First Reading Policy Revisions 3205, 5253, 5280, 5281, 6020, & 6100
In a recent Dear Colleague Letter the U.S. Department of Education stated, “For too long, and too often,” someone who engaged in sexual misconduct with a student received help obtaining new employment from the former employer, effectively hiding the misconduct from the new employer. The Dear Colleague Letter reminded that federal statute 5 intended “to end this abhorrent practice” by requiring every district that receives funds under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as reauthorized by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), to have a policy in place prohibiting providing an employment recommendation for a current or former employee who engaged in sexual misconduct with a student.
To that end, WSSDA has revised Model Policy 3205 Sexual Harassment of Students and Model Policy 5281 – Disciplinary Action Discharge. They've added language reflecting a federal provision to both model policies to ensure that the prohibition is communicated both in the context of a formal disciplinary discharge and in the context where there was no formal disciplinary action, but staff members had probable cause to believe that sexual misconduct occurred.
Additionally, we’ve revised Model Policy 5281 – Disciplinary Action Discharge to provide districts with language for holding employees accountable for behavior not explicitly covered previously, such as falsification of information, witness intimidation, or destruction of evidence.
WSSDA has revised Model Policy and Procedure 5253 – Maintaining Professional Staff/ Student Boundaries to reflect lessons learned over the past nine years, and reduce the risk for students, educators, and districts. The revisions include several small but important clarifications, but the foundation of the policy remains committing to professional boundaries
It is difficult to identify recent legislation that has had as much impact on education as Engrossed House Bill (EHB) 2242 from the 2017 legislative session. EHB 2242 was entitled “An ACT relating to funding fully the state’s program of basic education by providing equitable education opportunities through reform of state and local education contributions.” The legislation came with the expectation that it would significantly restrict school districts’ use of local revenues and was presented as the compromise “McCleary Agreement.”
Taking effect at the start of the 2019 calendar year, EHB 2242 renamed the former Maintenance & Operation levies as “enrichment levies.” Additionally, the legislation created a new levy lid, decreasing the amount school districts can raise through local levies. EHB 2242 also defined “local revenue” to include levy money, local effort assistance, grants, donations, state and federal payments in lieu of taxes, and any local revenues that offset the district’s basic education allocation.
Defining local revenue was straightforward. Similarly unambiguous is a provision requiring school districts to limit the use of local revenues to enrichment purposes, specifically to “documented and demonstrated enrichment of the state’s program of basic education.” Less intuitive is the scope of the term “enrichment.” Your community might expect that “enrichment” means expenses not included in basic education, such as athletics and extracurricular activities. Indeed, a 2018 Seattle Times editorial, titled School-levy confusion, stated just that; but in the context of EHB 2242, “enrichment” is more complicated.
For example, EHB 2242 defines basic education as those specific K-12 program-funding levels provided by the state and authorizes school districts enrichment beyond those levels by supplementing with local enrichment levies. This means that the state funding level is determinate of the line between state funding and permitted enrichment with local revenue. In other words, districts may be able to use enrichment levy funds to supplement any of the individual formulas that are part of the prototypical allocation model. This includes funding beyond the allocation for minimum instructional offerings, minimum staffing ratios or program components, a minimum program of professional learning, early learning programs, extended school days, extended school year, and extracurricular activities.
If you’re thinking that this flexible use of local levy funds could get complicated and possibly be misused, you have company. Perhaps this is why EHB 2242 also added new accounting requirements. Starting in the 2019-2020 school year, districts must establish a local revenue sub-fund, from its general fund, deposit local revenue into that sub-fund, and track expenditures from the sub-fund to account for the district’s use of local revenues. Having local revenue in its own sub-fund will likely help districts track their use of local revenues. It will certainly help the auditor. Beginning with the 2019-2020 school year, EHB 2242 requires the state auditor’s office to include local revenue compliance in its regular financial audits of school districts.
Additionally, EHB 2242 requires that before the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year, school boards adopt a policy for responding to any audit findings resulting from a state auditor’s audit on the district’s use of local revenues. The bill further mandates that the policy require boards to hold a public hearing to review any such findings within thirty days. To help prepare you for these new requirements, we’ve revised Model Policy 6100 – Revenues From Local, State, and Federal. WSSDA also reclassified the policy as Essential, given that the legislation requires school boards to adopt a policy for responding to audit findings. Additionally, we’ve revised Model Policy 6020 – System of Funds and Accounts.
Revisions to of Policy 5280 — Termination of Employment
We have had our attorney review policy 5280 and he has recommended adjustments to this policy.