Thursday, February 14, 2013

CTCs included in Governor’s jobs plan

This week, a Renton Technical College aerospace student set the stage for Gov. Jay Inslee’s Wednesday jobs plan announcement. A number of bills important to the CTC system have been on the move, including regulatory relief, financial emergency rules, and renaming GED in statutes. With the Feb. 22 policy committee cut-off date fast approaching, bills need to pass through committees if they are to advance through the Legislature this year.

Governor rolls out jobs plan

Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday rolled out his jobs plan at a news conference opened by Ian Anderson, a recent graduate of Renton Technical College’s Aerospace Assembly Mechanic program.
“For our state to compete in the global economy, we must create a working Washington that sustains an innovative economic climate in every corner of the state,” Inslee said. “I have confidence we can answer the challenge.”
Inslee’s agenda includes a mix of proposals in STEM education, aerospace training, clean energy, health care, regulatory reform, and tax relief.

For CTCs, the proposal includes:
● Fund 500 enrollment slots in high-demand aerospace training programs.
● Establish the National Career Readiness Certification assessment program for 2,500 high school graduates in 50 aerospace assembly and advanced manufacturing programs.
● Establish a “talent pipeline” from high school to CTCs to career by expanding industry-developed high school programs and allow credits to transfer to college.
● Fund “Return to Industry” grants for CTCs that offer aerospace-related programs so instructors can keep up-to-date on the latest innovations and technology.
● Expand the staffing and resources of the Center of Excellence for Aerospace and Advanced Materials Manufacturing in Everett.
● Expand the revolving loan program for short-term aerospace training programs including those at the Washington Aerospace Training Center, Inland Northwest Aerospace Technology Center, and Renton Technical College.
● Develop an aerospace training facility proposed by the City of Renton, which is working closely with Renton Technical College.

In his opening remarks, Anderson highlighted the value of his aerospace training at Renton Technical College.
“I’ve been out of class for less than two weeks now and let me tell you something: I’m not scared of finding a job. I’ve been applying to numerous aerospace assembly companies and have been getting responses back in 24 hours or less,” he said. “If you have a dream, take the first step. Pick any of the community and technical colleges found in Washington. They will help you achieve your dreams.”

Inslee described his plan as the “first launch” with more proposals to come.
Listen to the news conference on TVW.
Read the governor’s news release and accompanying materials.

GED might be replaced with generic language

A proposal to replace the term “GED” with “High School Equivalency Certificate” in state law was heard Tuesday in the House Higher Education Committee.
Sponsored by Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, the proposed language change in House Bill 1686 would allow Washington to offer alternative tests in the future so test-takers get the highest quality, most cost-effective high school equivalency exams.

As part of a joint venture in 2011 between the American Council on Education and Pearson VUE, the GED® became a proprietary, trademarked test. Changes to the test have increased costs for colleges and students.
Jon Kerr, SBCTC director for adult basic education, testified in favor of the measure.

“This change would open the door for more than 22,000 individuals who test each year here in Washington to access to the highest quality and most cost-effective test available,” Kerr said. “We have a trademarked vendor in our statutes. … This change would allow consideration of approved alternative tests in the future that may better meet the needs of students and the workforce.”
Listen to testimony on TVW.

Its companion measure, Senate Bill 5646, sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, passed unopposed in today’s Senate Higher Education Committee meeting and now moves to the Rules Committee.

Regulatory relief bills get hearing

On Tuesday, the Senate Higher Education Committee held a hearing on Senate Bill 5736 and on Wednesday, the House Higher Education Committee heard its companion House Bill 1736, both concerning higher education operating efficiencies.

Both bills would impact several practices in higher education and state agencies:
● Requires OFM to work with other state agencies on a comprehensive review of reporting requirements related to energy code building standards and greenhouse gas emissions, and make recommendations for coordinating and streamlining.
● Allow state colleges and universities to use or accept electronic signatures for human resource, benefits, or payroll processes that require a signature.
● Authorize the Student Achievement Council to enter into reciprocity agreements for online education with other states on behalf of Washington’s public colleges and universities.

Barbara McCullough, Grays Harbor College vice president of administrative services, said the bill would streamline data collection for financial services and facilities staff, which are already overstretched because of staff reductions caused by budget cuts.
Steve Ward, Centralia College vice president of finance and administration, spoke Tuesday in favor of the section on electronic signatures, saying it would greatly increase efficiency and simplify human resources, benefits and payroll processes.

Bill Saraceno, Columbia Basin College senior vice president for administration, testified both days, and said the regulatory relief bill is important for the CTC system as a whole and that — in the interest of transparency and information-sharing with students — he supports seeing that reports collected are posted. “We think if OFM takes a look at all the different reporting requirements, they could make recommendations to consolidate the collection of the information,” he said. “Streamlining reporting requirements will allow us to focus on providing student services.”
Joann Wiszmann, Pierce College District vice president for administrative services, testified both days and said allowing the Student Achievement Council to work on behalf of Washington colleges and universities will save individual colleges a lot of administrative work.

“Having a single state entity coordinate agreements with other states on behalf of all the colleges will greatly reduce workload at colleges offering online education and allow us to deliver the education more effectively,” she explained. “Presently, each college must enter into an agreement with each state — even if only one student from that state is enrolled — who wants to take one of their on-line courses. This one-to-one arrangement creates a lot of workload for relatively few students at a college.
Margaret Shepard, University of Washington director of state relations; and Paul Francis, Council of Presidents interim executive director, spoke in favor of the bill.

Don Bennett, Washington Student Achievement Council, said while the council has not taken a policy position on the bill, he supports the creation of reciprocal agreements for interstate compacts.
Listen to House Higher Education testimony on TVW.

Financial emergency law heard in committee

A financial emergency law that allows for expedited faculty layoffs during deep state budget cuts would be overturned under a bill heard by the House Labor and Workforce Development Committee onTuesday. Existing law allows SBCTC to declare a financial emergency if state budget reductions meet a certain threshold, a move that enables colleges to use a 60-day layoff process.
Sponsored by Rep. Jake Fey, D-Tacoma, House Bill 1535 drew support from Sandra Schroeder, AFT Washington president, and Karen Patjens and Tina Smith-Klahn, both Bates Technical College instructors. Also testifying in favor of the measure was Robert  Ackein, Bates instructor. “There was nothing to stop the administration from terminating our employment. Tenure had been rendered meaningless and anything was possible,” Ackein said of 2009 layoffs enacted by Bates Technical College.

John Boesenburg, SBCTC human resources director, and Debra Lisser, co-chair of the Legislative Action Committee of the Trustees Association of Community and Technical Colleges, cast the financial emergency option as a “tool of last resort” that has been invoked only three times since the law was enacted in 1981, with only one college using the expedited layoff option.

“No one likes layoffs. It’s a tough conversation to have,” Lisser explained. “[The financial emergency law] helps boards make quicker decisions to serve students in a time of unanticipated revenue shortfalls. In such times, timing is vital.”

Efficiencies for higher education capital projects

On Wednesday, the House Higher Education Committee heard House Bill 1769 creating efficiencies for institutions of higher education.

The bill would ease regulations in capital project planning and financing for higher education institutions:
● Increases the threshold for minor works projects from $2 million to $5 million.
● Increases the threshold for predesign requirements for major construction works from $5 million to $10 million.
● Permits regional universities, The Evergreen State College, and CTCs to enter into financing contracts (Certificates of Participation) — repayable only from local fees and revenues — for property, without being subject to appropriation by the Legislature.

Nancy McKinney, South Puget Sound Community College vice president for administrative services, spoke in favor of the proposed changes to the predesign threshold and minor work limits. She explained that colleges often use Certificates of Participation (COP) to finance construction projects for which the debt can be covered with local funds.
“Under current law, the Legislature must authorize these COPs, even if the college has sufficient revenue to cover the debt service,” she said. “The requirement for legislative approval can postpone construction for a year or more.”

The colleges would use the proposed authority to deliver self-supported and locally-funded programs sooner, with oversight of college boards and the State Treasurer's Office.
Listen to testimony on TVW.