Legislature reaches first session cutoff
House and Senate policy committees wrapped up their work this week ahead of today's policy cutoff deadline. Policy bills need to be voted out of those committees by the end of the day in order to continue in the legislative process.
Up for a hearing this week was the Senate version of the system-request bill to add Washington adults without a high school diploma or equivalent to the state's Caseload Forecast Council's forecasting. Also heard was a bill that would cover the cost of textbooks and transportation for low-income Running Start students.
Senate Ways and Means takes up bill on salary increases
Feb. 1 — The Senate Ways and Means Committee at its hearing Thursday took up Senate Bill 5993, the bill that would authorize colleges to provide additional compensation to academic employees beyond that established by the Legislature. The bill was heard by the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee on Jan. 15.
Testifying on behalf of the college system were Kevin McCarthy, president of Renton Technical College, John Boesenberg, deputy executive director for business operations, and Steve Leahy, government relations director for the Seattle College District. Each spoke about the importance of paying faculty well, but expressed concern about using one-time funds to fund salary increases.
McCarthy told senators that differences in college resources may ultimately lead to differences in pay and affect college’s ability to attract employees. Resources at technical and rural schools, he said, are more limited.
“Our program mix focuses on high-cost technical education, basic education and ESL, and apprenticeships. Forty-seven percent of our enrollments come from students with half to almost all tuition waived, the primary source of this bill’s local funds. This severely affects our ability to bargain for salaries, amplifying inequities. Ultimately this will hurt student success,” he said.
Boesenberg spoke about the long-term consequences of using a college’s reserve funds for ongoing costs like salaries.
“You may hear that there are cash balances or reserves — those are one-time dollars and once spent, they’re gone. They shouldn’t be used for the permanent commitment represented by salary increases,” he said.
College representatives speaking on behalf of the bill were Carla Naccarato-Sinclair, faculty member and union president at the Community Colleges of Spokane, and Allison Wareham, faculty at Olympic College.
Bill to expand dual-credit to all high school students heard in Senate Early Learning
Feb. 1 — The Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee heard a bill Thursday that would allow all high school students to take dual-credit programs like Running Start, Advanced Placement and College in the High School. Running Start is currently limited to high school juniors and seniors while College in the High School is limited to high school sophomores, juniors and seniors. The bill also expands academic acceleration policies at high schools, and it requires school districts to use a dropout early warning and intervention data system.
Sen. Mark Mullet, the bill’s prime sponsor, told the committee that this is an effort to expand on ideas that work well. Opening up academic acceleration would provide more students those opportunities that don’t participate in those programs now. He highlighted Spokane’s Rogers High School where hundreds of students participate in dual-credit programs, six times the number who participated two years ago.
“The idea that only some kids are the right kids to go into these advanced classes just isn’t true,” he said.
Speaking on behalf of the community and technical college system were Tim Stokes, president of South Puget Sound Community College, and Joyce Hammer, director of transfer education at the State Board. Both spoke in favor of the bill, but with concerns about expanding Running Start to all high school students. Ninth graders may not have the academic preparedness and maturity for college-level classes, which could negatively impact future financial aid and academic opportunities.
System-request caseload forecast bill heard in Senate committee
Jan. 30 — The Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee took up the community and technical college system-requested bill that would add the number of Washington residents aged 25-44 without a high school diploma or equivalent to the state’s Caseload Forecast Council forecasting. The bill would also require the council forecast the number of students expected to enroll in community and technical college basic education for adults courses. The companion bill was heard Jan. 15 in the House Appropriations Committee.
Jon Kerr, basic education for adults at the State Board, and Kim Ward, dean for communication and transitional studies at Tacoma Community College, testified in favor of the bill. The bill would help colleges think strategically about the best way to offer basic education for adults classes, ultimately benefiting students and the state economy as more people learn skills that would help them in the workplace.
“Knowing how many adults in our state require basic education, lack a high school or post-secondary credential and are expected to enroll in basic education for adults courses would provide the Legislature and college system with a clearer picture of precisely what programming is needed to meet our state’s educational goals,” Kerr said.
The state’s educational goals, approved by the Legislature, state that by 2023:
- All Washington adults aged 25 to 44 will have a high school diploma or equivalent
- At least 70 percent of Washington adults aged 25 to 44 will have a post-secondary credential
“Basic education for adults is an essential component of the mission our system, and as an administrator, I have to think broadly and strategically about how to develop, implement, fund and scale comprehensive programming that will move these individuals through education and training programs,” she said.
For Ward, accurate data is essential to projecting what classes are needed each quarter and finding ways to fund them. She relies on federal, state, local and private resources for that funding which require demographic analysis and forecasting. Data from the Caseload Forecast Council would give her that level of accuracy.
“According to the Brookings Institute, Washington has the 11th largest metropolitan area in the United States importing talent. We have a responsibility as a state to train and educate our own talent, and having reliable data and the ability to forecast the needs in our communities will go a long way to ensure that this information is needed to make this happen,” she said.
Mental health and suicide prevention bill heard
The Senate committee also took up a bill that would develop a statewide resource for behavioral health and suicide prevention in colleges and universities. The bill would also create a grant program to help colleges and universities partner with health care organizations to provide mental health support and suicide prevention. The first six grants would go to community and technical colleges. The companion to this bill was heard Jan. 16 in the House Higher Education Committee.
Edward Esparza, a student services policy associate with the State Board, testified in favor of the bill. Katie Viola, director of student development at Lake Washington Institute of Technology, and Scott Latiolais, vice president of student affairs at Clover Park Technical College, also spoke in support of the bill.
“Many of the students who come to Washington’s two-year colleges are low-income students who lack financial resources to seek mental health assistance, and often these students rely on the resources that are available to them at their colleges,” Viola said. “However, like many two-year colleges, LWTech is resource-scarce in student services and cannot afford to offer mental health counseling services to students.”
Viola praised the bill for its attention to student veterans. Over half of student veterans, she said, contemplate committing suicide.
“At Lake Washington, in fall quarter alone, this would have been about 75 students,” she said. “As a college administrator, I feel compelled to advocate for those who so often cannot advocate for themselves.”
Latiolais, who previously worked at Renton Technical College, told senators that six colleges in the system do not have any mental health counselors on staff, including Clover Park and Renton. Student to counselor ratios lie about 1,000 to one.
“Addressing students in crisis is, unfortunately, a regular occurrence not only at Clover Park, but throughout the system. And most often the staff who wind up intervening are not trained in behavioral health intervention,” he said.
In fall quarter, Clover Park notified and sought counsel from the Pierce County Crisis Link three times about students thinking about suicide. Two of these students were veterans.
“As helpful as these local resources are, it’s just not the same as having a behavioral health counselor on campus to help triage and intervene in crisis situations,” Latiolais said.
Child care center employee education bill on Senate Early Learning agenda
Jan. 30 — The Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee took up a bill on child care center employee education requirements at its hearing Tuesday. The bill would require the Department of Early Learning (DEL) to use negotiated rulemaking before adopting or defining equivalencies to educational requirements for child care center employees. It would also exempt current child care center employees who meet current educational requirements from having to meet new rules developed by DEL.
Sen. Andy Billig, the bill’s prime sponsor, commended the bill for involving child care organizations in rulemaking negotiations and its effort to professionalize the occupation. Exempting current child care center employees from any new educational rules would allow the new standards to be eased in, he said.
Sally Holloway, director of early childhood education at Whatcom Community College and president of the Early Childhood Teacher Preparation Council, testified concerned about the bill’s exemption for current child care center employees. Quality childcare, she said, hinges on teachers, staff and administrators. Research shows that children in high-quality early childhood education programs enter school better prepared and more successful than children from lower-quality programs.
“We’re concerned that this bill proposes to exempt childcare center staff currently working in the field from attaining educational levels that were established as a result of very inclusive, complete, negotiated rulemaking,” she said.
Thirty community and technical colleges offer courses for child care center employees through face-to-face, online and hybrid courses, Holloway told senators. Colleges also offer student support services like tutoring, credit for prior learning and community-based classes.
“There’s lots of opportunity for reaching the educational requirements that we think this segment of the workforce needs,” she said.
Running Start textbook and transportation bill heard in Senate Early Learning
Jan. 29 — A bill that would cover the cost of textbooks and transportation for low-income Running Start students was heard Monday before the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee. Colleges would develop their own plans for covering these costs with funding coming from existing allocations. The estimated cost to the community and technical college system is $13.7 million for the 2019 fiscal year and $27.3 million per biennium thereafter.
Sen. Kevin Ranker, chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee and the bill’s prime sponsor, testified in favor. Textbook and transportation costs, he said, present significant barriers to lower-income and low-income students.
“Those barriers stop many lower and lowest income students from being able to access this incredible opportunity of getting college credit while they’re still in high school, which we know is a significant advancement for these children,” he said.
Ruben Flores, a student services policy associate with the State Board, and Eric Murray, president of Cascadia College, told the committee that the bill would hamper colleges’ flexibility to provide services to Running Start students.
“We pride ourselves on being receptive to our students and the communities involved, and what we are hearing is there are a unique set of needs for each campus, and each campus is developing a plan to use those funds to address those needs,” Flores said. “Whether that plan includes transportation, books or a more intrusive advising models that include early alert systems — which is a specific ask from the Principal’s Association — we plan to continue making Running Start students our priority.”
In the 2016-17 school year, community and technical colleges served 26,303 Running Start students. Cascadia College served 780 students with 45 high school in its district. Murray expressed concern that student equity would suffer if the Legislature prescribed how funds will be spent.
“Running Start is a cost-intensive and staff-intensive program for us. We have to have a relationship with every single student in terms of advising and every single high school,” he said. “By allowing us local control, I can use those funds to help the most students possible to succeed at our institution, rather than a very small number,” he said.
Coming up next week
With policy committee work done, the fiscal committees — House Capital Budget, House Appropriations and Senate Ways and Means — get to work before their Feb. 6 cutoff. As of writing, most of those committees have not set their agendas, waiting until after today's policy cutoff deadline passes before finalizing which bills will be heard.