This year’s legislative session was challenging from the very start. We knew that the state had the opportunity to make serious investments and that there were a lot of competing priorities. On top of that, there was some signaling of reticence on the part of the legislature to budget for the kind of sweeping changes we need. That made our significant wins at the end of the session all the sweeter!
During the entire session – starting even before it – AFT Washington members took action – a lot of action. We sent cookies and letters to legislators, had a presence at district town halls, and we were visible on campus during both Lobby Day and the Day of Action rallies and walkouts in April. Lobby Day was one of the largest in over a decade, and we filled the Capitol building with a sea of AFT blue as we handed the Governor’s staff a petition calling for investment in higher education. And we didn’t stop there. Members sent letters and postcards and signed more petitions, targeting committee members and budget writers.
Because of members showing up, sharing your stories, raising your voices, being present, all that effort paid off, with legislation and in the budget.
Working in coalition with Communities for Our Colleges, we were able to make the case for benefit hubs and expansion of childcare accessibility to undocumented students. In that coalition, our members have materially lowered the barriers to education for Washington state students and started laying the groundwork for cost-free college in Washington state.
There were key investments in education and workers in the budget as well.
PreK – 12 Education
- PreK-12 inflation adjustment of 3.7% (‘23-‘24) and 3.9% (’24 – ’25)
- Free school meals to many elementary schools and increased support of schools to participate in the Federal Community Eligibility Provision.
- Increasing special education funding toward meeting the actual need (as opposed to arbitrary caps).
- SEBB participants will see improvements in coverage on diabetes, dental and vision hardware.
- Full funding for the I-732 COLA at 8.9% and 5.87% for CTC faculty and technical college classified staff.
- COLAs of 4% and 3% for CTC professional staff and four-year college and university faculty.
- Definition of part-time/adjunct pay equity as at least 85% and directive to the SBCTC to develop a plan to achieve pay equity by.
- Funding for diversity, equity and inclusion is allocated for implementation of SB 5194, SB 5227, and other purposes for a total of at least $38 million.
- $5,236,000 to the CTCs and .75 FTE navigator at the four-year colleges for HB 1559 – establishing benefits hubs on college campuses plus more than $1 million for the Washington Student Achievement Council to implement this program.
- More than $13 million to expand Working Connections Childcare, including eligibility for undocumented students.
- $55,254,000 for bridge grants of $500 to students who receive the maximum college grant and aren’t recipients of college bound scholarship.
- Nearly $80 million is allocated for Guided Pathways.
- Many workforce development programs received funding to increase capacity. Examples include nursing, medical assisting, allied health, dental therapy, cybersecurity, maritime and I-BEST programs.
- A one-time, 3 percent benefit increase is provided to PERS plan 1 and TRS plan 1 retirees up to a maximum of $110 per month. The benefit increase goes into effect on July 1, 2023. To be eligible for the increase the member must be retired on or before July 1, 2022. This increase only applies for members that are not receiving a minimum benefit.
- Funding to continue the Labor Education and Research Center at South Seattle College and the Harry Bridges Center at the UW.
All in all, we built a great foundation for the Bridge to the Future in this session, and we are looking forward to adding onto it in the next session.