue. But the message is simple:It’s a question of cost; How much? Who pays? How does a district pay?

    Health Care

    SB 5469/HB 1085 Concerns reducing the insurance premium for Medicare-eligible retiree participants in the public employees’ benefits board program. It requires the amount of a premium reduction for Medicare eligible retiree participants to be no less than fifty percent of the premium cost.

    HB 1085 held a public hearing 1/28 at 3:30 before the House Appropriations Committee and is awaiting further action by the committee.

    HB 1813 incorporates the costs of employee health benefits into school district contracts for pupil transportation.A portion of the bill reads : “Beginning January 1, 2020, any pupil transportation services contract must include: (i) Sufficient funds specifically for the contracting employer to provide the employees of the contractor with an employer health benefits contribution equal to the rate for the school employees’ benefits board program, less the retiree remittance for the public employees’ benefits board; and (ii) An amount equivalent to the total employer and employee contribution rate to the school employees’ retirement system, multiplied by the estimated salaries of the employees of the contractor.

    This bill has a public hearing before the House Appropriations Committee on February 14th. WASA testified as “Other”. It expressed sympathy for the need but concerns over who pays and how to pay for it. This would be another unfunded mandate added to the upcoming fiscal burden of SEBB.

    Other Bills That May Have Fiscal/HR Impacts For Districts

    SB 5473/HB 1445 makes unemployment benefits accessible to persons with family responsibilities and other availability issues and making clarifying changes. Among other things, it revises the employment security act to: (1) Provide unemployment benefits (UI) to people with family responsibilities and other availability issues. Districts will have new claimants for UI which a district could not contest.

    SB 5743 had a public hearing on February 14th and is awaiting further action by the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee.

    HB 1445 was voted out of committee and sent to Appropriations for a public hearing on February 21st at 3:30 PM.

    SSB 5449/HB 1399 makes technical corrections requested by the Employment Security Department in the Family and Medical Leave Act passed last session.

    SSB 5449 (a substitute bill) has been voted out of committee and sent to Rules.

    SHB 1399 Executive Session action has been scheduled for February 18th before the House Appropriations Committee.

    SB 5513/HB 1515 Concerns the employer-employee relationship by clarifying the difference between an independent contractor and an employee. WASBO has been asked to review this proposal for any unintended impacts to districts.

    HB 1515 has been scheduled for Executive Sessions for February 21st.

    SUGGESTED ACTIONS ON SELECTED BILLS:

    SB 5178/HB 1132 Concerns early retirement options for members of the teachers’ retirement system and school employees’ retirement system plans 2 and 3. It proposes changing the current option for early retirement at 62 years of age with no penalty to 60 years of age. Both bills are still awaiting public hearings before their fiscal committees. If this is important to advance as a tool to help districts retain employees and even allow some of those more expensive ones an option to retire earlier, then contact Chairs Senator Rolfes and Ormsby whose contact info was given above. (See SB 5430) and request a hearing.

    SB 5414/HB 1409 Prohibits a contract year for employee benefits from exceeding two hundred sixty days, for K–12 employees. Currently, upon retirement, an individual can cash in his/her accumulated sick leave at a 1:4 ratio using a maximum of 180 days. This change would increase the maximum to 260 days reflecting the longer contract years many school employees, especially administrators work.

    Both bills are awaiting scheduling for a public hearing in Appropriations (House) or Ways and Means (Senate) committees.

    This could be important if a person would like to cash in more than the current 180-day maximum leave accrual to place into a health VEBA account. Many school personnel work more than a 180-day contact and this proposal would set the cap at the contracted day amount rather than the current 180-day limit. Contact Chairs Rolfes and Ormsby and request a hearing.

    The legislative river continues to flow…In fact, I can hear water running outside my office…

    Fred Yancey/ Mike Moran
    The Nexus Group