A week of great support for higher education
Session is fast approaching the first cutoff date, Feb. 7. This next week, we will see many committees fill their committee meetings with public hearings and executive sessions to pass the bills they are in favor of out of their committee. Any bill that hasn’t been passed out of their policy committee by Feb. 7 will be “dead” for the 2019-20 biennium and will have to be refiled in the 2021 legislative session, if bill sponsors would like them reconsidered. Bills in fiscal committees have slightly longer until the cutoff date of Feb. 11.
SB 6492, one of the fiscal bills that would help stabilize funding for the Workforce Education Investment Act, was heard on the Senate floor this week. I really enjoyed getting to watch the bill I testified on last week get passed and survive the first stage of the legislative process. On Wednesday, I was able to sit in on the three hours of debate on proposed amendments to the bill. Thursday, I watched the vote on the completed bill. I’m excited that the bill passed out of the Senate and will be heading off to the House to complete the second half of the legislative process. I will hopefully be following it all the way to the governor’s desk at the end of session.
The House College and Workforce Development Committee this week continued hearing many bills. I think the most interesting bill that of this week was HB 2574, which is intended to reduce administrative costs at colleges and universities. When I first heard the bill, like many others probably did, I thought it would reduce the number of deans and presidents at colleges. Savings from salaries could then reduce the costs of tuition and attendance. Once I looked deeper and heard public testimony on the bill, though, I discovered this bill actually would cut the staff members that are essential to student success, anyone from counselors to Title IX supervisors. The bill would cut costs at our colleges, but it would be at the cost of students. We as the State Board testified in opposition to the bill because we can’t risk the success of students.
Also this week, the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Committee heard a bill requested by the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Chris Reykdal. SB 6505 addresses costs associated with dual credit students with the intent of reducing barriers for low-income students. The issue with this bill is that it would place the cost for running students’ books and fees on the colleges. This would be an estimated $15 million to $17 million cost to community and technical colleges each year with no new appropriations to pay for it. I see the value in reducing barriers for all students, but I just can’t see how a bill like this could be passed without any changes or creation of funds. If this bill passed it’ll put so many colleges and universities in financial hardship and will ultimately affect the success of all students. I am very interested to see how senators react to the public testimony from the State Board’s executive director, university representatives, Superintendent Reykdal and students.
Something I found very neat about this week was getting to watch three college trustees be confirmed by the Senate on Wednesday. I just want to congratulate Christina Blocker from Bates Technical College, Heather Mansy from Lower Columbia College, and Steven P. Adelstein from Whatcom Community College. The college trustees are a crucial part of our college system, and it’s always a great day when the Senate is able to confirm any of the gubernatorial appointments.
Next week will be a whirlwind of bills being pushed out of committees, and get ready for fiscal committee hearings or floor action. Any bill that is going to survive this legislative session must be out of its House of Origin by Feb. 19. We shall see which of the bills impacting community and technical colleges make it to the opposite house.
My internship is a third of the way completed, and it has been so incredible so far! I have had the opportunity to testify in committee hearings, meet with legislators, communicate with legislative aides and watch the legislative process fully function. I never realized how important the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges is, and, after these few weeks, I see how large the importance of SBCTC truly is. I’m grateful for the work they do for students and excited for the rest of session.