Legislative session kicks off with ceremony, committee hearings
The Legislature kicked off its 2017 session this week with plenty of ceremony, including elected officials taking their oaths of office and Governor Inslee delivering his second inaugural address. Committee hearings also began with testimony on the governor’s proposed budgets and work sessions on topics affecting the community and technical college system.
Governor’s proposed capital budget receives testimony
Jan. 12 and 13 — Representatives of the community and technical college system testified on the governor’s proposed capital budget before the Senate Ways and Means Committee and the House Capital Budget Committee. They all urged the Legislature to fully fund the system’s capital budget request.
Testifying Jan. 12 before the Senate Ways & Means Committee were Choi Halladay, Pierce College vice president of administrative services; Cheryl Roberts; Shoreline Community College president, and Joyce Loveday, Clover Park Technical College president.
Halladay applauded the governor’s proposed capital investments, which include funding to design the last renovation phase at the Cascade Building at Pierce College Fort Steilacoom. The renovation will provide new classroom spaces, upgrade infrastructure and safety, and provide new space for the international education program. The building will particularly benefit three programs that train students for high-demand, high-wage careers: Veterinary Technology, Emergency Medical Technician and Dental Hygiene.
Roberts thanked the governor for funding projects in the prioritized order recommended by the community and technical college system. However, she expressed concern that the funding level fell short of funding design work for an Allied Health, Science and Advanced Manufacturing building at Shoreline Community College. “Although there is a resurgence of interest in mid-century architecture, I can tell you that 50-year-old buildings do not provide the instructional needs for high-demand, and high-wage programs, nor do they meet the technology needs required of STEM fields,” she said.
Loveday thanked the governor for funding 16 of the community and technical college system’s 25 priorities, in order. She asked the Legislature to fund all 25 projects, including a Center for Advanced Manufacturing Technologies at Clover Park Technical College. The project would replace a 1940s-era building with a training facility for manufacturing jobs. “Within the Puget Sound area, there is a growing demand for manufacturing-related jobs and many are going unfilled due to a lack of a trained workforce,” she said.
Halladay, Roberts and Loveday also testified before the House Capital Budget Committee on Feb. 13. Joining them was Chato Hazelbaker, chief communication and information officer for Clark College.
Hazelbaker asked for full funding of the system’s $338 million capital budget request. He explained that all the colleges came together to craft single, unified list of carefully vetted projects. The list includes the design for a building at the upcoming North Clark County campus in Ridgefield. ”This project in Clark County is a cornerstone that is going to spur all kinds of other development I know committee members here have been very passionate about, including advanced manufacturing and career and technical education,” he said.
Governor’s proposed operating budget subject of testimony
Jan. 9 and 11 — Six members of the community and technical college system testified on the governor’s proposed operating budget before the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Ways & Means Committee. Their focus: supporting the community and technical college system’s $200 million operating budget request. The request is designed to produce the diverse talent pool needed to fill thousands of jobs and grow Washington’s economy.
Testifying before the House Appropriations Committee on Monday, Jan. 9 were Cherie Berthon, SBCTC operating budget director; Larry Brown, State Board vice chair; and Scott Morgan, Green River College interim president.
Berthon thanked the governor for investing in Guided Pathways programs, the Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement program (MESA) program, and collective bargaining agreements. She focused on the community and technical college system’s goal of producing 15,000 more degrees and certificates over the next two years. To that end, she asked the committee to invest further in Guided Pathways, to fund additional enrollments in I-BEST programs, and to increase funding for Opportunity Grants.
Brown noted that each committee member has a community or technical college in his or her district. He raised alarm about past budget cuts and underpaid faculty and staff, and called for additional funding for the I-BEST program. “Since the beginning of 2009, our colleges have experienced substantial cuts with tremendous unmet needs,” he said.
Morgan summed up the intent of the community and technical college system’s budget request. “We’re trying to increase completions of our students. We’re trying to improve the way we support and teach our students. We’re trying to ensure our campuses are safe,” he said. “The (Washington) Roundtable just came out with their study that said there’s going to be 740,000 job openings in this state in the next five years and most of those are going to require some college. They don’t all require bachelor’s degrees, but if you want a good job, you need more education than what’s available in K-12.”
Testifying before the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday, Jan. 11 were Cherie Berthon, Phyllis Gutierrez-Kenney, State Board member; Jim Lowery, Centralia College trustee; and Amy Goings, Lake Washington Institute of Technology president.
Berthon’s testimony was similar to the remarks she made before the House Appropriations Committee (see above).
Gutierrez-Kenney focused on college affordability and the need to fill Washington jobs with Washington employees. “All of us really care about the quality of education in pre-K and K-12 funding, and we also want to understand that we have a place for these students to go after they graduate,” she said. “We need to talk about the economy and the very important role the community and technical colleges have in producing an educated workforce.” She applauded the governor for increasing financial aid in his budget proposal.
Lowery discussed past budget cuts at Centralia College and the need to increase staff and faculty salaries. “ I was really pleased when there was some small raise given last year, but I’d really like to see them get another raise because they carried the college through (a rough) period of time,” he said. Lowery said the college hopes to start an agricultural program for Lewis County and south Thurston County.
Goings called for faculty and staff salary increases. “I just want to underscore that our colleges thrive and our students succeed based on the experience, skills and teaching abilities of our faculty. They make the difference at our college campuses. It is very challenging to recruit and retain talented faculty, especially in the areas of workforce, such as IT and nursing and health sciences.” She asked the committee to fully fund salary increases because the community and technical college system lacks a local funding option.
- House Appropriations testimony (begins at 1:47:04)
- Senate Ways & Means testimony (begins at 1:50:44)
House Higher Education committee holds work session on task force reports
Jan. 11 — The House Higher Education Committee held its first work session Wednesday reviewing two task force reports: campus sexual violence prevention and mental health and suicide prevention. The task forces were created in 2015.
The campus sexual violence prevention task force’s work concluded after 18 months, with a preliminary report issued in 2015 and a final report in December 2016. The community and technical college system worked with the state’s four-year universities to fulfill the task force’s requirements. The bill required the colleges and universities to study:
- Prevalence of sexual violence on our campuses
- Student and employee knowledge of policies, procedures, Title IX, etc.
- Student and employee bystander attitudes and behavior
- Victim and survivor reporting behavior
Joe Holliday, director of student services at the State Board, represented the community and technical college system on the task force and chaired the campus climate assessment committee. He shared the task force’s recommendations with the Higher Education committee members:
- Continue assessments on campuses on a three-year cycle so colleges can complete the assessments more comprehensively
- Work on managing costs
- Complete holistic assessments
- Develop assessments tailored to the individual student and to the college and university campus
Holliday was joined by Paul Francis, the executive director of the Council of Presidents; John Vinson, chief of police at the University of Washington; Kelly Schrader, assistant director for Title IX & Prevention Education at The Evergreen State College; and Amanda Paye, deputy Title IX/ADA coordinator, compliance services at the University of Washington.
The committee also heard testimony from members of the Task Force on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention in Higher Education. Representing the community and technical college system was Edward Esparza, a State Board student services policy associate. He stressed that many colleges do not have the staff resources on campus to adequately address students’ mental health.
“It is problematic because community college [students] are very stressed and we work on the margins of trying to provide services,” he said. “It’s no secret we have been somewhat in the situation that we are asked continuously to do more with less and this is a very important area where that methodology doesn’t seem to work well when we’re talking about folks’ lives.”
Inslee sworn in for second term, delivers inaugural address
Jan. 11 —Gov. Jay Inslee was sworn in for a second term and delivered his inaugural address Wednesday before a joint session of the Legislature. Fulfilling the state’s McCleary decision obligation and fully funding K-12 education should be legislators’ top priority this session, he said.
“As leaders of our state, we are entrusted with the unique opportunity to work together for a strong and secure future for Washington,” Inslee said. “And there’s nothing more essential to that future than acting to fulfill our top priority — fully funding education, this year.”
In addition to K-12 funding, Inslee highlighted as other high priorities: mental health, early learning, social services, and affordable housing and support services for the homeless. He also stressed college affordability.
“We need to maintain the lower tuition rate we passed for students at our public colleges and universities, expand financial aid for those who need it most and ensure we provide career-connected education opportunities for those who choose another path,” he said.
Inslee told the story of his visit to the Yakima Valley Technical Skills Center which offers technical career programs to Yakima-area high schools. The center works closely with Yakima Valley College and other community and technical colleges to help students earn college credit and apprenticeship training.
“At the Yakima Valley Technical Skills Center, students told me how their career-connected training helped them see the relevance of their education and offered them a vision for their own future they never saw while sitting in a traditional classroom,” Inslee said. “Put these students to work while they are in high school and watch graduation rates climb.”
He continued by stressing the importance of teaching students technical and vocational skills.
“We are going to stop telling our children that a four-year degree is the only path to success. It’s time we recognize the dreams of those who want to build beautiful boats as a welder, or assemble aircraft as a machinist, or help cure diseases as a global health specialist,” he said. “And that’s why I propose more funding for these and other career-connected opportunities from elementary school through high school graduation. It works.”
The governor’s proposed $90.3 billion 2017-19 operating budget designates $1.51 billion for the community and technical college system, a 4 percent increase from the current 2015-17 biennium. The proposed $4.1 billion 2017-19 capital budget allocates $227 million to the college system.
Coming up next week
Week two of the legislative session will bring the first hearing of a community and technical college system-requested bill. The House Higher Education Committee on Tuesday will hear HB 1129 which would allow community and technical colleges to provide associate degrees in prisons to incarcerated adults meeting certain Department of Corrections criteria.
On Wednesday, the Senate Higher Education Committee will hold a work session to hear updates from the community and technical college system and from four-year universities.