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Workforce Education Investment Act funding fix passes Legislature

February 07, 2020 by SBCTC Communications

A bill to fix the funding structure behind the Workforce Education Investment Act passed the House late Thursday. Once the governor signs the legislation, it will put into place a funding structure supporting the 2019 act, which includes the Washington College Grant, Guided Pathways and faculty salary increases.

Today marks the 2020 session's first cutoff date — bills must be voted out of policy committees in order to continue in the legislative process. With this being the second year of the two-year legislative cycle, bills remaining in policy committees are considered dead.

Workforce Education Investment Act funding fix passes Legislature

Feb. 6 — The House passed late Thursday a fix to the Workforce Education Investment Act, ensuring funding for the Washington College Grant and, at community and technical colleges, support for Guided Pathways efforts and salary increases for nursing and other high-demand faculty. The bill passed 52-45 on a nearly party-line vote. It now heads to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk for signature.

On the floor, House members debated and voted on 34 amendments — all of which failed — before taking up debate on its final passage.

“This bill allows us to keep an historic commitment that we made last year to Washington families,” Rep. Drew Hansen, the prime sponsor of the Workforce Education Investment Act, said. “It's been really something to see what this commitment means in the lives of the people we work for. And I've been thrilled to hear the bipartisan praise for the Washington College Grant tonight because I think no matter what our party affiliation, we all know just what it means to give some hope to families who thought that college was out of reach.”

House Finance hears and moves Workforce Education Investment Act funding fix bill

Feb. 3 — The House Finance Committee at its hearing Monday took up ESSB 6492 for a public hearing, passing it out of committee Feb. 4. The bill had a hearing in the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Jan. 21, committee vote on Jan. 23 and Senate floor vote on Jan. 30.

The bill replaces the Workforce Education Investment Act’s business and occupation (B&O) surcharge with a 1.75 percent rate for most service activities beginning April 1. It also implements a 1.5 percent B&O service activities surcharge for hospitals, taxpayers subject to the advanced computing surcharge and taxpayers with a gross income at or greater to $1 million in the previous year. The bill also imposes an advanced computing surcharge of 1.22 percent of a business’ gross service and other income.

“We are going to make massive investments in public higher ed, both for the institutions and, more importantly, for the students who need access to those services, and I think we should all be very proud of that,” Sen. Jamie Pedersen, the bill’s prime sponsor, said.

Testifying on behalf of the college system were Heather Mansy, a trustee at Lower Columbia College, Sheila Edwards Lange, president of Seattle Central College, and Matthew Rounsley, a student at Centralia College and legislative intern with the State Board.

“I currently employ two alumni of Lower Columbia College and my business is better for it. Businesses small and large need a skilled workforce to succeed just as our citizens increasingly need education past high school to have financial security,” Mansey said. “By stabilizing funding for the Workforce Education Investment Act, SB 6492 will help train the next generation of professionals and skilled trades, strengthen businesses, and put more Washingtonians to work in well-paying jobs in their communities where they are needed.”

Mansey is a real estate broker whose business is subject to the B&O surcharge.

Lange described how funding from the Workforce Education Investment Act has affected Seattle Central.

“At Seattle Central College and at colleges throughout the state, we are strengthening our Guided Pathways programs thanks to the investment, by investing in better advising tools and approaches that we know will help students succeed and result in higher completion rates for certificates and degrees,” she said. “At Seattle Central, we have finally been able to fill two of our nursing positions that had gone vacant for over a year. Having nurse educators to train the health care workforce needed in the greater Seattle market, and indeed in our state, is essential for the health care industry and for those of us who depend on it.”

Rounsley told the committee that financial aid is helping him pursue a college education.

“When I found out that I was able to receive financial aid that helped pay for community college, it was a weight lifted off my shoulders because I knew that the only way was either financial aid or incredibly high interest loans that would put me deep in debt,” he said.

Senate human services committee hears corrections education bill

Feb. 6 — The Senate Human Services, Reentry and Rehabilitation Committee heard testimony Thursday on SB 6576, a bill that would expand degree and certificate offerings at the state’s prisons. The House College and Workforce Development Committee took up the bill’s companion, HB 2299, during its Jan. 15 hearing, voting it out of committee Feb. 4.

Sen. Jeannie Darneille, the bill’s prime sponsor and chair of the committee, said she has an interest in prison education and has proudly attended many graduation ceremonies.

“I know for a fact, in talking with persons who are inside our prisons, that they benefit a great deal — and the institution benefits a great deal — by people attaining higher skill sets, skill sets that will help them as they reenter the community, but help them also while they're inside the prison to build their knowledge and to create more awareness about their own potential — their own higher plane that they can take when they leave the prison setting,” she said.

Testifying on behalf of the community and technical college system were:

  • Loretta Taylor, education services administrator with the Department of Corrections
  • Kyrrah Nork, a faculty member at Seattle Central College who earned certificates and an associate degree while incarcerated at Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla
  • 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
  • Deanna George, a student at Tacoma Community College and legislative intern with the State Board
  • Pat Love, the State Board’s policy associate for corrections education.

Taylor testified first, saying that while DOC is supportive of the bill, she was concerned that the bill requires expansion to be done within funding already allocated. The result would be that fewer students could be served.

Up next, Nork told the committee how education programs at Washington State Penitentiary allowed him to earn certificates in graphic design, business management and basic computer skills. He then earned an Associate of Applied Science in programming. He is now an information technology instructor at Seattle Central College.

“These educational opportunities allowed me to completely turn around my life,” he said. “I went from selling drugs, which was all I knew how to do, to now I teach people how to change their lives and be better people, and it was all because of correctional education programs that are offered.”

Shabazz testified that expanding educational opportunities is essential to those incarcerated and to the communities to which they release. People in prison, she said, want to complete their education, but struggle to do so because of the limited number of programs and available space.

“This is an untapped population of people that we can give skills that will help build our communities back up. This isn't just about them as individuals, it's about their impact on their communities moving forward,” she said.

George told committee members of her experience tutoring a classmate who had recently been released from prison.

“Everyday when I was able to help him, he was so eager to learn and so grateful for the opportunity to learn, and I could see the positive impact that his reaching for an education had on him. I saw a difference in his attitude, I saw a difference in his demeanor. Every time I helped him to understand another concept, his confidence really did increase,” she said.

Wrapping up testimony from the college system, Love said educational opportunities is about improving the lives of people for the long-term.

“That will make a tremendous difference in not only the safety and security of the facility, but the community they release to,” she said.

The committee did not vote on the bill before Friday's policy committee cutoff deadline, but its House companion is scheduled for a hearing Feb. 8 in the House Appropriations Committee.

College funding proposal heard in Senate higher education

Feb. 4 — The vice chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee spoke in favor of a bill at the Tuesday Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee hearing that would allow counties to run levy measures to fund community and technical colleges. Sen. David Frockt told the committee that the bill — SB 6484 — is intended as a conversation starter to explore long-term funding options for colleges in the system.

“I think there's no doubt that there is a need for more funding for both capital and operations that is ongoing and obviously the CTC system ends up competing with other things are going on here, notably K-12,” he said.

Frockt, the capital budget lead on the Ways and Means Committee, focused his testimony on the system’s capital budget needs.

“We have tried — and I think we've done a good job — in the last couple of cycles to fund our capital projects on the community college list, but we haven't been able to get down as far as we would like to, and that hurts,” he said. Under the proposal, levies could be used for operating or capital costs, but not both.

Presidents Bob Mohrbacher from Centralia College and Tim Stokes from South Puget Sound Community College testified, representing the system’s differing opinions on the bill.

Mohrbacher voiced concern that the bill would create divisiveness between the colleges and between colleges and local school districts. He also believed that the county-by-county funding structure would create a complicated system for counties with multiple colleges as well as for college districts that cover multiple counties.

“We serve 13 school districts in two counties,” Mohrbacher said. “There's rarely an election time that comes around when one of them doesn't have a levy running, and so, in that sense, we would be in direct competition with them. It would make it harder for us to support their levy and get that whole pathway for students.”

Stokes testified in support of the bill, saying that it would help alleviate shortfalls between budgets requested by the college system and what’s ultimately funded by the Legislature. He told the committee that levies could go to helping renovate and replace aging buildings that could take several bienna to receive funding from the Legislature. Levies could also support equipment, technology and operation of programs with high costs.

“Currently we have no way to fund those except for local revenue through tuition and state appropriation,” he said. “This bill would allow us an additional opportunity to look for funding for those high demand programs.”

The bill was not scheduled for a committee vote before Friday’s policy committee cutoff date.

Bill status roundup

The bills listed below have been featured in this year's Legislative News. This status is as of noon Friday. Bills that have not advanced out of their policy committees will not continue in the legislative process.

Bill number Bill title Bill status
HB 1084 Concerning unfair practices involving compensation of athletes in higher education Feb. 4: Passed House College and Workforce Development Committee
HB 2299/SB 6576 Creating prison to postsecondary education pathways

Feb. 4: Passed House College and Workforce Development Committee

Feb. 8: Scheduled for a hearing in House Appropriations Committee

HB 2324/SB 6248 Concerning the capital budget Jan. 14: Public hearing in House Capital Budget Committee
HB 2325/SB 6168 Making 2019-2021 fiscal biennium supplemental operating appropriations Jan. 13: Public hearing in House Appropriations Committee
HB 2327 Addressing sexual misconduct at postsecondary educational institutions

Feb. 5: Passed House College and Workforce Development Committee

Feb. 8: Scheduled for a hearing in House Appropriations Committee

HB 2382 Concerning housing for community and technical college faculty and employees

Jan. 29: Passed House College and Workforce Development Committee

Feb. 10: Scheduled for a hearing in House Capital Budget Committee

HB 2468 Improving the effectiveness and adequacy of the workforce education investment surcharge by decreasing compliance and administrative burdens for taxpayers and the department of revenue Jan. 23: Public hearing in House Finance Committee
HB 2513/SB 6140 Prohibiting the practice of transcript withholding and limiting the practice of registration holds at institutions of higher education as debt collection practices

Feb. 5: Passed House College and Workforce Development Committee

Feb. 8: Scheduled for a hearing in House Appropriations Committee

HB 2523 Expanding access to higher education Feb. 4: Passed House College and Workforce Development Committee
HB 2542 Concerning tuition waivers for children of eligible veterans

Jan. 29: Passed House College and Workforce Development Committee

HB 2574 Reducing administrative staffing at institutions of higher education Jan. 28: Public hearing in House College and Workforce Development
HB 2654 Requiring uniform reporting of certain fiscal details by community and technical colleges Jan. 29: First substitute bill passed House College and Workforce Development Committee
SB 6140/HB 2513 Prohibiting the practice of transcript withholding and limiting the practice of registration holds at institutions of higher education as debt collection practices Jan. 16: Public hearing in the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee
SB 6168/HB 2325 Making 2019-2021 fiscal biennium supplemental operating appropriations Jan. 14: Public hearing in the Senate Ways and Means Committee
SB 6248/HB 2324 Concerning the capital budget Jan. 14: Public hearing in the Senate Ways and Means Committee
SB 6374 Concerning apprenticeship materials for dual credit scholarship programs Feb. 6: Passed Senate Ways and Means Committee
SB 6405 Supporting student success at community and technical colleges by increasing full-time faculty and stabilizing the use of part-time faculty

Jan. 23: Passed Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee

Jan. 27: Referred to Senate Ways and Means Committee

SB 6424 Concerning room and board for college bound scholarship students Jan. 23: Public hearing in Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee
SB 6484 Allowing counties to seek voter approval for a property tax levy to fund community and technical college districts

Feb. 4: Public hearing in Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee

SB 6492 Addressing workforce education investment funding through business and occupation tax reform

Jan. 30: Passed Senate 28-21

Feb. 3: Scheduled for public hearing House Finance Committee

Feb. 6: Passed House 52-45

SB 6505 Expanding access to dual credit opportunities by eliminating direct costs to students and families

Feb. 3: Hearing in House Finance Committee

Feb. 4: Passed House Finance Committee

SB 6576/HB 2299 Creating prison to postsecondary education pathways Feb. 6: Public hearing in Senate Human Services, Reentry & Rehabilitation Committee

Coming up next week

The House Appropriations Committee will meet tomorrow for a marathon session beginning at 9 a.m. The committee currently has 47 bills on its hearing schedule, with possible votes on 22. Starting Monday, the House and Senate fiscal committees will be busy hearing and voting on bills — including HB 2382, the bill on housing for college faculty and employees — ahead of Tuesday's fiscal committee cutoff date.

Last Modified: 4/16/21, 4:57 PM
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