House passes budget, session reaches second policy cutoff
Community and technical college system leaders this week testified on behalf a 2017-19 operating budget plan passed by House Democrats and a proposal to increase full-time faculty positions at colleges. Both proposals won praise from the system as the Legislature moves forward to its next week of session.
House approves 2017-19 spending plan
March 31 — The House on Friday approved a 2017-19 spending plan that makes significant investments in the community and technical college system.
Contained in HB 10, the proposal would:
- Freeze tuition this fall and fall 2018. It would also backfill colleges for lost tuition revenue in order to protect programs and services.
- Fund collective bargaining agreements.
- Provide I-732 salary increases for community and technical college faculty and for technical college classified staff.
- Convert 34 part-time positions to full-time positions in FY 19.
- Increase State Need Grant funding by $73 million to serve 6,000 additional students each year, roughly 25 percent of the unserved population.
- Invest $8.5 million in "Guided Pathways," an approach that connects college programs and advising into clear pathways that lead to jobs and transfer opportunities.
- Invest $7 million in I-BEST, a program that uses a team-teaching approach to teach adults basic skills — like reading, writing and math — in the context of job training.
- Invest $1.5 million to increase from six to 12 the number of colleges that provide the Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement (MESA) program. The program helps underrepresented community and technical college students succeed in STEM programs.
The House proposes to finance $3 billion of its spending plan with increased revenue outlined in HB 2186.
Earlier in the week, community and technical college system leaders applauded the plan in testimony before the House Appropriations Committee on Monday, March 27.
Cherie Berthon, operating budget director for the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, thanked the House for its commitment to supporting faculty and staff and investing in programs that help students succeed in college. "We would like to thank you for your commitment to community and technical colleges and thank your staff for the excellent work they've done in this difficult budget," she said.
Stu Halsan, a Centralia College trustee, testified on behalf of the Association of College Trustees. "Trust me, I know how difficult it is to take whatever pot of money it is you're given and allocate that out. We appreciate the funding of the tuition freeze and the backfill. It is very important to us, as well as the contracts you've funded for us and the I-732 for our faculty and staff," he said.
Halsan pointed out that investments go a long way in the community and technical college system. "We just want to say we do a damn good job out there educating students and we're proud of what we do."
Bill to increase number of full-time faculty positions heard in Senate Higher Education Committee
March 28 — A bill that would increase the number of full-time tenure-track faculty positions at community and technical colleges was the subject of Tuesday’s Senate Higher Education Committee hearing. If funded, the bill would increase the number of full-time tenure-track positions by 34 in the 2017-19 biennium and by 50 new positions in each of the next three biennia.
Rep. Mia Gregerson, the bill’s prime sponsor, spoke in favor of the bill.
“In 2005, there was a task force, and in that task force, it said that we really would get a better bang for the buck if we had more full-time faculty,” she said.
Arlen Harris, legislative director for the State Board, expressed support for the bill on behalf of the college system.
“I want to begin by saying it is important for our community and technical college system to have adjunct faculty. They bring a lot to our students from their day-to-day work,” he said. “However, at this time, we are out of balance. This bill would put us in the right direction of correcting that and getting us on a trajectory to having a better balance of full-time and part-time faculty.”
Also testifying in support were Carla Naccarato Sinclair, faculty at the Community Colleges of Spokane and WEA-Higher Education Coordinating Committee chair; and Wendy Rader-Konofalski with the Washington Education Association. Bernal Baca with AFT Washington testified with concerns.
Coming up next week
Monday marks the session's next cutoff date at which time bills must be passed out of House and Senate fiscal committees in order to continue in the legislative process. Legislators will spend the remaining part of the week in caucus or on the floor hearing and voting on bills prior to the April 12 floor cutoff date.