Corrections education, Customized Training Program bills earn approval
Two community and technical college system-request bills — allowing colleges to offer degree programs in prisons and making the Customized Training Program permanent — won approval from the House Higher Education Committee this week. House members also heard proposals on faculty hiring and pay while Senate budget-writers learned about higher education funding. Meanwhile, students visited the Legislature to share their views on legislative priorities this session.
Students fan out across the Legislature, meet with members
Jan. 26 — Dozens of students from community and technical colleges met with members of the House and Senate to advocate for the student legislative agenda. The students made a total of 102 legislative visits during the Legislative Advocacy Day event, sponsored the Council for Unions and Student Programs (CUSP) and the Washington Association for Community and Technical Colleges (WACTCSA).
House Higher Education Committee hears bills affecting faculty, votes on two system bills
Jan. 24 — At its hearing Tuesday, the House Higher Education Committee heard testimony on two bills affecting community and technical college faculty. They also voted two system bills out of the committee: providing degrees in prisons and making the Customized Training Program permanent.
First on the agenda were public hearings on HB 1168 — supporting student success at community and technical colleges by increasing full-time faculty — and HB 1179 — concerning compensation for part-time academic employees at community colleges.
HB 1168 would require 70 percent of faculty positions be full-time tenured or tenure-track at each college and throughout the system by 2023. This would cost an estimated $9.1 million in the 2017-19 biennium and $52 million in the 2021-13 biennium, the deadline for full implementation.
HB 1179 would increase pay for part-time non-tenure track faculty to 100 percent of a full-time academic workload. This must be met system-wide and by each college by 2023. If this bill becomes law, it would cost about $65.5 million in the 2017-19 biennium, increasing to $174.7 million in the 2021-23 biennium.
House members took testimony on both bills at the same time. Marty Brown, executive director of the State Board, and Dr. Shouan Pan, chancellor of the Seattle College District, testified on behalf of the community and technical college system.
Brown expressed concerns over cost and loss of flexibility that would come with requirements in place.
“Overall, we cannot argue with converting more people to full-time from part-time. We cannot argue with equal pay. But they do cost money,” he said.
Colleges need flexibility to adjust faculty positions depending on changes in programs and enrollment, he continued.
Pan echoed Brown’s support for each bill’s intent and the concern over how to pay for their implementation.
“We need the flexibility in hiring the right faculty when the employment needs change. A good mixture of full-time, part-time, a dynamic flow is what’s important to drive student success,” he said.
Testifying in support of HB 1168 and HB 1179 were Carla Naccarato Sinclair, faculty at the Community Colleges of Spokane and WEA-Higher Education Coordinating Committee chair; Tobi Rosenberg, faculty at Bellevue and Cascadia colleges; Colette Colburn, faculty at Whatcom Community College; and Lynn Dodson, secretary treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council AFL-CIO.
Testifying on behalf of HB 1168 was Renee Potter, faculty at Pierce College; and on HB 1179 was Lauren Wilson, faculty at Shoreline Community College.
Jack Longmate, faculty at Olympic College and representing the Washington Part-Time Faculty Association, testified against HB 1168.
Following the public hearing, members unanimously voted the college system’s corrections education and Customized Training Program bills out of the Higher Education Committee and onto the next step of the legislative process.
Rep. Drew Hansen, the committee’s chair, spoke in favor of each bill prior to their vote.
Of the corrections education bill, he said: “This is awfully important to helping people rebuild their lives.”
On the Customized Training Program bill, he said: “This program has definitely proved its usefulness. It’s about time we make it permanent to help partner with our employers and community college system to train people for jobs.”
House hears bill to allow locally funded salary increases
Jan. 24 — A bill to allow community and technical colleges to negotiate faculty salary increases beyond what the Legislature authorizes or funds was the topic of a House Labor & Workplace Standards Committee hearing on Tuesday. Currently, community and technical colleges can provide salary increases only when the Legislature specifically authorizes them in the state Appropriations Act.
Testifying in support of HB 1237 were:
- Carla Naccarato Sinclair, faculty at the Community Colleges of Spokane and WEA-Higher Education Coordinating Committee chair;
- Ted Baldwin, faculty at Olympic College and president of the Olympic College Chapter of the Association for Higher Education, which is part of the Washington Education Association; and
- Larry Brown, legislative director for the Aerospace Machinists Union and vice president of the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges.
All three speakers said higher salaries in the private sector are luring instructors away from community and technical colleges.
Brown clarified that he was speaking as a member of the labor community and not as a State Board member. “Our community and technical colleges are finding it very difficult to attract and retain skilled trades people as instructors,” he said. “The fact is that for many of these high-demand jobs, they get paid much more in the community. Let’s get them paid; let them collectively bargain with their colleges.”
Marty Brown, executive director of the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, agreed that colleges need more funding for salaries. However, he said the state salaries should be a state responsibility. The only real alternative to state funding for salary increases is tuition revenue, which is unpredictable and uneven among colleges, he said.
“Local funds for us is tuition. We don’t control local funds. The Legislature sets tuition. When the Legislature decides to lower tuition, local funds go down. When our enrollments go down, local funds go down. Local funds should not be used for long-term ongoing expenses.”
Dr. David Beyer, Everett Community College president, agreed with Marty Brown’s assessment. “There’s no doubt that additional compensation is needed. It’s a state responsibility and that’s where the source of the revenue should come from,” he said. “Local funds are uneven across the institutions and uneven from year-to-year.”
Beyer pointed out that local funds allow colleges to buy equipment and respond to emerging issues that go unfunded by the state. Depleting those local funds would make it harder for colleges to respond quickly to the needs of their students and employers.
Marty Brown and Beyer urged the Legislature to approve the community and technical college system’s operating budget request, which seeks $34.1 million to increase faculty and staff salaries and to move more part-time faculty positions into full-time positions.
“We have requested [more funding for salaries] from the Legislature annually since 2009. We’ve gotten zero. We’ve gotten I-732 money — and that’s only twice,” Marty Brown said.
- Larry Brown testimony begins at 1:16:12
- Marty Brown testimony begins at 1:19:11
- Beyer testimony begins at 1:20:54
Hundreds gather at trustees conference
Jan. 24— About 300 people gathered in Olympia for the annual meeting of the Association of College Trustees, where they honored students, shared information and visited legislators on the hill. Guest speakers included Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal, and Rep. Jeff Holy, ranking member of the House Higher Education committee.
Reykdal calls for K-12 and higher education institutions to “think very differently”
Chris Reykdal acknowledged the Legislature is focused on K-12 funding. However, he said the key to improving graduation rates is to intentionally use the funding to help students who are more likely to fall behind. This includes lower-income students, students of color, LGBT students and those who have been in foster care.
“People say, ‘Hey, if you’re getting 79 percent of the students over the hurdle, won’t $3.5 billion get 100 percent?’ and I say, ‘no, no, no. It doesn’t work that way. You won’t get the student achievement differences we want if you’re not very intentional about resources and the communities that need more of it,’” he said.
Reykdal challenged the community and technical college system to:
- Expand College in the High School because a growing number of students who want dual credits will not have the opportunity to travel to campuses.
- Expand high school completion programs and ask the Legislature for a share of state basic education dollars to fund those students.
- Stop charging full tuition for pre-college (remedial) courses. Instead, charge the same low or no cost that Basic Education for Adult students now pay. The cost to the colleges could be offset by additional state funding. “If you want to take college-level courses, that’s on you (the student); if you’re struggling in math still, that’s on us (the state).”
- Give students who score at lower levels on the 11th grade Smarter Balanced Assessment a chance to catch up their senior year of high school. Juniors who score higher on the assessment already have that opportunity, thanks to "bridge" courses created by community and technical colleges and K-12 school districts. Reykdal wants that concept expanded for students who score at lower levels. “Those students still need a post-secondary option, but they’re not going to get over a standardized test hurdle.”
According to Reykdal, the K-12 system needs to offer more career and technical education programs in high school. This, he said, would build a bridge for those students to continue at community and technical colleges.
Holy decries “flat-lined” funding
Jeff Holy said he is painfully aware that funding for community and technical colleges has "flat-lined" and that students and families are paying more for higher education.
“Community and technical college education falls into the category of business drivers, trade drivers, and industry drivers in the state,” he said. “I get that you’re cutting services — things like counseling and academic advising — just by necessity at this point. You’re bound to have to start cutting programs, which is the farthest thing I want to see.”
Holy said it’s time for the state to switch back from a 40-year pattern of deprioritizing higher education, transferring financial responsibility to families, and driving up student debt. He added, however, that there isn’t one simple solution to make that happen.
Senate Ways & Means learn about higher education budgets
Jan. 24 — Members of the Senate Ways & Means Committee held a work session on Tuesday dedicated to higher education budgets. Senators first heard from committee staff, who outlined how higher education fits into the overall state operating budget. Information included:
- In the 2015-17 state operating budget, about 9 percent of the overall budget (about $3.6 billion) went to higher education. This was 16 percent more than the 2013-15 biennium.
- Of those funds, 20 percent goes to the Washington Student Achievement Council for financial aid, including $592 million for the State Need Grant, the largest state-funded financial aid program.
- 39 percent goes to the community and technical college system.
- A combined 30 percent goes to the state’s two research universities: the University of Washington and Washington State University.
- A combined 11 percent goes to the four regional universities: Central Washington University, Eastern Washington University, The Evergreen State College and Western Washington University.
Testifying on behalf of the community and technical college system were Marty Brown, executive director of the State Board, and Dr. Bob Mohrbacher, president of Centralia College. Brown gave an overview of the college system, including the numbers of certificates and degrees awarded over the past 10 years, how enrollment fluctuates with economic conditions, and how the Student Achievement Initiative incentivizes colleges to help students reach educational benchmarks.
Mohrbacher focused on how funding is appropriated to the colleges through the system’s allocation model.
“It is looking at what the gaps are — what the skills gaps are, what the needs are in the state — and making sure that our funding model incentivizes the right things for the colleges,” he said. “Our focus is really on seeing how we can be nimble and respond to [community] needs. We try to structure our budget that way; we try to structure our programs that way.”
Brown continued by outlining the college system’s budget request, including $34.1 million that would fund salary increases and create more full-time positions from part-time positions; $81 million to fund guided pathways and expand the MESA Community College Program; and keeping college affordable through investment in the State Need Grant. Brown stressed how a broad investment in the system from the Legislature helps colleges remain flexible as they adapt to economic needs.
“Because we have 34 different colleges — what is important in Walla Walla is different than what is important in Bellevue — and they have different programs to meet that,” he said. “We, as a system, work with the presidents and make the allocations for what’s changing in the local economies.”
Coming up next week
System staff will be busy on the hill next week as House and Senate committees hold work sessions and hearings on bills affecting community and technical colleges. The Senate Higher Education Committee on Tuesday will take testimony on its chamber’s version of the corrections education bill. That committee will also hold a public hearing on a bill that would exempt property owned or used by community and technical colleges from property tax. Senators will also hear testimony on making the Customized Training Program permanent, the Senate companion to the bill that was voted out of the House Higher Education Committee earlier this week.