Senate approves career paths and support for paraeducators

As lawmakers work to strengthen Washington’s K-12 education system, the Washington State Senate today approved Sen. Andy Hill’s legislation creating a career path for paraeducators. The classroom support staff, who provide more than half of special education instruction, work under teacher supervision to instruct students, manage classrooms and act as translators.

“Students in all grades and corners of our state have diverse and specialized ways of learning,” said Hill, of Redmond, who serves on the education committee and as the Senate’s chief budget writer. “Paraeducators provide a critical link between our most at-risk children and positive educational outcomes. Recognizing and building upon their role educating students will help more children succeed.”

In 2014, Hill sponsored successful legislation creating a paraeducator work group, which was tasked with making recommendations to the Legislature on employment standards, professional development and training opportunities. The group, made up of a variety of education professionals and advocates, issued its final report in January.

Hill’s proposal establishes employment standards and a certification process for paraeducators, including those working with special education students, while identifying future training options.

“As the parent of a child with autism, I’ve seen firsthand the remarkable work paraeducators do each day helping students like my son learn and thrive in their school,” said Beth Sigall, parent lead on the legislation for the Washington State PTA, which supports the proposal. “This bill moves us one step closer to ensuring these dedicated professionals get the support they need to do their jobs.”

The bill now heads to the House of Representative for its consideration during the 2016 legislative session.