New law gives paraeducators more support

Sen. Andy Hill - Reporter file photo
Sen. Andy Hill
— image credit: Reporter file photo

Education in Washington state became stronger after Gov. Jay Inslee signed SSB 6129 into law on March 28.

SSB 6129 is a monumental and innovative piece of legislation that jumpstarts the state’s effort to reduce the opportunity gap by focusing on the education services provided by paraeducators to more than 500,000 students.

“Now that SSB 6129 has passed, paraeducators in Washington state can finally get the support they wanted and needed for years,” said Public School Employees (PSE) of Washington President Kim Wilson. “Paraeducators aren’t the only winners today, but students as well, and students are always PSE’s first priority.”

Sen. Andy Hill from the 45th Legislative District championed the bill with PSE.

Paraeducators, not teachers, provide over half of all instruction time to kids who are struggling and need extra help, reads a PSE press release. Until today, paraeducators received little to no training from their school district, and there are negligible state standards for who may be hired as a paraeducator.

Students in Transitional Bilingual Instructional Programs (TBIP), Learning Assistance Programs (LAP), Federal Disadvantaged (Title I), Federal Limited English Proficiency Program, Special Education and Regular Education can now expect better instruction.

"My child’s support needs are different than others, but her right to the best education possible is no different than her peers," said Betsy McAlister, parent of a child with Down syndrome and The Arc of Washington State family policy specialist. "The importance of highly trained and qualified staff play a crucial role in my daughter’s success during her school day."

The bill establishes a workgroup to recommend to the 2015 legislature a statewide paraeducator development program. The workgroup will be comprised of professional educators, community organizations, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and others.

Over the next two years, the new workgroup will be creating minimum employment standards for paraeducators who work in nearly every education program including basic education and special education. Additionally, the workgroup must create appropriate professional development and training to help paraeducators meet the employment standards.

Numerous other parent and education organizations supported SB 6129 including but not limited to: Washington Autism Alliance and Advocacy, The Daily Olympian, Education Ombudsman, OneAmerica, Democrats for Education Reform and the Washington State Parent Teacher Association.

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