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It's In The Books - The 2024 Session Has Ended

The 2024 Legislative Session has ended, and we have progress to celebrate and policies to resurrect in a future session. This session, a non-budget short session, saw a lot of progressive policies brought to the legislature, and saw challenges to those policies as well. Some of the sweeping investments we and partner organiza­tions called for failed simply on the basis that the budget being debated wasn’t large enough for ambitious goals, but every session lays the groundwork for the next, and we did a lot of building in this one.

Our legislative agenda as of the start of the session is here. We were focused on several priorities this session, including a school-related personnel wage increase campaign, contingent faculty benefits eligibility, gun safety, professional licensure for undocumented graduates, and cost-free college, the latter two in coalition with Communities For Our Colleges. We also sought to remind legislators that the pay equity plan they requested from the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges that establishes the pathway to getting contingent faculty to 85% of tenured faculty compensation is due July 1st, necessitating substantial investments in the higher education workforce in the next session.

With those priorities in mind, here’s where we stand.

School-Related Personnel Wage Increases

The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) recognized the wage issue facing Washington’s school-related personnel and requested that the Governor include a significant wage increase for paraeducators in his proposed budget. We joined WEA, SEIU, and other labor allies that repre­sent school-related personnel to launch the Respect campaign, calling for strong investment in school-related personnel salaries. While all SRPs need wage improvements, in a supple­mental year, there is usually not room for such broad-based budgetary changes, so we opted to work within the parameters OSPI and the governor had set and come back next year for even better.

The Legislature made changes to special education funding and the proto­typical school staffing model. The former increases the funding for supporting special education student. The proto­typical school staffing model increases the number of paraeducators and office support staff at every level of K-12 education in Washington.

We have begun building power for next session, and are circulating a petition launched at Classified Conference this month.

Contingent Faculty Benefits Eligibility

Our bill, HB 2125, addressed an issue facing some contingent faculty by including non-instructional work in eligi­bility for benefits. Increasingly, contin­gent faculty take on non-instructional work in addition to teaching. This work does not count toward benefits eligi­bility; only the teaching load counts. We know that all compensated work should count towards eligibility for healthcare, retirement and other benefits. We’re not aware of any other job where only some of the employee’s work counts.

The bill was introduced in this session and moved quickly through the House Committee on Postsecondary Education & Workforce. When the bill went to Appropriations, however, the fiscal note was alarmingly and artifi­cially high, resulting in it not making it through committee. In conversation with the relevant state officials, we clarified the impact of the legislation, and we intend to bring this bill back in the next session with a more accurate fiscal note.

Gun Safety

This session, we joined with the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, in recognition of the fact that our members are directly affected by gun violence, and uniquely placed to address the need for change. SB 5444 (Valdez, LD 46), which extends the definition of sensitive spaces to include more spaces such as libraries that children are commonly present, passed and has been signed by the Governor.

Communities For Our Colleges

Our priorities were to build support for a push for cost-free college next year and pass a bill striking the citizenship requirement for most professional licen­sures. That bill has passed the legisla­ture and been signed by the Governor, allowing Washington’s undocumented graduates to seek jobs in the career fields they have trained for!

Several bills were dropped that would expand Washington’s college grants, but they did not do as much as we seek with truly cost-free college. They also had very large fiscal notes and were slightly confusing in what they did; those bills failed to advance, but did provide an opportunity to raise the issue of cost-free college and prepare for a push next year.

Setting The Stage For Next Session

Overall, we laid the groundwork for a strong session next year, when the full budget will be in play. The wins we had this year were fiscally modest, even if they represented a significant shift for Washingtonians, and we knew going in that there would be a significant constraint around spending. One of the most important things we can do is remind legislators that they’ve heard from us on these issues, and they’ll be hearing from us again next year.

To get involved in AFT Washington’s legislative advocacy work – there are many opportunities! – contact Richard Burton at

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