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Budget proposals released, policy committee cutoff today

February 23, 2018 by SBCTC Communications

Committees were busy this week hearing policy bills before today's cutoff. Bills on apprenticeship expansion, behavioral health and suicide prevention, and an alternative test to the GED® were all on committee schedules this week. 

House and Senate Democrats also released operating and capital budget proposals this week. Both chambers' operating budget proposals funded Guided Pathways, part of the college system's 2018 request to the Legislature. Both capital budget proposals provide some funding for every project on the system's list of capital projects. The House fully funds the entire list, while the Senate provides all or most of the funding for the projects.

House capital budget proposal fully funds college system project list

Feb. 22 — The House released and took testimony on its capital budget proposal yesterday. The proposal, when combined with the biennial budget, fully funds all of the projects on the college system’s list.

Arlen Harris, the legislative director for the State Board, thanked the committee for fully funding the system’s request. He was joined by Jim Minkler, president of Grays Harbor College, Peter Lortz, interim president of South Seattle College, and Jeff Wagnitz, interim president of Highline College.

Grays Harbor would receive $4.2 million to design a student services and instructional building.

“The replacement building, which we identified in our 2007 Grays Harbor College Master Plan, would be a contemporary facility which includes much needed new instructional spaces while merging student services from four separate campus locations,” Minkler said. “As you’ve been hearing, co-locating mutually supportive programs can help students succeed. In this new building we will have flexible space for alternate modes of learning and delivering instruction and an opportunity to develop new programs for our community.”

South Seattle would receive $2.5 million to design an update to the college’s Automotive Technology building. The design would include infilling the building’s courtyard with a two-story addition.

“A lot, obviously, has changed in the way cars are built and need to be repaired since 1970 when the building was first built, so most of the building systems have outlived their useful lives, but this building can be saved with seismic upgrades and some other renovations,” he said.

Highline would receive $24.2 million to renovate the Health and Life Sciences building.

“Your funding will allow us to move forward with a full renovation of a building — Building 26 to us — that will allow us to combine all of our life sciences and health sciences programs into single integrated, flexible learning environment that we think will educate the health care workforce of the future,” he said. “The funding adjustment requested in the 2018 supplemental is a wise investment to cover the delay costs and avoid us having to re-design the building and allowing us to move forward with a very beneficial project for our students and our community.”

Rep. Steve Tharinger, chair of the Capital Budget Committee, expressed his appreciation to the college system for providing a prioritized capital projects list to the Legislature. The list, he said, makes their job a little easier.

“We’re strong supporters of your mission in providing the skills and training that you do for the communities that you’re in, so thank you,” he said.

House Higher Education hears IB credit and GED® alternative test bills

Feb. 21 — A bill that would grant college credit for International Baccalaureate exams and one that would require the State Board to identify at least two high school equivalency tests were up for hearings in Wednesday’s House Higher Education Committee meeting.

ESB 5917 would create a statewide International Baccalaureate (IB) and Cambridge International credit policy. The bill was heard Jan. 25 in the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee.

Sen. Mark Mullet, the bill’s prime sponsor, asked committee members to vote for its passage. This bill, he said was to provide the same consideration for college credit for IB and Cambridge as was created last session with a bill on Advanced Placement exams.

Arlen Harris, the State Board’s legislative director testifying on behalf of the college system, expressed concern that the bill would be too restrictive and hoped there was opportunity to amend the bill.

“This particular legislation as written is prescriptive and just defeats the process of current, ongoing work that we are undergoing right now to roadmap these credits into our college system,” he said.

Last on the committee’s agenda was ESB 5731, which would require the State Board to identify at least two high school equivalency tests. The GED® test is currently in place as the state’s high school equivalency test. The bill was heard in the Senate Higher Education Committee in 2017, but did not receive a vote by the full chamber until Feb. 14 when it passed 48 to 0.

Sen. Maralyn Chase, the bill’s prime sponsor, testified that the bill was about justice and fairness.

“I think that we as legislators — who are responsible for trying to help our children and those young adults who want to come back and get a GED® so they can get a job so they can be successful, contributing members of our society — we should do everything possible to help them get on with their lives,” she said. “We should not put artificial boundaries and blocks to them being able to move on with their life. If you don’t have a GED® today or a high school diploma, you cannot get a job in this globalized economy.”

Lou Sager, the state administrator for high school equivalency at the State Board, testified against the bill. She cited the cost of having to do a norming study each year to determine a passing score and the lack of data supporting the need for another test. The number of students passing the exam in Washington has increased, she said, while the number of students taking the test has gone down. The same is true elsewhere in the country, including Oregon and Idaho which are also GED®-only states.

Rep. Larry Haler, a member of the committee, asked Sager why there was a drop in the number of test-takers. She cited options like High School 21+, a competency-based high school diploma program offered by the community and technical college system, which allows students to earn a high school diploma instead of an equivalent.

The bill did not receive a vote by the committee.

Guided Pathways, MESA, compensation backfill funded in Senate operating budget proposal

Feb. 20 — The day after releasing its capital budget proposal, the Senate released and heard its operating budget proposal. The bill includes $5 million for Guided Pathways and MESA in the 2018-19 fiscal year, double the amount requested by the system in its 2018 request. It also includes the requested $9 million to fully fund compensation increases passed by the Legislature last year.

John Boesenberg, deputy executive director for business operations for the State Board, thanked the committee for funding MESA, Guided Pathways and compensation increases. He expressed concern, however, about a proposal that would change the way Running Start is funded. The proposal would decouple the Running Start funding rate from the basic education funding rate, resulting in about $16 million less coming to community and technical colleges next year and $31 million less in future years.

Colleges, Boesenberg said, count on Running Start dollars for instruction and student support.

“After years of stagnant budgets and budget cuts, we were looking to do great things with that funding,” he said.

Doug Mah, a trustee for South Puget Sound Community College, expressed his appreciation for Guided Pathways funding, a program he’s seen work at his college.

“It’s often said that students have to be ready for college. The beauty of Guided Pathways is that it also makes colleges ready for students,” he said.

Mah also voiced his concern over the proposed change to Running Start funding policy.

“We provide these students with instruction, advising and support services — the same services our tuition-paying students receive. If a student chooses to participate in Running Start, their fair share of state funding for instruction should go with them and not be reduced,” he said.

Jean Hernandez, interim president at Pierce College Puyallup, echoed Mah’s thanks for MESA and Guided Pathways funding and his concern about Running Start funding. Guided Pathways and MESA are important to increasing completion rates. She cited MESA as having a 90 to 95 percent transfer rate for students who want to continue their education which is important to local communities and the state.

Hernandez voiced her support for Running Start students, who, she said, are among the best students on campus.

“To us, those are still K-12 students and we would like to see the funding follow those students,” she said.

Guided Pathways, State Need Grant funded in House operating budget proposal

Feb. 20 — The House Appropriations Committee took up its chamber’s operating budget bill at its hearing Tuesday. The budget includes nearly $7 million for Guided Pathways at community and technical colleges. For financial aid, it designates an additional $25 million for the State Need Grant and $1 million to expand the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship.

Cherie Berthon, operating budget director for the State Board, Tim Stokes, president of South Puget Sound Community College, and Steve Smith, trustee for the Pierce College District, represented the college system during testimony.

Berthon thanked committee members for funding Guided Pathways, the State Need Grant and the Opportunity Scholarship. Student success is the college system’s number one priority, and that funding will help with that goal, she said.

Not included in the budget proposal was the system’s requested $9 million to fund compensation increases included in the operating budget passed by the Legislature in 2017. Berthon asked committee members to consider adding that funding to the final bill.

Stokes provided committee members detail about how the budget would affect South Puget Sound. The college was an early adopter of a Guided Pathways model, increasing advising and counseling services for students.

“When I arrived at the college five years ago, we granted approximately 1,100 credentials each year. Last year was over 1,700 credentials,” he said. “Those are people that can take those 741,000 jobs that are available in our state, so thank you for that investment.”

Stokes also thanked representatives for their funding for the State Need Grant. The additional funds would help 773 students at South Puget Sound.

Like Berthon, Stokes expressed concern that the proposed budget does not fund $9 million for compensation increases.

“When it comes to the $9 million in compensation in the agency request bill, at my college, that was a reduction of $240,000 that we had to reduce services to students,” he said.

Finally, Smith thanked the committee for their investment in Guided Pathways, describing how the program works at Pierce. He credited Guided Pathways with increasing the college’s completion rates, which contributed to it winning the 2017 Leah Meyer Austin Award from Achieving the Dream and being in the running for the 2019 Aspen Award for Community College Excellence from the Aspen Institute.

“Over the past five years, completion rates at Pierce have nearly doubled, and we’re not done yet. Guided Pathways is a major part of this work,” he said.

Smith expressed his appreciation for State Need Grant and Opportunity Scholarship funding.

“For many Washington students who are low-income or are the first in their families to go to college, financial aid is often the difference between pursuing education after high school and achieving their dreams, or dropping out. The State Need Grant makes these dreams possible,” he said.

Workforce and behavioral health bills on House Higher Education agenda

Feb. 20 — The House Higher Education Committee heard four bills affecting the college system at its hearing Tuesday. They were:

  • SSB 6544 Establishing the Future of Work taskforce
  • SSB 6514 Concerning suicide prevention and behavioral health in higher education, with enhanced services to student veterans
  • 2SSB 6274 Helping foster and homeless youth complete apprenticeships
  • ESSB 6486 Expanding registered apprenticeship programs

Future of Work Taskforce

Under SSB 6544, the Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board would support a 10-member taskforce charged with assessing trends and factors affecting industry and work; identify policies and practices that would help business, workers and communities weather changes in industry and work; recommend mechanisms and structures for sustainable industry sector partnerships; and create a policy framework to sustain the workforce.

Sen. Maralyn Chase, the bill’s prime sponsor, testified that the Legislature has a responsibility to create sustainability in changing economy.

“We in the Legislature are charged with developing public policy that responds to conditions that we are facing, but also to prepare for the future — a sustainable future for our children and our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren, quite frankly. We have to figure out: what does it look like?” she said.

The Legislature needs to do its part to prepare the workforce, she said. This bill serves as the first step by providing data which will serve as the basis for future policies and practices.

Katherine Mahoney, a workforce education program administrator with the State Board, testified in support of the bill.

“We really appreciate the significant focus the bill puts on talent development and ongoing educational needs of our workforce,” she said. “We are really supportive of these efforts to better coordinate all these resources that are happening across the economic development sphere, especially if that coordination results in policy research, actionable case studies, actionable data, and scalable practices.”

Suicide prevention and behavioral health

The committee also took testimony on a proposal that would develop a statewide resources for behavioral health and suicide prevention in colleges and universities. The bill was heard in the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee on Jan. 30.

Sen. Sharon Brown, the bill’s prime sponsor, told the committee it was critical the Legislature address suicide prevention and behavioral health, especially given the recent death of Washington State University football quarterback Tyler Hilinski.

“We need to do something. It’s our responsibility to be there for these kids,” she said.

The bill is built from recommendations from the legislatively-created Task Force on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention. Joe Holliday, director of student services at the State Board and member of the taskforce, testified in favor of the bill.

“We especially are appreciative of the emphasis on student veterans and on the incentives to create linkages with community-based mental health resources because that is critical in our sector,” he said. “We are ready to go on this.”

Apprenticeship programs

Finally, the committee heard two bills on apprenticeship programs, both sponsored by Sen. Kevin Ranker. The first, 2SSB 6274, would establish the Passport to Careers program which would encompass the Passport to College Promise program and the Passport to Apprenticeship Opportunities program. It would also provide financial assistance to former foster youth and homeless youth to pursue apprenticeships. The second, ESSB 6486, would require an apprenticeship work group to review existing apprenticeships and look for ways to expand apprenticeship programs.

Ranker testified that data shows the effectiveness of the existing Passport to College program. He hoped that more people would be positively affected if they were able to participate in the program at a younger age. On the apprenticeship work group, Ranker recognized the need for apprenticeships hoped the Legislature would help look for ways to grow those programs.

Peter Guzman, a workforce education policy associate with the State Board, testified in favor of both bills. Twenty-one colleges provide over 190 apprenticeship programs in occupations like construction, and advanced manufacturing and allied health.

“We presently serve a lot of foster and homeless youth and I think this bill will allow us to be a little more intentional in focusing on that population,” Guzman said of the Passport to Careers program bill.

Guzman also testified on the apprenticeship work group bill saying the colleges are well-prepared for expanded apprenticeship opportunities.

“The colleges are an active partner in apprenticeship presently and we fully support and are ready to partner with our other work group members to ensure that this expansion effort has the rigor and ends in a family-wage job for all of our prospective apprentices,” he said.

Senate releases capital budget proposal

Feb. 19 — The Senate released and took testimony on its capital budget proposal Monday. The proposal, which the Senate Ways and Means Committee passed Wednesday, includes full funding for the college system’s minor works projects and most funding for major projects requested in the 2018 supplemental request. It does not include funding to cover increased costs from the Legislature’s delay passing a capital budget during the 2017 session.

Wayne Doty, the capital budget director for the State Board, briefly explained the system’s list is prioritized first by ongoing maintenance and operation, then minor preservation and program projects, and finally by the next phase of major projects in the  pipeline.

The college system’s supplemental request was updated to reflect changes in sales tax rates, reduced buying power, and code and regulation changes since the Legislature did not pass a capital budget until January.

Kevin McKay, vice president for finance and operations for Edmonds Community College, testified that his college’s Science, Engineering and Technology building would help meet community demand for allied health, nursing, occupational safety, and health professionals, as well as mathematics and science teachers. The construction phase of the project was funded to 96 percent of the request. The building was designed three years ago.

“During the three year delay, some codes and regulations have changed and our buying power has been reduced. The funding adjustment requested in the 2018 supplemental is necessary to cover the delay costs and avoid re-designing the project,” he said.

Jim Minkler, president of Grays Harbor College, also testified in favor of the proposed capital budget. The budget includes full funding for the design of a new student services and instructional building. The college, along with student support, is contributing $3.7 million in local funds to support the project.

“It will become the place to get campus information and student services, increase our staff efficiency, improve our service and program delivery, meet community program demands and reflect a new dynamic as the student-focused ‘heart’ of campus,” he said.

David Beyer, president of Everett Community College and president of the system’s presidents association, thanked the committee for fully funding the design phase of Everett’s Learning Resource Center project and providing funding for all of the projects on the prioritized list of capital projects.

The Learning Resource Center would replace Everett’s library, which was hastily built after a fire 30 years ago, Beyer told committee members. Since then, the college’s enrollment has doubled.

“By all accounts, our current library space is about half what we need to support the students and our community. The new learning resource center will integrate the library, Media Services, eLearning, Tutoring Center, Writing Center, and collaborative spaces into one building creating a 'one-stop' center for instructional support,” he said. “Funding this and all of the other projects at the level requested will assure your system — our system — can move forward successfully with these much needed projects.”

Bill granting high school diploma to students earning associate degree heard

Feb. 19 — On the House Education Committee's agenda Monday was a bill that would grant high school diplomas to students who receive an associate degree from a community or technical college. SB 6248 was requested by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Troy Goracke, a basic education for adults program administrator with the State Board, testified in favor of the bill on behalf of the college system. The Legislature last year passed a bill that grants a high school diploma to students graduating with an associate degree from a technical high school located on one of the college campuses. This year’s bill, Goracke said, would bring parity to more students. Additionally, a high school diploma or equivalent is needed for federal and state financial aid.

“Many career paths require not only post-secondary education and a degree for employment, but also a high school diploma. Holding this credential along with their associate degree can be essential to their ability to find employment in their chosen industry,” he said.

Deb Kaine, assistant superintendent of assessment and student information with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, also testified in favor of the bill.

“We requested this bill because we believe it will create a more cohesive and accessible educational system to extend the opportunity for a high school diploma to anyone who earns an associate’s degree,” she said.

Coming up next week

Fiscal committees are scheduled for hearings Monday to hear and vote on bills prior to fiscal cutoff that day. Representatives and senators will spend the remainder of the week on the floor or in caucus ahead of the March 2 chamber cutoff deadline.

Last Modified: 9/12/19 5:03 PM
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