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Bills on transcripts, diversity and equity work heard as committees continue their work

January 29, 2021 by SBCTC Communications

Community and technical college trustees and college and university regents Thursday joined forces for the annual College Promise Coalition Day on the Hill. In Zoom meetings with representatives and senators, they asked that the Legislature avoid budget cuts to higher education, protect investments made through the Workforce Education Investment Act, and invest in higher education to help in the state's economic recovery.

Representing the community and technical college system were:

  • Carol Landa McVicker, State Board chair
  • Phyllis Gutierrez Kenny, State Board member
  • Glenn Johnson, Washington State Association of College Trustees Legislative Action Committee co-chair and Community Colleges of Spokane trustee
  • Greg Dietzel, Washington State Association of College Trustees Legislative Action Committee co-chair and Bellevue College trustee

Also this week, the College and Workforce Development Committee on Monday voted on HB 1044, Creating prison to postsecondary education pathways, advancing it to the House Appropriations Committee for its consideration.

Furlough bill heard in Senate Ways and Means

Jan. 28 — As the state looks to recover from the recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Senate Ways and Means Committee took up at its Thursday hearing a bill that would require most state employees to take 24 furlough days during the 2021-23 biennium. SB 5323 would also prohibit state agencies from granting salary and wage increases for exempt and Washington Management Service employees in the biennium. The bill comes at the request of the Office of Financial Management.

Testifying on behalf of the community and technical college system were Dr. Amy Morrison, president of Lake Washington Institute of Technology, Dr. Ed Brewster, interim president of Grays Harbor College, Dr. Bob Mohrbacher, president of Centralia College, and Glenn Johnson, a trustee for the Community Colleges of Spokane.

“At its core this bill is a pay cut. Just two years ago, this legislature made historic strides making long-overdue investments and operating and capital budget supports for our colleges, including pay increases to ensure that our hard-working employees were competitive with benchmark states,” Morrison said.

She also expressed concern that while the classified and exempt employees can choose their furlough days, faculty are not able to do so. Additionally, she said, faculty in-service days would be used as furlough days, eliminating opportunities for diversity, equity and inclusion professional development work, advising, and developing education best practices.

Brewster testified that furlough days would negatively impact students, especially ones enrolled in cohort programs like industrial technology and nursing and students enrolled in corrections education programs.

“We’ve already made significant reductions to our budget resulting in fewer learning opportunities and service to students,” he said. “We’re a rural community that is struggling economically with the highest unemployment in the state at over 10% that is highly dependent on the education offered at Grays Harbor College.”

Mohrbacher echoed Brewster’s concern about how furloughs would impact service to students.

“While cuts in general will be difficult for us to absorb at this time, furloughs are a particularly difficult mechanism to use to make those cuts,” he said. “It’s particularly difficult for faculty. Federal regulation requires a certain number of credit hours of instruction, and many of the colleges do not have sufficient non-instructional days in their contract to allow for that.”

Testifying last, Johnson emphasized the importance of colleges being able to make their own decisions about budget cuts, if cuts need to be made.

“We know —  with the trustees, with the presidents, with the chancellors — we know what areas need to be cut, if those cuts have to be. But right now the community colleges and the technical colleges throughout the state really can help jump-start this economy, and by doing these budget cuts and freezes of salaries do not help,” he said.

Opportunity Scholarship expansion bill heard in Senate higher education committee

Jan. 28 — A bill that would expand the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship was up for a hearing during Thursday’s Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee’s meeting. SB 5288 would change the law so that students who did not graduate from a Washington state high school would be eligible for the scholarship. It would also allow students enrolled in eligible industry recognized programs to receive the scholarship, and it would modify residency requirements for the Rural County High Employer Demand Jobs Program.

Sen. Marko Liias, the bill’s prime sponsor and member of the committee, told committee members he brought the bill forward to make the program function even better. He said the bill would provide flexibility for Washington residents who may have gone to high school in a different state but want to continue their education here. Additionally, the scholarship’s current residency requirements mean students need to live in the same county their program is offered in. This presents a challenge, especially in light of COVID-19’s remote learning environment, for students who want to enroll in a program but can’t attend in person.

Scott Copeland, associate director for campus relations at the State Board, testified in favor with a request for technical amendments. Those amendments, he said, would be to “ensure that the bill’s intent and outcome will protect the program integrity for our colleges. It will also help align other potential traditional and non-traditional financial aid assistance for students as we assist these students to seek and fill high-demand occupational fields necessary for our economy in the great state of Washington.”

House College and Workforce Development learns about apprenticeship opportunities

Jan. 27 — The House College and Workforce Development Committee at its meeting Wednesday continued learning about hot topics related to higher education by holding a work session on apprenticeships. After hearing from the Department of Labor and Industries, which oversees apprenticeship programs in the state, the committee heard from a panel describing the community and technical colleges’ role in those programs.

Peter Guzman, a workforce education policy associate for the State Board, provided the committee an overview of apprenticeship programs at the colleges. Apprentices attend college for the instruction — classroom and lab — portion of their program, enrolling in, on average, three to five credits each quarter as they work full-time. Community and technical colleges provide about 80% of this instruction in the state. The State Board, additionally, is responsible for reviewing new apprenticeship instruction standards.

The college system served over 14,000 apprentices in the 2019-20 school year in 179 programs at 22 colleges. Programs include medical assistant, building trades and information technology. Apprenticeship programs had seen 26 consecutive quarters of enrollment growth until spring 2020 when it saw a 36% decrease because of COVID-19.

Guzman praised apprenticeship programs for their efforts to promote gender and racial diversity, following Department of Labor and Industries affirmative action requirements. In Washington, 11% of apprentices are women, compared to 3% nationally. While apprenticeship enrollment fell, the number of women enrolled in programs went up in summer quarter 2020. The number of people identifying as Native American, Asian and Black enrolled in apprenticeship programs also rose.

“We should be proud of that,” he said. “Even in light of the COVID pandemic, we still had diversity.”

Guzman also spoke about financial aid options available to apprentices, including Worker Retraining, the Washington College Grant, and Basic Food Employment and Training. The BFET program expanded in October 2020 to include apprenticeship programs in addition to other degrees and certificates.

Maureen Shadair, executive dean at South Seattle College’s Georgetown campus, provided the committee an overview of apprenticeship programs on her campus. South Seattle enrolled 3,567 apprentices in the 2019-20 school year, more than any other community or technical college in the state. South offers instruction for more than 40 occupations in building trades, public utilities, manufacturing and aerospace.

South Seattle and the Seattle College District continue to invest in apprenticeship because they see it as an incredible value, she told committee members. Pre-apprenticeship, Shadair continued later, supports the college’s and district’s mission of diversity and equity. Those programs see greater student diversity in race, economics, first-generation college students, and immigrant status.

“[Investment in pre-apprenticeships] is definitely something we feel strongly about and that is an effective strategy for widening the pipeline into apprentice for populations who have historically been left out of this process of education, training and employment in our nation,” she said.

Shadair also told the committee about challenges facing apprenticeship programs. She named inconsistency in statewide apprenticeship agreements, accreditation, up-front costs as students enroll, and high overhead from staff time and resources managing contracts and agreements. 

Erin Fraiser, assistant executive secretary for the Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council, provided the committee more background on apprenticeship funding structure and challenges facing apprentices. Programs are funded through joint apprenticeship training committees (JATCs). These labor- and private-sector cooperatives are industry-funded through collectively bargained contributions to training trusts.

“We appreciate our partnerships with the community and technical colleges,” Frasier said. “But additional resources are needed for this partnership to adequately support the number of apprentices our state needs to keep our state safe, productive and competitive.”

Frasier also emphasized the need for continued support for apprentices when they’re not enrolled at a community or technical college. While in college, they can get the same student supports all students receive, but, as Frasier pointed out, for the majority of their time, apprentices are not students enrolled in a college.

On a policy level, Frasier asked committee members to think of long-term career options as they address the state’s economic recovery.

“As we work to ensure an equitable economic recovery in Washington state, please consider policy and resource decisions that support long-term career pathways over those that focus on getting the unemployed to their next job as quick as possible,” she said. “While the latter may reduce our need for public assistance in the short-term, for workers facing economic challenges prior to this health and economic crisis, long-term financial wellbeing will require career focus solutions, and apprenticeship is a solid and long-standing option to provide this opportunity for Washingtonians.”

Retention, Frasier continued, could be improved by addressing apprentices’ basic needs, like food and housing security, transportation and childcare, and by addressing misalignment in public assistance benefits and gaps in unemployment benefits.

Last on the panel to testify was Lowell Glodowski, apprentice coordinator for the Western Washington Masonry Trades JATC. For five decades, the group has partnered with South Seattle College to provide its apprentices with instruction as well as continuing education and safety training for apprentices and journey-level workers.

“I went through the apprenticeship, achieved my journey-level certificate, and then was able to become a foreman, which moved on to a contractor, and now I here sit before you all as an apprentice coordinator,” Glodowski said. “I hope you all can make a commitment to the apprenticeship like I have.”

House Education Committee hears bill prohibiting transcript withholding

Jan. 26 — The House Education Committee took up HB 1176 at its hearing Tuesday, a bill that would prohibit school districts from withholding a student’s official grades and transcripts due to an unpaid fee or fine, and, at private schools, unpaid tuition, fees or fines. This bill was introduced at the request of the community and technical college system.

“For me, this is an access and equity bill,” Rep. Dave Paul, the bill’s prime sponsor, said. “We want to ensure that students have the opportunity to access post-secondary education after high school and have an opportunity to earn a family wage.”

Paul also serves as a member of the House College and Workforce Development Committee and works at Skagit Valley College.

Testifying on behalf of the community and technical college system was Carrie O’Brien, Da’Mea Birdsong and Nicole Walker.

“We are tying a student’s ability to continue and complete their educational journey to their ability to pay for things, and I don’t think that’s right,” O’Brien said. “It’s an equity issue, and it’s not getting to the accountability that it aims to teach."

O’Brien works as a case manager for the Open Doors Program at Green River College. Open Doors is a partnership between the college and local school districts to provide students who have not earned a high school diploma the option of earning the diploma, a GED®, professional-technical certificates and associate degrees.

Birdsong, a student at Whatcom Community College and a legislative intern with the State Board, told the committee that withholding a transcript due to an unpaid fine or fee is a disservice to that student’s hard work.

“I believe Washington is one of the most innovative leaders in education, and we should lead by example making the pathway to students as easy as possible to cross the finish line,” she said.

Walker, an advisor for the High School+ program at South Puget Sound Community College, testified that the bill would help the state reach its educational attainment goal that by 2023 all Washington adults ages 25 to 44 would have a high school diploma or equivalent.

“In working with these adults, I learned that these students left high school with unpaid fees or fines because they face significant barriers and because their families lacked the ability to pay them,” she said. “Supporting this bill would allow adults the opportunity to more quickly earn their diploma in High School+ programs across the state.”

A similar bill, HB 1715, was introduced during the 2019 session, but while it passed the House in both 2019 and 2020, the Senate did not take vote either year.

Senate higher education committee takes up bill addressing diversity, equity, inclusion on campuses

Jan. 26 — A bill that would establish annual diversity, equity and inclusion professional development and learning opportunities for college and university students, faculty and staff was heard during Thursday’s Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee meeting. The bill, SB 5227, would also require colleges and universities to conduct an annual campus climate assessment on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The committee dedicated about an hour of its two hour meeting to the bill, and, from the college system, heard testimony from Ha Nguyen, Dr. Ivan Harrell, Dr. Sultana Shabazz, Dr. Sayumi Irey, Rashida Willard and Robert Britten.

Nguyen, director of equity and diversity at the State Board, applauded the bill, telling the committee that the college system agrees with the need for ensuring anti-racist environments for students, faculty and staff. Work to that end, she said, is already underway at community and technical colleges through the system’s vision statement, active engagement by trustees, presidents and executive-level diversity officers, and annual conferences like the Staff of Color, Students of Color, and the Social Justice Leadership Institute.

She emphasized, though, the need for colleges to be able to provide educational opportunities unique to their campuses.

“We believe that individual colleges should have the flexibility for identifying the necessary expertise on their campuses and at their local levels to develop, deliver and assess their diversity, equity and inclusion programming,” she said.

Testifying next, Harrell, the president of Tacoma Community College, said the bill perfectly aligns with efforts already underway at the college, including hiring its first vice president of equity, diversity and inclusion and implementation of professional development opportunities for faculty and staff. Like, Nguyen, however, Harrell was concerned about allowing colleges the ability to create unique educational opportunities.

“Understanding unique environments our colleges across the state are located in, coupled with varying levels of [equity, diversity and inclusion] work at the colleges, I would hope for more flexibility for us to be able to meet the intended outcomes of this bill,” he said. He also hoped the bill would allow for more collaboration and representation of employee groups in developing equity, diversity and inclusion programming.

Shabazz, director of corrections education at Tacoma Community College, told the committee that diversity, equity and inclusion efforts would benefit students enrolled in corrections programs, especially when they are released from prison.

“We’ve got a double-marginalized population whose voice tends to get lost in larger conversations around equity and inclusion. As we work to transition students to the broader community, having faculty and staff on campuses ready to support our students is vital to their long-term success,” she said.

“TCC has worked hard to remove those barriers faced by our students, and this initiative supports continuing those goals by making sure that everyone on our campuses has the tools required in order to support not only our students, but all of our students,” she said, again emphasizing the need for local flexibility in program development.

Irey, vice president of instruction at South Seattle College, testified how the college is tailoring diversity, equity and inclusion efforts to its unique needs.

“Anti-racist work is critical for multicultural, democratic society, especially as we have different values. Anti-racist work has been a top priority at South Seattle College,” she said. “Each college’s approach differs according to its specific local needs. At South, the Guided Pathways efforts strategically incorporate anti-racist frameworks.”

Willard, vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion at Clark College and the vice chair of the Diversity and Equity Officers Commission, described efforts underway to build inclusive anti-racist colleges.

“It takes an all-hands-on-deck approach led by many to create anti-racist environments,” she said. “All arms of the colleges in the system are immersed in redesigning our student experiences to become more equitable through Guided Pathways.“

Britten, executive director of diversity and inclusion at Lake Washington Institute of Technology, told committee members that diversity, equity and inclusion efforts need to be embedded into every aspect of an institution.

“We are convinced that equity and diversity is not just something we must talk about. It is something we must do,” he said. “Equity, diversity and inclusion is not an add-on — it is not something extra we do if we have time. It is the intentional actions we take moment by moment to recognize each person's humanity and right to be.”

Coming up next week

The Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee will hold a work session at its meeting Tuesday to hear an update on the Supporting Students Experiencing Homelessness (SSEH) program.

Last Modified: 4/16/21, 4:58 PM
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