A very exciting week for the investment into the future of Washington students
This week started with some great events based around fixing the shortfalls of the Workforce Education Investment Act. As you heard in last week’s update, SB 6492 passed out of the House on Thursday evening. Well, I have some amazing news! Gov. Jay Inslee signed SB 6492 into law Monday afternoon protecting Washington’s historic investment in higher education. With the passage of this bill thousands of students will now be able to begin their journey in education without the fear of being entrapped in deep student debt.
I am a fortunate recipient of financial assistance myself. I know how much weight was lifted off my shoulders when I received the notice that I would have portions of my education covered. This continued funding of Workforce Education Investment Act will benefit students and their families through assisting with costs of college, and will provide future employers with trained and educated employees. There are many jobs left unfilled and the ability for persons to be educated will allow these jobs to have qualified employees fill those positions.
I was lucky enough to be able to attend the governor’s bill signing ceremony for SB 6492 on Monday and met Gov. Inslee. I was there along with representatives of many different students’ organizations along with representatives and senators who had a key role in the support for higher education. It was such an incredible opportunity – I was able to watch the legislation complete the legislative process and become a law. I have watched this bill from when it was introduced on the Senate floor and then testifying in the Ways and Means Committee then to watch it pass off of the floor and be sent to the House. In the House I was able to testify in the appropriations committees and then watch extensive debate on the House Floor before passing and being sent to the Governor’s desk for signing. This internship continues to provide experiences I could have never imagined.
Besides the amazing success of SB 6492 this week has been “slow” (slower than the mad dash the Legislature has been at so far). All bills had to be out of committees by Tuesday otherwise they are now “dead.” Of the over 2,000 bills introduced during this session, roughly only 500 are still “alive” after the first round of cutoff deadlines. Those continue to move through the chambers. While a bill may have survived the first set of cutoffs, it will be a hard uphill battle from here for them to continue surviving. Now all bills have until Feb. 19 to be passed out of their chamber of origin, or they will fall fate to the next cutoff.
Nearly no committees met this week because the focus is now on floor action and passing the bills off the floor. We are watching closely as there are some very important bills still alive in the process. We are paying close attention to SB 6505, the bill concerning the costs of dual credit students. As it is currently written, this bill would put the entirety of costs, including books and fees, onto the colleges that the students are enrolled in. At SBCTC we are working closely with legislators, colleges, and other stakeholders to find a solution to this without causing the colleges to absorb the anticipated $15 to $17 million in cost.
Another exciting bill still alive is HB 2299, Creating Prison to Postsecondary Education Pathways. HB 2299 passed the House Appropriations Committee and is awaiting a floor vote before the Feb. 19 cutoff. This bill is a passion of many within the SBCTC office because it will do some amazing things for those in prison. We are in full support of this bill for the benefits for inmates and those reentering society. Education will reduce the recidivism rate, and this bill will make education a more accessible opportunity for those incarcerated.
Although this week is “slow” it is very busy as we approached the end of week 5 of the legislative session. I have experienced more things that I could’ve imagined and there is still 26 days left! It is my hope, along with many others, that the bills that will provide even more benefit to the Washington education system and the colleges will continue moving through the process and arriving at the governor’s desk. With hard work, this session will be one that SBCTC and the entire system can celebrate and benefit greatly from, and I’m glad to be part of it.