Washington Chapter’s Legislative Efforts Pay Off
The Washington Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (WACTE) is receiving the payoff from its long-term efforts working with the Washington Legislature. WACTE first hired a contract lobbyist in 2005, and their 14 years of work have made the chapter a significant voice in state education policy.
For instance, teacher shortage has largely been defined either broadly across states or regions, or anecdotally. Now, the state of Washington will attempt to refine the definitions and locations of shortages with a “collaborative” that includes WACTE as a member, following the group’s testimony and request for the designation during the recent legislative session.
This effort is part of a large, omnibus education bill passed by Washington lawmakers this year, which also includes a number of provisions from WACTE to attract more candidates to the teaching profession (Engrossed second substitute House Bill 1139).
Those provisions include $1 million per year in “teacher shortage grants” to enable low-income candidates of color to consider teaching. The grants were created three years ago at the suggestion of WACTE members with a goal of diversifying the teaching corps. In the one year that they were funded as a pilot program, grantees were 95% multi-lingual, 98% people of color, 89% first-generation college students, and 32% male.
WACTE also conceptualized the bill that funds the Teacher Endorsement and Certification Help (TEACH) program, creating grants to cover testing and background check costs for teaching candidates as well as stipends for low-income student teachers in Title I schools.
View my testimony to learn more.
WACTE was also a significant voice in eliminating a culturally biased entrance exam that had been required for entry to a teacher preparation program and in the permanent establishment of a committee to standardize the incorporation of social emotional learning standards.
View the testimony on that legislation.
My role as WACTE’s lobbyist is financed with a modest increase in dues on a sliding scale so that larger institutions graduating larger numbers of teacher candidates pay proportionally higher fees. WACTE’s current annual membership fees range from $750 for the smallest institutions (fewer than 30 candidates/year) to $3,250 for the largest (more than 300 candidates annually).
WACTE has found that, while it takes a long-term commitment to the process, there are significant advantages to being at the table rather than on the menu. The chapter’s work includes regular contact with legislators both during the legislative session and between sessions and an annual “day on the hill” to meet with lawmakers and discuss issues.
For more information, read the 2019 Legislative Report.
Bob Cooper of Evergreen Public Affairs serves is the lobbyist for WACTE.