Friday, February 8, 2013

CTC bills moving, student rally a success

This past week, a number of bills important to the community and technical college system have been on the move. Bills include differential tuition, modifications to the Job Skills Program, and changes to WorkFirst to name a few. With the Feb. 22 policy committee cutoff date fast approaching, bills need to pass through committees if they are to advance through the legislative process this year.


Student rally huge success

More than 400 students representing all 34 CTCs participated in the Feb. 1 student rally on the capitol campus. Emceed by Kailene Sparrs, Washington Community and Technical College Student Association (WACTCSA) council chair, the event drew a large crowd of elected officials, legislative staff members, and higher education stakeholders.

Sparrs set the tone by emphasizing how funding higher education leads directly to state job growth, "We want our students to be able to get an education so they can go out and get jobs and be contributing members of the community," Sparrs said.

Senate Higher Education Committee chair Sen. Barbara Bailey (R-Oak Harbor), shared her goal in providing job-ready educational opportunities for college students across the state. "My goal is to make sure that every single person in this state that wants an education... will get that education and a job at the end."

Dan Altmayer, Highline Community College trustee, told students additional funding is needed to help ease the cost burden associated with postsecondary education, "We need more money for the system so we can do this without putting it on the backs of our students, " Altmayer said.

Additional elected officials who addressed the crowd included Rep. Larry Seaquist (D-Gig Harbor), House Higher Education chair; Rep. Larry Haler (R-Richland), House Higher Education ranking member; Rep. Chris Reykdal (D-Tumwater), House Labor and Workforce Development vice-chair; Rep. Hans Zeiger (R-Puyallup), House Higher Education assistant ranking member; Rep. Norma Smith (R-Clinton), House Technology and Economic Development ranking member; and Sen. David Frockt (D-Seattle), Senate Higher Education member.

Mark Mitsui, North Seattle Community College president and Chris Bailey, Lower Columbia Community College president also addressed students and echoed the messages of funding higher education.

Link to YouTube video.

Job Skills Program enhancements proposed

On Tuesday, the Senate Higher Education Committee held a hearing on proposed substitute Senate Bill 5560, which would change the Job Skills Program (JSP) to encourage participation from small businesses.
The bill would remove fiscal-year funding deadlines and exempt small businesses from providing a dollar-for-dollar match for JSP training grants.
Anna Nikolaeva, SBCTC program administrator for economic development, testified in support, explaining how current provisions of the program discourage businesses — especially small businesses — from accessing the JSP training funds.
The June 30 fiscal year cut-off date discourages businesses from applying late in the year and causes training to be abandoned or interrupted midstream.
“Allowing funds to roll over lets partners carry out large training projects or projects starting later in the fiscal year,” she said. “The proposed bill makes the program flexible, user-friendly, and more accessible to small businesses.”
Ted Klein, Carlile Transportation Systems operations manager, described the great results and impact for his small business.
Ray Wallace, Impact Washington, explained how his nonprofit organization helps Washington manufacturers compete globally by partnering with SBCTC to deliver the JSP grant, saying that timing and the dollar-for-dollar cost match have been challenges.
Wallace said the state Department of Commerce includes the JSP grant in its toolkit of incentives to recruit new businesses to the state, citing Sealy Mattress as a recent example, with 109 new workers being trained.

Tax incentives for donations to higher ed

On Tuesday, the Senate Higher Education Committee held a hearing on Senate Bill 5131. The bill would grant a new tax credit to businesses that donate modern laboratory and training equipment to community and technical colleges, vocational skill centers, or Northwest Indian College.

The tax credit would apply for donations retaining half their useful life and used in engineering, physical sciences, biological sciences, computer sciences, agriculture and food processing, or other fields based on rules established by the Washington Student Achievement Council.

The bill requires colleges to establish fair market value of any donation and report it to the Department of Revenue.
Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, testified as the bill’s prime sponsor. He said the bill’s concept originated with Bill Bonaudi, former Big Bend Community College president, when his college received a donation of a full-scale center pivot system and a small-scale center pivot classroom model to start a new irrigation training program.

“I believe this is a good solution so our students can work with modern equipment,” Honeyford said. “They can go straight to work and not need to be retrained by employers.”
Jim Crabbe, SBCTC director of workforce education, spoke in support, saying, “This is a crying need in the technical training programs. Some of our programs need very expensive equipment the colleges could not otherwise afford.”
The public baccalaureate schools asked to be included in the bill language. Julie Garver, The Evergreen State College, and Jane Wall, Council of Presidents, described how their STEM-related degree programs face similar equipment challenges as the two-year colleges.

Kristen Blum, New Market Skills Center, spoke in support of the bill on behalf of the 13 skills centers statewide.
Listen to testimony on TVW.

Faculty increments bill gets hearing

On Thursday, the House Labor and Workforce Development Committee heard testimony on House Bill 1348, which would require community and technical colleges to provide step increases or increments as they are negotiated in local agreements, even if the amount exceeds the compensation provided by the Legislature in the state budget. Under existing law, salary increases cannot exceed the amount set in the state budget.
Rep. Chris Reykdal, D-Tumwater, the bill’s sponsor, characterized the bill as a “matter of fairness” that will help keep quality professionals in the two-year college system and honor agreements already reached with faculty – a perspective shared in testimony by representatives of AFT Washington and the Washington Education Association.

Also testifying in favor of the bill were faculty members Amy Kinsel, Shoreline Community College; Douglas Brown, Bellevue College; and Bill Lyne, Western Washington University.
John Boesenberg, SBCTC human resources director, testified that the State Board and colleges strongly support increments and have consistently requested money in the state budget to fund them, including a $10 million request for the 2013-2015 operating budget.

Boesenberg shared concerns the bill would shift the responsibility of paying for salary increments from the state to local colleges and students. Another concern, he said, is that colleges differ in their ability to pay for salary increases; employees doing similar work at different institutions could be paid quite differently. He urged the committee to support all community and technical college employees by supporting the system’s budget request.
Listen to testimony on TVW.

Longer training time a good investment for WorkFirst students

On Thursday, the House Early Learning & Human Services Committee heard testimony on House Bill 1342 which would revise the definition of WorkFirst work activities to include education and training provided by CTCs.
The bill would also increase the maximum length of time for vocational education from the current 12 months to 24.

Rick Krauss, SBCTC policy associate, spoke in support, explaining how the current 12-month limit does not allow students to pursue two-year vocational degrees.
“Students struggle to finish within 12 months, because they need to take prerequisites [to get to college-level work],” he said. “And to be eligible for the training, students also have to work 20 hours a week, which is a challenge because most have children.”

Kate Baber, Statewide Poverty Action Network government relations manager, spoke in support of the bill.
Marcy Bowers, Statewide Poverty Action Network, read a letter from a student who earned a GED and was working toward a medical billing certificate when her training time ran out. The student said if she had an opportunity for one more year of classes, her skills would help her be job-ready and move off public assistance.

Two other students testified how education provided through WorkFirst has expanded their opportunities. The state will earn even more on its investment by expanding the length of time for vocational education, they said.
Listen to testimony on TVW.