Budgets released, bills on equity training, corrections education heard
Following last week's strong revenue forecast, the House and Senate this week began releasing their versions of the operating and capital budgets. The House released its version of the capital budget Wednesday, and the Senate released its versions of the operating and capital budgets Thursday. At the time of this writing, the House has not yet released its version of the operating budget.
Friday also marks the opposite chamber cutoff deadline. This is when bills that came from the House need to be voted out of Senate policy committees and bills that came from the Senate need to be voted out of the House policy committees in order to keep moving in the legislative process.
Capital budgets, Senate operating budget released
The House capital budget funds the community and technical college system's request list through project 12 — design funding for Wenatchee Valley College's Center for Technical Education and Innovation. The House Capital Budget Committee will take testimony on that budget at its hearing Monday.
The Senate operating budget proposal fully funds all elements provided in the Workforce Education Investment Act, including funding for nursing faculty salaries, salary increases for faculty in high-demand fields, and support for enrollments in Career Launch and high-demand programs. If the bills are passed, the budget provides funding for E2SSB 5194, the equity and access in community and technical colleges bill, and E2SSB 5227, the bill requiring diversity, equity, inclusion and antiracism training at colleges and universities. The Senate Ways and Means Committee will take up the budget at its hearing this afternoon. We'll cover the college system's testimony in next week's Legislative News.
The Senate Ways and Means Committee heard testimony on its version of the capital budget at its hearing Thursday afternoon. That hearing, including a summary of funding for the community and technical college system, is covered below.
House College and Workforce Development hears equity and access bill
March 22 — The House College and Workforce Development Committee at its hearing Monday took up the multifaceted bill addressing equity and access at the state’s community and technical colleges. E2SSB 5194, which the Senate approved on March 8 with a 30-19 vote, would require the colleges to:
- Develop diversity, equity and inclusion strategic plans
- Fully implement Guided Pathways with evaluation to be completed by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy
- Establish a goal for adding 200 full-time faculty positions in the 2021-23 biennium
- Create a pilot program to provide grants to colleges to increase student access to mental health counseling and services
- Establish minimum hiring standards for college faculty counselors
The bill would also expand in-state tuition and financial aid eligibility to undocumented students if they received their high school diploma or equivalent and lived in Washington state for at least a year before being admitted to a college or university.
“It comes from a very diverse coalition of students, of faculty, of community leaders who worked throughout the last interim in a consultative process to think about: ‘How do we transform our community [and technical] colleges, and ensure that every student in our state has access to the education they’re providing, and that every student has the pathway to complete the credential they start,” said Sen. Marko Liias. Liias was the prime sponsor of the original version of the bill.
Testifying on behalf of the college system was Dr. Ivan Harrell, president of Tacoma Community College. He expressed his support for the vision behind the bill.
“Our community and technical college system and individual colleges have been deeply engaged in the work of equity, diversity and inclusion. This includes, but is certainly not limited to, the creation of a new strategic vision statement and strategic plan that leads with racial equity,” he said.
Harrell continued asking the committee to consider amendments to increase the number of full-time faculty positions, expand the mental health counseling grant pilot program to a minimum of eight colleges, and ensure funding to implement Guided Pathways.
“We’d encourage increasing the numbers beyond the 200 for this biennium that is currently written into this version, and instead move toward 200 per year over the next three years for a total addition of 600 faculty positions,” he said.
The House College and Workforce Development Committee voted to approve the bill at its Wednesday hearing.
Corrections education bill heard in Senate Ways and Means Committee
March 23 — The Senate Ways and Means Committee at its hearing Tuesday took testimony on 2SHB 1044, the bill that would expand educational opportunities in the state’s prisons by allowing colleges and universities to offer associate and bachelor’s academic degree options in addition to the currently allowed workforce certificates and degrees. The Senate Human Services, Reentry and Rehabilitation Committee amended the bill to require the Department of Corrections to establish goals to expand access for all incarcerated people, especially people of color. The Ways and Means hearing was on the fiscal implications of the bill.
“What I found when I found education is that it gives us the feeling of self-worth and value, and it allows us to feel that we have meaning in our life instead of living a meaningless existence,” said Shane Sweetman, a student at Centralia College at Cedar Creek Corrections Center. “With the ability to have this education, [it] has not only taught me who I am as a person, as a man, and as a father, but it helped me guide my children through the steps of their education. Instead of just telling my son ‘go down this path,’ I can walk it with him in real-time.”
Pat Siebert-Love, the corrections policy associate at the State Board, also testified in favor of the bill. People, particularly women, she said, may not interested in pursuing a vocational career like the programs currently offered in prisons. Academic program offerings will open educational opportunities to more people.
“Providing prison education speaks to our values of equity and access to regional, formal, accredited college educational programs focusing on sustainable living[-wage] career pathways leading to safer communities, greater economic investment and reduced recidivism,” Siebert-Love said.
Kurt Kageler, a business professor at Tacoma Community College who teaches at the Washington Corrections Center, read the committee a letter from a student.
“After getting to prison, I was feeling really down about myself and my future. I found out that the prison offered many different types of programs, and I looked to this as a way to change my path in life because the things I was doing before clearly weren’t working,” the student wrote. “TCC has been a life-changer for me. I have faith in myself to face the challenges that life will present to me, and I have a path that will lead me to be a productive, successful and respected member of my community.”
Last to testify on the bill was Timothy Tipton, a formerly incarcerated student and now a full-time student at Clark College.
“When I landed in the prison for the second time in my life at 33 years old, I had no direction. I had no idea what I was going to do. I just knew that I didn’t want to keep coming back, and I needed to change,” he said. “It was through higher education and the fact that Washington state has these programs that I was able to figure out what I wanted to do with my life and to actually achieve the success that I was destined to achieve.”
The Ways and Means Committee is scheduled to vote on the bill at its Saturday hearing.
Senate Ways and Means hears testimony on proposed Capital budget
March 25 — The Senate released its version of the capital budget Thursday, with the Ways and Means Committee taking testimony at its hearing that afternoon. The proposed budget closely follows the one released by Gov. Jay Inslee in December, funding the college system’s prioritized capital projects list through project 28 — construction of Lake Washington Institute of Technology’s Center for Design.
Wayne Doty, capital budget director for the State Board, and Dr. Amy Morrison, president of Lake Washington Institute of Technology, thanked the committee for the budget on behalf of the college system.
“Each college tailors their program offerings to address local community and business needs,” Doty said. “The colleges and the State Board work together by going to find most urgent needs and prioritizing them to get the most benefit from every dollar. We appreciate the much needed funding for the system.”
In addition to the projects, Doty said, the funding level provided in the Senate’s capital budget would provide for about 5,800 construction jobs over the next four years.
Testifying next, Morrison told the committee she was happy construction funding for the Center of Design was included in the budget proposal.
“As the only public institute of technology in Washington state, we provide students with the latest in-demand skills relevant to today’s workplace,” she said. “We just want to thank you again for your historic investment that will address almost 500 facility and infrastructure deficiencies with minor projects and renovate or replace 41 buildings in our system that are in bad shape, while addressing a few needs for growth like Lake Washington’s new Center for Design.”
The committee is scheduled to vote on the proposed budget at its Saturday hearing.
Coming up next week
The House and Senate budget committees will be working next week hearing the fiscal implications of bills that came to them from policy committees. Their work will wrap up Friday when the session reaches its next cutoff deadline.
Up for hearings are the bills on requiring diversity, equity, inclusion and antiracism training at colleges and universities, authorizing community and technical colleges to offer bachelor's degrees in computer science, expanding the Supporting Students Experiencing Homelessness pilot program, and extending the business and occupation tax credit for businesses participating in the Customized Training Program.