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WSPTA Legislative Assembly Recap

Washington State PTA Legislative Assembly Recap: Why We PTA, Top 5 Issues, and Formation of Advocacy Committee 

by Victoria Bhegani, Legislative Chair

Despite its virtual format, the energy at the WSPTA Legislative Assembly this past weekend was palpable. Three delegates from the Genesee Hill PTA, Leigh Ann Johnson, Christy Kinskey and myself, attended, and with other delegates from across Washington state, we voted on legislative issues, resolutions, amendments, and principles. 

In this time of pandemic, political unrest, economic hardship and remote learning, our collective voice as PTA has arguably never been more important. The topics we debated and voted on at the Assembly, like climate change mitigation, anti-racism, and the prevention of gun violence and suicide, reflected this urgency. Equity concerns were at the forefront too, with a resolution to equitably identify highly capable students and another to better fund services for students with disabilities. And with Washington facing a state budget shortfall of 4.4 billion dollars in the coming year, the resolution to preserve education funding felt critical and necessary.  

In every even-numbered year, such as 2020, the WSPTA votes in 5 top legislative issues that will make up its short-term platform. Over the next two years it will focus on these issues in the legislature. The voting to select these issues is done by delegates, all of whom represent WA PTAs. Christy, Leigh Ann and I were grateful to be guided in our voting by the survey results from GH family respondents. In the survey, families were asked to choose the five issues they felt were most important to address over the next two years. 

These are the results from the 42 surveys we received for GH respondents:  

  1. Increase Access to Nursing, Mental Health and SEL staff 
  2. Supports and Funding for Students with Disabilities and their Families 
  3. Support Students and Preserve Education Funding 
  4. Equitable Identification of Highly Capable Students
  5. Prevent and Reduce Gun Violence and Suicide 

Here are the Top 5 issues PTA delegates voted in at WSPTA Assembly:

  1. Increase Access to Nursing, Mental Health and SEL staff 
  2. Support Students and Preserve Education Funding 
  3. Increase Educational Equity by Closing the Digital Divide 
  4. Supports and Funding for Students with Disabilities and their Families 
  5. Prevent and Reduce Gun Violence and Suicide 

The increasing access to nursing and SEL staff resolution received the most votes from both our school and at the Assembly, and it came from none other than our neighboring school, Alki Elementary! To learn about the inspiring process of how their advocacy committee got this proposal in the mix, read this article from the Alki PTA Blog

Now that the Assembly has wrapped up, the question we’re confronted with is: What work do we do to advocate for our schools and our students, moving forward? The legislative season will begin mid-December and in the coming months, one thing PTAs are going to be asked to do is collect and tell the stories that are unfolding at our schools. The stories we will especially interested in are the ones that show how the issues we voted on shape things on the ground. For example, we might look for narratives about how children at Genesee Hill are experiencing remote learning. Or we might want to tell the story of how children at our school access mental health and how this is funded. 

To begin this work and to prepare for other actions for the legislative season, I am forming an Advocacy Committee at our school. If you would like to be part of it (please, please!) email me at legislativechair@geneseehillpta.org We will hold a meeting in the coming month and even if you are only interested in being on an email list, please still contact me. I hope to hear from you! 

Appendix: Genesee Hill Elementary Survey Results

Section 1- Issues (Ranked by %favorable)

Mean Score%Favorable Issue
4.595%   ISSUE #2. Increase Access to Nursing, Mental Health, and Social Emotional Learning Staff
4.388%   ISSUE #1.  Safe School Plans and Emergency Preparedness
4.3886%   ISSUE #7. Support Students and Preserve Education Funding
4.383%   ISSUE #4. Prevent and Reduce Gun Violence and Suicide
4.2681%   ISSUE #6. Supports and Funding for Students with Disabilities and Their Families
4.0576%   ISSUE #8. Increasing Educational Equity by Closing the Digital Divide
3.971%   ISSUE #3. Equitable Identification and Services for Highly Capable Students
3.971%   ISSUE #5. Mitigating the Adverse Impacts of Climate Change

Section 2 – Top Five, listed above in body of post
Section 3 – Legislative Principles

%Favorable   Issue
4.2142857186%   Anti-racism, anti-discrimination, anti-oppression

Section 4 – Resolutions for Consideration (ranked by %Favorable)

Mean Score%FavorableIssue
4.697%Resolution #4. Social Emotional Learning and Student Success
4.489%Resolution #3. Equitable Access to Recess, Play, Unstructured Time, and Physical Activity
4.3684%Resolution #6. Dismantling Institutional and Systemic Racism
4.0582%Resolution #8. Supporting K-12 Career and Technical Education
4.279%Resolution #5. Restorative Justice and Improving Student Outcomes
4.0574%Resolution #1. Cultural Access Programs and Expanded Learning Opportunities
4.274%Resolution #7. Improving Access and Outcomes in Special Education
4.0571%Resolution #2. School Nutrition, Breakfast and Lunch Policies
3.8970%Amended Resolution 11.28 Mitigating the Health Effects of Climate Change