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House operating budget and higher education funding plan released, along with House and Senate capital budget proposals

March 29, 2019 by SBCTC Communications

The House released its version of the operating and capital budgets Monday, hearing the operating budget Monday and the capital budget Tuesday. The Senate introduced its version of the capital budget Wednesday with a hearing that afternoon. Senators also released their operating budget at noon today. With analysis still in progress and a hearing scheduled for Monday's Senate Ways and Means Committee, that proposal will be covered in next week's Legislative News.

House Democrats also introduced a bill early this week that would create a funding stream dedicated to higher education. The proposal, if passed, would provide full funding for the Guided Pathways initiative, funding for Career Launch enrollments and salary increases for nursing and high-demand faculty.

Bill creating dedicated higher education revenue stream heard in House Finance

March 29 — House Democrats introduced the Workforce Education Investment Act, HB 2158, this week and held a hearing Friday morning in the House Finance Committee. If it becomes law, the measure would establish the Washington College Grant Program, which would replace the State Need Grant. Beginning with the 2020-21 school year, students with a family income at or below 70 percent of the state’s median family income would qualify for a grant that would fully cover college tuition and fees. Students with a median income between 71 percent to 100 percent of the state’s median family income would qualify for graduated grants, depending on a tiered qualification standard established in the bill.

The bill would also establish the Washington Student Loan Program, establish the Career Connected Learning cross-agency work group to carry out and expand career connected learning opportunities, change the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship to allow cities, counties, tribes and other organizations to contribute funding to the program, and change the Working Connections Child Care program so recipients do not have to meet work requirements to receive benefits.

For the community and technical college system, the bill provides:

  • Full funding for Guided Pathways at all 34 colleges in the second year of the biennium and beyond
  • $3 million for Career Launch Enrollments
  • Funding for nursing faculty salary increases
  • Funding in the second year of the biennium for high-demand faculty salary increases

The provisions in the bill would be paid for by a three-tiered Workforce Education Investment surcharge on selected businesses through the business and occupation tax.

Rep. Drew Hansen, the bill’s prime sponsor, told committee members that the bill follows the proposal laid out in a March 20 Seattle Times opinion article authored by Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer of Microsoft, Ana Mari Cauce, president of the University of Washington, and Wayne Martin, vice chair of the State Board.

“If you said you were interested in early childhood education, but you end up taking some courses that have nothing to do with that, let's just make sure your advisor has a conversation about it so you're not taking courses out of your major that will lead to that job that you want,” Hansen said of Guided Pathways. “If you want to switch that's great, but let's just make sure we're keeping you on that track to get out of school and into the workforce.”

Martin testified in favor of the bill, saying that its passage would benefit the state’s students, families, communities and employers.

“This proposal recognizes that everyone in the state of Washington should be allowed and able to get a certificate, a degree or apprenticeship that leads to a good job,” he said.

He included copies for committee members of a State Board resolution, passed Thursday, stating the board’s support for a funding source dedicated to higher education.

Michele Johnson, chancellor of the Pierce College District, told committee members how Guided Pathways helps Pierce students.

“Many of our students are first generation, low-income and students of color, and they do not have the benefit of family and others to really show them the way,” she said. “This totally redesigns what we do. It provides students counselors, success coaches, navigators to be able to finish college on time and to get through not only us, but on to the universities, when needed, and to the workforce.”

Johnson closed her testimony by saying that Guided Pathways at each community and technical college will serve students, their families and the economy of the state.

Jim Page, chair of the Washington State Association of College Trustees, supported the bill’s provision to fully fund the Washington College Grant Program, now the State Need Grant.

“It's clear by now that to get well-paying jobs these days, people need accessible affordable education beyond high school. The State Need Grant is crucial to making this happen for all students, regardless of their income,” he said. “Fully funding the State Need Grant will ease financial burdens so students can enroll, complete and get to work.”

Brett Willis, a trustee for the Pierce College District, told committee members of the critical role community and technical colleges play in educating the workforce.

"We need the faculty to train our students in the high demand skills businesses need today and in the future," he said. "For our economy to grow and to stay strong, we need to be able to fill those high demand skilled jobs."

Senate capital budget proposal heard in committee

March 27 — College system representatives were back on the hill Wednesday, testifying on the Senate’s version of the capital budget. That proposal includes $371 million for community and technical college projects, providing full funding to system-requested projects through construction of Spokane Falls’ Fine and Applied Arts Replacement. This would amount to the most capital funding to college system in the last 13 years, before the Great Recession.

Jim Minkler, president of Grays Harbor College, testified, asking senators to fund the system’s list to include construction of the college’s Student Services and Instructional Building, 27 on the system’s prioritized list.

“This project would support our efforts to partner with local business in our community to provide training and education for the rapidly expanding tourism industry we are experiencing in Grays Harbor and Pacific counties,” Minkler said. “In this new building, we will have flexible space for alternative modes of learning and instruction and an opportunity develop new programs for our community. It will become the place to get campus information, student services, increase our staff efficiency, improve our service and program delivery, meet community program demands, and reflect a new dynamic as a student-focused part of the campus.”

Taylor Miller, president of the Associated Students of Grays Harbor College, also testified, telling the committee that the college is prepared to contribute to the project $3.7 million in local funds.

“The placement of the building will include much needed new instruction spaces while merging student services into a convenient one-stop for students,” he said. “By allocating mutually supportive programs, we can help students succeed.”

David Beyer, president of Everett Community College, thanked committee members for including design funding for the college’s Baker Hall Replacement project, number 18 on the system’s list. He went on to tell senators of his concern that construction funding for the college’s Learning Resource Center, number 24, was not included in the budget proposal.

“Since the current library was hastily built 30 years ago after a fire, enrollment has doubled and we now share the campus and the library with our University Center partners and Washington State University. By all accounts, our current library space is about half what we need to support the students and our community,” he said.

Steve Leahy, director of government relations for the Seattle College District, thanked senators for providing funding for construction of South Seattle College’s Automotive Technology project, saying that students trained there will serve the automotive and auto repair industries in the region. He went on to encourage the committee to include funding for North Seattle College’s Library Building Renovation project, number 29 on the prioritized list.

House capital budget proposal heard in committee

March 26 — The House Capital Budget Committee took up the House version of the capital budget proposal Tuesday. The budget provides $293 million for the college system, fully funding minor works projects through Bates Technical College’s Medical Mile Health Science Center, project 14 on the college system’s prioritized list.

“You will notice that both my name and the ranking member’s name are on the budget. We have developed this budget in a very bipartisan way, and I think that it adds to the quality of the budget  and hopefully the success of the budget — as we move this forward through the process,” Rep. Steve Tharinger, the bill’s prime sponsor and chair of the Capital Budget Committee, said.

Jim Minkler, president of Grays Harbor College, told committee members he hoped construction funding for college’s Student Services and Instructional Building project would be included in the budget proposal.

“The project will support our efforts to partner with local businesses in our community to provide high-quality training programs,” he said. “By co-locating mutually supportive programs that can help students succeed, we're making sure that they do not get lost or overwhelmed when they first venture onto the Grays Harbor campus. It will become the place to get campus information, student services, increase our staff efficiency, improve our service and program delivery, meet community program demands and reflect a new dynamic as a student focused heart of the campus.”

The project, number 27 on the system’s list, would include space for GHC’s culinary arts program, community meeting space and student services offices. The college and its students plan to contribute $3.7 million in local funds to construction.

Bob Knight, president of Clark College, asked the committee to consider funding the college system’s list to include construction of Clark’s North Clark County Satellite. The college invested $10 million in local funds to buy property for the project.

“It's going to be an economic boon for our region, and it will provide the advanced manufacturing skill trained folks that we need in southwest Washington,” he said.

Lisa Gibert, CEO of the Clark College Foundation, echoed Knight.

“We have had huge momentum that's occurring within our community and our regional industry leaders. Without this state support, Clark College and the Clark College Foundation may lose huge opportunities in economic impact anticipated to come with this educational program,” she said.

Steve Leahy, director of government relations for the Seattle College District, also testified, thanking committee members for including construction funding for South Seattle College’s Automotive Technology project. He also expressed hope that the final proposal would include construction funding for North Seattle College’s Library Building Renovation, number 29 on the system’s list.

House operating budget proposal heard in committee

March 25 — After releasing its version of the operating budget Monday morning, the House Appropriations Committee took testimony that afternoon. The budget proposal is combined with the proposed Workforce Education Investment Act, HB 2158, which was heard Friday morning in the House Finance Committee.

For the community and technical colleges, the operating budget proposal includes:

  • $13.9 million to help offset compensation costs that are above expected tuition revenues
  • $1.5 million to implement 2SHB 1893, a grant program for colleges to provide monetary assistance to students facing a financial emergency or related situation that would affect their ability to attend classes.
  • $300,000 for the Aerospace and Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence to develop a semi-conductor and electronics manufacturing branch in Vancouver.
  • $300,000 for the Puget Sound Welcome Back Center at Highline College to create a grant program for internationally trained individuals looking for employment in the behavioral health field in the state.
  • $60,000 for the Washington Family and Community and Engagement Trust at Everett Community College to continue and expand a civic education and leadership program for underserved adults and children.

The House budget relies on the proposed Workforce Education Investment Act to provide additional funding to higher education. For a summary of that proposal, see coverage of Friday’s House Finance Committee hearing.

Anticipating the hearing on the proposed Workforce Education Investment Act, community and technical college representatives testified on both bills.

“I'd like to thank you for proposing a higher education package that truly provides an opportunity for all Washingtonians to take that next step, get a higher education and a better job. And as you know with most jobs requiring education past high school, the two proposals — the operating budget and the workforce education initiative — will make a huge difference for people of Washington state,” Jan Yoshiwara, executive director for the State Board, said. “I really believe that these proposals provide a legacy policy initiative for Washington state that will go well beyond this next biennium, and that is a huge investment for higher education but more importantly for Washingtonians all across our state.”

Christine Johnson, chancellor of the Community Colleges of Spokane, thanked representatives for their support of financial aid and the Guided Pathways initiative.

“We work very closely with our business community and the Greater Spokane Incorporated has told us loud and clear they need a well prepared workforce. They need the talent to keep jobs going in our economy in Eastern Washington,” she said. “It's thriving, and that’s largely due to the kinds of programs we offer that are very closely aligned to the region — their regional needs and health and manufacturing and many other areas.

Glenn Johnson, the mayor of the City of Pullman, trustee for the Community Colleges of Spokane and retired communications professor at Washington State University, joined Yoshiwara and Johnson in support of the operating budget and the funding proposal.

“I want to thank you very much for the work you've done so far in the budget, especially dealing with community colleges, especially with a focus toward students. Having taught at WSU for 35 years I always had a major mentality that basically said ‘you focus on the students, everything will come out right,’” he said. “We worked with students to make sure they could get through the program, and Guided Pathways does that as far as our community colleges are concerned.”

System-requested fine forgiveness bill heard in Senate early learning committee

March 25 — The Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee heard SHB 1715 Monday, a system-requested bill which would limit the ability of school districts to withhold student grades and transcripts from students who owe fines from damaging certain types of school property. The amended bill places a five year limit on withholding and requires school districts to provide the student or the student’s parent or guardian with information on repayment, community service options and the five-year limit.

“People choose the moment they return to school because they're ready at that moment to come back. They have goals to get training for a new career. They have a promotion waiting for them if they can demonstrate their high school credential. They have children or grandchildren who they want to show their education will create a better future,” Angela Holley, an advisor for the Center for Transitions at South Puget Sound Community College, said. “To be suddenly faced with this barrier of unpaid fines may be just the thing that stops that person in their tracks and keeps them from continuing their education. This bill creates options for when a student is unable to pay those fines.”

Holley told senators that oftentimes students returning to school to earn a high school diploma or equivalent aren’t able to pay for unexpected costs like a fine. That cost effectively acts as a barrier to them returning to school at all. The bill would affect about 300 students a year.

Troy Goracke, the policy associate for high school completion programs at the State Board, testified that forgiving fines would help students in high school completion programs like High School 21+, a competency-based diploma program, show what they’ve learned, thereby saving them time and money to completing their diploma. Additionally, fines disproportionately affect historically under-represented and lower-socioeconomic status populations.

“Even if unintentional this creates inequity for Washington residents,” he said. “This bill opens up opportunities and corrects inequities for the people of Washington state.”

Trustees confirmed by Senate

Coming up next week

Budget work will continue as the Senate Ways and Means Committee is expected to hear the Senate's version of the operating budget on Monday. Policy committees are scheduled to vote bills out of their committees ahead of Wednesday's policy committee cutoff deadline.

Last Modified: 2/3/23, 10:03 AM
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