2020 session kicks off with budget hearings and corrections education bill
The Washington state Legislature kicked off its short 60-day session Monday, picking up where it left off following the 2019 session. Gov. Jay Inslee delivered his State of the State address on Tuesday, while fiscal committees began their work hearing his budget proposals. Policy committees held a work session on dual credit costs and took up bills on corrections education and transcript withholding due to fines.
Bill on withholding transcripts, preventing registration for unpaid college bills heard in Senate higher education committee
Jan. 16 — The first of Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib’s suite of higher education-related bills was heard in Thursday’s Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee. Of the three bills up for public hearing, one would affect the community and technical college system. SB 6140 would prohibit colleges and universities from withholding official transcripts as a means of debt collection. It would also prohibit colleges and universities from preventing students from registering for classes because of tuition and fee nonpayment debt.
Scott Copeland, associate director for campus relations and policy guidance at the State Board, testified in favor of the bill.
“We don't want to hinder course registration, nor potential employment opportunities, nor transfer for that matter, too, for a $12 parking fine,” he said. He urged senators to consider an amendment to include a ceiling on the fine level so colleges could work with students on repayment plan options.
College-level education in prisons expansion bill heard in House committee
Jan. 15 — A bill that would increase education opportunities in Washington state prisons was on the agenda of Wednesday’s House College and Workforce Development Committee hearing. HB 2299 would allow the Department of Corrections to offer a broader range of college-level classes and programs, explore the use of internet in those classes and programs, accommodate people with learning disabilities and other needs, and ease the transfer process after the incarcerated person is released from prison.
Rep. Mari Leavitt, the bill’s prime sponsor, spoke in favor of the bill.
“According to the National Reentry Resource Center, we know that 95 percent of folks who are incarcerated are going to get out. Recidivism rates go down by 43 percent when folks have opportunities for an educational pathway to gain a skill when they're released,” she said. “The goal of this policy in particular is to reduce recidivism and create safer communities, and also prepare our workforce for the shortage that we know we're going to have in 740,000 jobs in the future.”
Testifying on behalf of the community and technical college system were Pat Love, the State Board’s policy associate for corrections education, Sultana Shabazz, Tacoma Community College's education director at the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor and the Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women in Belfair, and Marissa Schlesinger, the vice president of instruction at Tacoma Community College.
Love echoed Rep. Leavitt’s comments that education in prison helps reduce recidivism rates and provides a path to a job once an individual is released, while giving taxpayers a 20-to-1 return on investment.
“When we look at our community college system as a whole, every citizen in the community has the option of taking vocational degrees and academic degrees, and yet we prohibit that for our students who are incarcerated,” Love said. “We only authorize five workforce associate degrees as if that is the limit of the work that's available out in the community when they release. That's absurd. We all know that there are plentiful employment opportunities both in the vocational and in the academic side.”
Shabazz told the committee about the eagerness to learn she sees among women in the two prisons in which she works, saying that the expansion into post-secondary education is long overdue.
“The connection that I would like to make today is that the best way for us to do this — to expand post-secondary education opportunities across all the correctional facilities in Washington state — is to give [incarcerated people] secure internet access,” she said.
Testifying last, Schlesinger framed the bill as an equity in education issue.
“I am responsible for ensuring that the education of 12,000 Tacoma Community College students each year is comparable, is equitable, and is valuable. I cannot do that without certain tools at my disposal. One of them is, without a doubt, secure internet,” Schlesinger said. “The internet allows our students to be prepared wherever they study, wherever they lay their head at night. And with those tools, when they enter the workforce they are entering equally prepared to the other candidates for the same positions.”
House Education Committee holds work session on OSPI dual-credit report
Jan. 14 — The House Education Committee held a work session on a dual-credit report published in November by the Office of the Superintendent of Instruction. The report recommends colleges, universities and K-12 schools pick up the cost of fees, books and supplies for every student in dual-credit programs — Running Start, College in the High School, AP, IB and Cambridge.
Chris Reykdal, Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction, said the report’s recommendations would increase diversity and equity in dual-credit programs. He urged the Legislature to create a “forcing function” whereby educational institutions would pay the costs with, or without, additional funding from the Legislature.
Jan Yoshiwara, the State Board's executive director, expressed concern that the proposal does not focus on low-income students and is therefore inconsistent with the policy behind the new Washington College Grant. Requiring colleges to pay the costs for all students — even those from wealthier families — would collectively cost colleges $15 to $17 million each year and harm their ability to provide quality instruction, advising and support services for students. Plus, community and technical colleges already help low-income students with fee waivers, books, bus passes and other forms of financial help, she said.
Ruben Flores, director of government relations for the Council of Presidents, counseled that while affordability and equity are related, affordability doesn’t guarantee equity. He also expressed concern that the payment model would stifle rather than expand the wide range of dual-credit programs: “How can we expand a program that becomes more and more expensive to operate when it grows?”
Yoshiwara and Flores pointed out that K-12 schools, community and technical colleges, and universities have a long history of collaboration that can set the stage for comprehensive and meaningful action around diversity in dual-credit programs.
“I am confident that if we continue our past practice of coming together as sectors, we can solve these issues of equity and access for dual credit and ultimately college-completion for young adult Washingtonians — because that’s what this is all about,” Yoshiwara said.
Inslee recognizes Spokane Community College student in State of the State address
Jan. 14 — Gov. Jay Inslee delivered Tuesday his last State of the State address of his current term to a joint session of the Legislature, outlining his priorities for the 2020 session. The speech, titled “The Best of Who We Are,” highlighted three of the governor’s focus areas:
- career connected learning and Career Connect Washington
- clean fuel and climate change
The career connect initiatives were part of House Bill 2158, which was passed in the 2019 legislative session. That legislation also created the Washington College Grant, formerly the State Need Grant, fully funded the program and expanding eligibility, and provided the community and technical colleges funding for its Guided Pathways efforts.
“Career Connect recognizes every student for who they want to be in any workplace,” Inslee said. “This involves business, labor, community colleges, universities, K-12, philanthropy, and local and state governments. It took each and every partnership to build a system of registered apprenticeships, job certification and classroom education. It’s so gratifying to hear about people living their dreams because of what we’re doing.”
Inslee told a story about Olivia Perkins, a Spokane Community College student who is on track to become a professional welder because of her experience with the Production and Manufacturing Academy. Through the academy’s partnership with Greater Spokane Incorporated, Olivia turned her career-connected learning experience into a full scholarship at SCC.
“Our goal is nothing short of meaningful career training for anyone who wants it. We want to be able to welcome all people to the prosperity of Washington,” Inslee said. “We can serve a 19-year-old who wants to learn a technical trade and a 42-year-old mid-career worker who needs the latest skills. We’ve made it affordable, too, and expect to serve more than 100,000 students this coming school year with help from the Washington College Grant.”
Inslee-proposed budgets heard in House and Senate fiscal committees
Jan. 13 and Jan. 14 — First on the session agenda for the House and Senate budget committees were Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposed operating and capital budgets. The operating budget proposal builds on the 2019 session’s investments in higher education by supporting career connected learning opportunities, including $2.4 million in funding for the community and technical college system’s Job Skills Program. The proposal also requests an adjustment of the Washington College Grant’s caseload, increasing the amount to ensure eligible students may receive the grant in fiscal year 2021.
The proposal does not include any new funding or financing authorities to the college system.
Testifying on behalf of the college system on the operating budget proposal (HB 2325/SB 6168) was Nate Humphrey, director of Workforce Education at the State Board. Cheryl Roberts, president of Shoreline Community College, and Shouan Pan, chancellor of the Seattle College District testified on the capital budget proposal (HB 2324/SB 6248).
All thanked committee members for their investment in community and technical colleges and higher education during the 2019 session.
Humphrey spoke to the proposed expansion of the Job Skills Program, an initiative which partners colleges and employers to provide new and current employees training to help them stay up-to-speed with emerging technology and trends.
“Job Skills ensures incumbent workers in all sectors are able to upskill while also positioning them to promote within their career and remain relevant in the job market. Simultaneously the program ensures that Washington's employers remain competitive and relevant in a world with ever faster changing technology,” Humphrey said. “The program has been oversubscribed with a backlog of projects for several years, and this investment now makes it possible for us to continue to invest in those employers who stand ready to invest in the people of Washington.”
Roberts and Pan testified before the House and Senate committees, asking committee members to support certificates of participation for projects previously funded by the Legislature. Shoreline’s $10 million COP would expand its Allied Health, Science and Manufacturing building, a project that would replace five 50-year-old buildings and house the college’s bio-manufacturing, medical laboratory technology, chemistry, biology, clean energy technology, advanced manufacturing, engineering, and computer science programs.
“These STEM and life science programs are critical to our region's workforce and to making sure that our industries thrive,” Roberts said.
Roberts answered questions from members of the House Appropriations Committee on the college’s dental hygiene program. Space for the program was removed from the building’s design because the college is considering closing it due to high operating costs. Roberts told the committee the college is looking to develop partnerships and other space for dental hygiene training to continue.
Testifying on South Seattle College’s Student Wellness and Fitness Center, Pan requested committee members consider reauthorizing the project’s $10 million COP.
“This was envisioned by students in 2014-15. They self-imposed a campus maintenance fee to build a new student wellness and fitness center,” Pan said. “Operation, maintenance and construction will all be locally supported by the student fees. We need your reauthorization so we can get this underway to benefit the students and community.”
Coming up next week
The Legislature heads into its second week with committees slated to hear bills on housing for community and technical college faculty and employees, House companions to the lieutenant governor-requested higher education bills heard in the Senate this week, and efforts to clarify how the business and occupation tax funding the Workforce Education Investment Act (HB 2158) will be collected.