Legislature reaches policy committee cutoff, budget debates underway
The Legislature reached another policy cutoff date today: bills, unless necessary to implement the budget, must be voted out of their policy committee by 5 p.m. in order to continue in the legislative process. The House and Senate released their operating and capital budgets earlier this week, holding hearings on each.
College trustee hearings and confirmations
Feb. 22, 25 and 26 — Members Senate Higher Education Committee held confirmation hearings for five community college trustees as part of the confirmation process. On Tuesday, committee members heard from Frieda Takamura, Renton Technical College, and Allyson Page, Columbia Basin College. On Thursday, the committee heard from Richard Fukutaki, Bellevue College, Tia Benson Tolle, Edmonds Community College, and James Curtis, Tacoma Community College.
The Senate has confirmed four trustees so far this session:
- Robert Roegner, Highline College, on Feb. 11
- Stuart Halsan, Centralia College, on Feb. 15
- Mike Wilson, Community Colleges of Spokane, on Friday
- Jim Page, Olympic College, on Friday
System representatives testify on House and Senate budget proposals
The House released its budget midday Monday, and the House Appropriations Committee held a hearing on it that afternoon. For the community and technical college system, the budget contained additional funding for the six existing MESA community college pilot programs and funding for a wildfire prevention program at Wenatchee Valley College. It also provided funding to study the impacts of the use of part-time faculty. It did not provide funding, however, to fully fund increases to employee compensation or backfills for cuts to upper-division tuition.
Nick Lutes, SBCTC’s operating budget director, thanked representatives for the additional MESA funding and funding for the wildfire prevention program, but expressed disappointment that the compensation increase and tuition cuts were not part of the budget.
“This represents about a $10 million reduction on our campuses so that our colleges can implement the COLAs and pension and health benefit changes that were provided the underlying budget,” he said. “As well, our applied baccalaureate programs are scheduled to receive a 15 percent tuition reduction, however, the funding provided in the tuition backfill for the tuition reduction was not fully funded for those programs. That represents about a $2 million reduction on campuses as well to implement those tuition reductions. We hope that you’ll reconsider these.”
On Wednesday, the Senate Ways & Means Committee heard testimony on the Senate’s proposed operating budget. Lutes thanked senators for additional funding for the MESA Community College program and for providing a partial backfill for revenue that would be lost with the upper-division tuition cuts. He voiced disappointment, though, that the Senate’s budget did not include funding for employee compensation increases as provided in the 2015-17 budget.
“Without that additional state funding, the tuition revenues that we currently have are used to pay for those COLAs and services must be reduced across our campuses,” he said.
Also on Wednesday, the House Capital Budget Committee took testimony on its chamber’s capital budget proposal. The budget provides debt service to pay for the financing for facilities at Whatcom Community College and Edmonds Community College. The Senate Ways and Means Committee also heard testimony on its chamber’s capital budget proposal, which did not include financing for the Edmonds and Whatcom projects.
Dr. Jean Hernandez, president of Edmonds Community College, Marty Mattes, executive director for facilities and operations at Bates Technical College, and Bob Pasquariello, director of facilities at Olympic College, testified on behalf of the college system.
Hernandez told committee members how the House’s proposed budget affects Edmonds’ science, engineering and technology building.
“This building will really help us to meet our current shortage in classroom and lab space for the college,” she said. “We feel that both the students that we would be serving and our community in Snohomish County as well as the community in our state would benefit greatly by this.”
Mattes testified on Bates’ proposed Medical Mile Health Science Center, which did not receive funding in either the House or Senate’s budget proposals.
“We provide an excellent resource for education for our graduates and economic development for our community, and we would appreciate if you could find a way to help us fund this project,” he said.
Finally, Pasquariello testified to the importance of Olympic College’s shop building renovation. The project also did not receive funding in either the House or Senate’s budget proposals.
“This project will improve access and opportunities for underserved populations and move them into family-wage jobs,” he said.
- Monday's House Appropriations testimony begins at 1:32:50
- Wednesday’s House Capital Budget testimony begins at 1:02:04
- Wednesday’s Senate Ways & Means: operating budget testimony begins at 27:22; capital budget testimony begins at 2:20:01
System’s corrections education bill part of Senate Law and Justice Committee hearing
Feb. 24 — The college system’s requested bill on corrections education received a hearing before the Senate’s Law and Justice Committee late Wednesday night. Representatives from the community and technical college system, The Evergreen State College and former student inmates testified in favor of the bill.
“We are in support of HB 2619 because we believe, at a fundamental level, that our programs in correctional facilities change lives, and they do that every day and they will continue to do that,” Dr. Luke Robins, president of Peninsula College, said. “2619 provides a logical extension of programs and services that we already provide in correctional facilities.”
Stu Halsan, a trustee at Centralia College, told committee members of his experience seeing educational programs at work in prisons.
“This type of thing can show them [inmates] they can succeed,” he said. “It saves money and it saves lives.”
Former inmate Dawud Malik spoke of his experience earning a bachelor’s degree while in prison. The state allowed until 1995 colleges to provide bachelor’s-level program in prisons.
“In spite of the number of years that I served, I know the process and having an opportunity to gain an education truly helped me survive those years of incarceration,” Malik said. He served time in prison for over 49 years.
Eddie Parnel, a former inmate at the Walla Walla State Penitentiary, spoke in favor of the bill. Parnel earned an associate degree from Walla Walla Community College with a grant from the Sunshine Lady Foundation.
“It was a springboard for me back into society, and it changed my life,” he said.
Also testifying in favor was Brian Walsh, SBCTC policy associate for corrections education, Abner Pagunuran, legislative liaison for Bellevue College and a representative of Washington Student Association and WACTCSA, and Jeff Peahlac, legislative liaison for The Evergreen State College.
Senate Higher Education Committee hears bachelor’s degree and faculty bills
Feb. 23 — The Senate Higher Education Committee on Tuesday took testimony on two bills affecting the college system. SHB 2769, which would create a pilot program for up to five community and technical colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees in high-demand fields of study, was heard first. Marty Brown, SBCTC’s executive director, and Dr. David Rule, president of Bellevue College, testified on behalf of the college system.
Brown told committee members this bill is necessary in order for Bellevue College to begin offering a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science in fall quarter, a degree created from a proviso in the Legislature’s 2015-17 operating budget. State law authorizes community and technical colleges to offer applied baccalaureate degrees, but not bachelor’s degrees.
“We all know there are many gaps in workforce – workforce, engineering, other STEM and healthcare – and that increases the need for more bachelor’s degrees,” Brown said. “There are 23 states that allow applied baccalaureates. We’re one of the few that requires it to be ‘applied’ only.”
Rule also testified, stressing the bill’s language that requires bachelor’s degrees offered by community and technical colleges to be in high-demand fields.
“The state has identified a large gap between current employer demand and our state’s ability to offer qualified graduates particularly at the baccalaureate level. There’s a lack of capacity in our current higher education institutions to provide these additional degrees,” he said. “We have many more students who need access — affordable access — to these degrees than we have the capacity to handle.”
Rule also emphasized the ability of community and technical colleges to provide degree choices to students who would not otherwise attend college.
“Many students are able to go away to a university or a regional, but community colleges: it’s part of our mission to serve the students that are in our local communities,” he said. “Many are working adults, they’re place-bound by spouses, children, work — they simply aren’t able to pick up and leave and go to another institution so that’s what the community colleges do. It’s part of our mission, it’s not something new.”
Also testifying were Carla Naccarato-Sinclair from the Community College of Spokane and chair of the Washington Education Association Higher Education Coordinating Committee, and Paul Francis, executive director of the Council of Presidents.
The higher education committee also took testimony on SHB 2615, which would require colleges hire an additional 200 state-funded full-time tenure-track faculty members each budget biennium for the next three bienna. Marty Brown testified in favor of the bill on behalf of the college system, but expressed his hope that the Legislature provide funding for those positions.
“There is an overreliance on part-time faculty which could negatively affect students,” he said. “We support increasing the number, but it does come with a price.”
Also testifying were faculty members from Bellevue, Cascadia and Olympic colleges and South Puget Sound Community College, and representatives from WFSE, AFT-Washington, WEA and the Washington Part-Time Faculty Association.
Coming up next week
House and Senate face two deadlines next week: the first is Monday when bills in fiscal committees must be voted out in order to continue in the legislative process. The second comes Friday, when bills must be voted out of the opposite chamber to continue their process. Meanwhile, negotiations will start with members of each chamber looking to reach agreement on a supplemental operating and capital budget.