System-request bills moving as Legislature reaches first cutoff
House and Senate policy committees wrapped up their work this week as the Legislature reached its first cutoff of the session. Bills need be voted out of their policy committees today in order to continue in the legislative process.
The House versions of both college system-requested bills saw action this week. HB 1714 — granting a high school diploma to students over the age of 16 who complete an associate degree — was voted out of the House Education Committee on Feb. 19 and referred to Rules for possible floor action. SHB 1715 — removing the ability of a K-12 school district to withhold a student’s grades or transcripts because of unpaid fines or fees — was also voted out of the House Education Committee on Feb. 19.
Representatives from Edmonds Community College were on the hill Feb. 20, meeting with legislators from the college's service area about the community and technical college system's session priorities. Edmonds' President Dr. Amit B. Singh was joined by college foundation board members Steve Pennington and Robert Terwilliger, student and State Board legislative intern Mustapha Samateh, and staff members Kevin McKay, Cinda Lewis, Jasmine Banks, Wayne Anthony and Dr. Yvonne Terrell-Powell.
Education fund expansion and Career Connect bills heard in Senate Ways and Means
Feb. 20 — The Senate Ways and Means Committee at its hearing Wednesday took up bill, SSB 5851, which would broaden what funds in the Puget Sound Taxpayer Accountability Account (PSTAA) could be used for. The companion to SSB 5851, HB 1791, was heard in the House Appropriations Committee on Feb. 13. The Legislature in 2015 created a regional transit authority in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, also known as ST3. The transit authority must pay an offset fee of 3.25 percent of total payments made by the transit authority by contractors. Collected funds go into the PSTAA account with the fee ending when the account reaches $518 million.
Funds in the PSTAA account must be distributed to King, Pierce and Snohomish counties to educational services to improve educational outcomes in early learning, K-12 and higher education. Funds are distributed based on the population of each county. SSB 5851 expands “educational services” to include programs or facilities for youth who are low-income, homeless or in foster care, as well as other vulnerable populations.
“SB 5851 will help us realize a once-in-a-generation opportunity that the Puget Sound Taxpayer Accountability Account represents for our communities and our under-served youth,” Joyce Loveday, president of Clover Park Technical College, said. “This bill presents an opportunity to fund the continuum of learning within our region that will serve our most vulnerable citizens. Allowing the establishment of an endowment provides the potential for increasing the impact of this funding and leveraging resources to serve generations to come.”
Also up for a hearing was SSB 5327, the governor-requested Career Connect Washington bill. The bill would create a multi-agency work group, which would include the State Board, to coordinate career connected learning opportunities. It would also create a grant program to support regional career connected learning opportunities, fund school districts up to 1.2 FTE for students in certain career connected learning programs, and require colleges to have career connected learning coordinators to work with faculty and administrators to expand program opportunities.
SSB 5327 was heard in the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee on Jan. 22, and voted out of committee on Feb. 5. The House version of the bill, SHB 1336, was heard in the House College and Workforce Development Committee on Jan. 22 and voted out on Feb. 13. That bill was referred to the House Appropriations Committee and has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.
Nate Humphrey, director of workforce education at the State Board, testified in favor, saying the college system is excited to build on current partnerships to increase youth engagement to quality career paths. Humphrey also appreciated that the Career Connect bill would provide funding to backfill apprenticeship waivers at the colleges.
“The success of Career Connect will be based on the collaboration and partnerships of various agencies,” he said. “We have a successful track record in this work with numerous agencies and business partners and we continue to build upon these relationships as Career Connect gets underway.”
Child care work requirement bill heard in House Appropriations
Feb. 20 — The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday heard a bill that would remove work requirements for full-time students using the Working Connections Child Care Program. Under SHB 1303, the state Department of Children, Youth and Families would no longer require a Working Connections Child Care Program applicant who is a single parent and a full-time community or technical college or tribal college student to meet work requirements. Currently, students under the age of 22 who are eligible for the program and are in high school or GED® program do not have to meet a work requirement. Students who are 22 and older must work an average of at least 20 hours per week of unsubsidized employment or an average of at least 16 hours per week in a paid federal or state work-study program.
Erin Frasier, a policy associate for workforce education at the State Board, testified that the community and technical college system would welcome the bill’s passage. During the 2017-18 school year, the college system served over 47,000 degree-seeking students who reported having dependents. That number, she noted, could be higher because students do not have to report whether they have dependents.
“We would like to express that access to child care without having to meet work requirements is critical for student parents as it can positively impact student retention and decrease time to completion,” she said, noting that students who have work requirements — those using WorkFirst benefits — do better than students who do not have work requirements — those using the Basic Food Employment Training (BFET) program benefits.
Nursing incentive bills heard in Senate higher education committee
Feb. 19 — The Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee heard at its hearing Tuesday two bills designed to incentivize people to work in nursing education programs. The first, SB 5931, would create the Nurse Educator Incentive Grant Program at the State Board. The program would cover tuition and fees for nursing faculty who teach at a community or technical college and are pursuing a doctorate in nursing.
The second bill, SB 5932, requires parties negotiating faculty salaries at community or technical colleges to consider establishing salaries no less than the average salary identified by a national college or university human resources association. It also states that nursing faculty salaries must include supplemental or premium pay to be at least 20 percent higher than other academic employees.
Sen. Randi Becker, the prime sponsor of both bills, said they were written to try to encourage people to go into nursing and to incentivize nursing faculty to teach at community and technical colleges. The state, she said, has too few registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, medical assistants or certified nursing assistants, so these bills would help support college nursing programs to fill those gaps.
Nate Humphrey, director of workforce education at the State Board, testified in favor of SB 5931. He participated in the committee’s Feb. 14 work session on health care education, and reminded committee members that community and technical college programs help fill the need for nursing professionals that train and teach at the colleges.
“The program proposed in this bill would be an asset to our colleges in the attracting and retaining of qualified faculty at the doctoral level,” Humphrey said. “This bill will require an investment by the state and we would only ask that you consider funding this program at a level commensurate with the desired outcomes.”
Arlen Harris, the legislative director for the State Board, testified on SB 5932, saying that he appreciated the intent of the bill, but expressed concern that local college budgets are not equipped to fund pay increases. The Legislature passed a bill in the 2018 session that would authorize colleges to provide additional compensation to academic employees beyond that established by the Legislature.
“The premise of this legislation is outstanding, but it does not come with a much needed appropriation to finance the salaries of our faculty and staff, and it surely does not cover the 20 percent premium for nursing faculty, which we do believe should be bargained locally under the laws created last year,” he said.
Dual enrollment scholarship pilot program and sexual violence task force bills heard in House higher education committee
Feb. 19 — The House College and Workforce Development Committee at its hearing Tuesday took up a bill that would establish a pilot scholarship program for students in Running Start and College in the High School and a bill that would create a task force on sexual violence protections and compliance at colleges and universities.
The dual enrollment scholarship pilot program, SHB 1973, would provide scholarships and vouchers to low-income students — those who qualify for free and reduced-price lunch — for Running Start and College in the High School fees. For Running Start, the bill would provide for a $10 textbook voucher for each credit per quarter the student is enrolled in, up to 15 credits per quarter. Under the original bill, the State Board would operate the program.
“Both of these programs are very good at helping introduce folks to colleges help get them on that college path to a better living wage job, but the opportunity to participate is very much dependent on the family's income,” Rep. Dave Paul, the bill’s prime sponsor and member of the committee, said. By waiving the fees and providing the stipend, more students could participate and see the benefit of Running Start and College in the High School.
Joe Holliday, director of student services at the State Board, testified in favor of the bill. He echoed the testimony by representatives from Central Washington University and Eastern Washington University that the bill should be amended to have the Washington Student Achievement Council, not the State Board, operate the program.
Also on the agenda was creating a joint legislative task force on Title IX protections and compliance, SHB 1998. The task force would be charged with analyzing and recommending changes to state laws and rules to ensure colleges and universities “maintain robust, trauma-informed, and survivor-centered in policies in the event federal regulations under Title IX erode.” The bill is in response to proposed rule changes by US Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos regarding how colleges and universities handle sexual misconduct allegations.
“The hope I have with this task force … is to make sure that we maintain the current protections in place for sexual assault survivors at our institutions of higher education,” Rep. Mike Pellicciotti, the bill’s prime sponsor, said. “This task force will allow for us to move forward and hopefully find the right legal path to implement those.”
Holliday also testified in favor of SHB 1998, expressing appreciation for the bill’s focus on Title IX and the Department of Education’s proposed rule changes. The community and technical college system, he said, would be happy to participate in the task force. Other task force members would be from the Senate, House, attorney general’s office, public and private colleges and universities, and members representing campus sexual assault survivors.
Coming up next week
House and Senate fiscal committees will be busy next week hearing the financial impact of policy bills in anticipation of the Legislature's second cutoff March 1. This is the date in which bills in their house of origin must be voted out of fiscal committees in order to continue in the legislative process.