Friday, April 5, 2013

Budget unveiling attracts overflow crowds

After days of speculation and anticipation on the hill, the Senate unveiled its budget proposal this week, marking a major session milestone. At the time this blog was posted, the budget was up for a vote on the Senate floor.

All eyes now turn to the House, with the expectation of a budget release sometime next week. The gap between the two budgets will surely heat up discussions about potential special sessions.

Senate budget activity in Ways and Means

The Senate budget proposal was released, heard in public testimony, and approved this week in Senate Ways and Means.

The budget proposal was released on Wednesday with a public hearing scheduled just hours later. An overflow crowd packed the room and testimony began with a budget-related bill, Senate Bill 5883. If passed, the measure would:

·       Establish a statutory per-student funding level for higher education, calculated by dividing the current level of state funding by a 3-year enrollment average. New investments above this baseline would come as performance funding – for CTCs, through the Student Achievement Initiative. The per-student funding level would increase by inflation in future fiscal years.

·       Lower tuition by three percent for all public colleges and universities for fiscal year 2014. Future tuition increases would be limited to increases equal to inflation, unless the per-student funding level (above) isn’t funded, then tuition increases would be allowed to backfill the lack of state funding.

Marty Brown, SBCTC executive director, complimented the move to create a statutory funding level for higher education, but expressed concern about how the level would be calculated. “We have the same concerns (as other higher education institutions): it’s probably at the low ebb historically of per-student funding and – particularly in our case – we had very high enrollments during the recession….big numbers in enrollments and low numbers in state funding…that’s a concern.”

Link to Marty Brown’s testimony (begins at 1:00:30).

Later, the hearing turned to the Senate 2013-15 biennial operating budget proposal. The spending plan would:

·       Restore funding related to the 3 percent salary reduction and one-time budget reductions taken in 2011-13.

·       Invest $17.9 million per year to support core academic functions at the CTCs.

·       Invest $13.4 million per year to be distributed using the Student Achievement Initiative.

·       Reduce the CTC appropriation by $5.8 million to recognize “administrative efficiencies” generated through efforts in LEAN management principles.

·       Provide $255,000 per year to support and operate a center at South Seattle Community College to provide training to students in maritime industries.

·       Provide a one-time investment of $500,000 in FY 2014 to implement provisions of 2nd Substitute Senate Bill 5624 - Aligning high demand secondary STEM or career technical education programs with applied baccalaureate programs.

·       Reduce WorkFirst funding in DSHS by 10 percent.

·       Maintain the current Running Start program assumptions.

·       Not fund I-732 salary increases.

·       Make no additional investments in the State Need Grant.

·       Increase financial aid by $37.7 million to cover unanticipated activity in the College Bound scholarship program in the Student Achievement Council budget.

The plan assumes no tuition increases for resident, undergraduate students.

Denise Yochum, Pierce College Fort Steilacoom president, and Tim Stokes, South Puget Sound Community College president, testified on behalf of the CTC system. They went above and beyond the call of duty as the hearing began at 3:30 p.m. and they finally got their say about 8:30 p.m.

Yochum began with a message of thanks. “After years of budget cuts, we really appreciate what this budget says about your commitment to, and the priority of, higher education and the role that community and technical colleges play in economic vitality in the state of Washington,” Yochum said. 

Yochum applauded the proposed investments in College Bound and the Student Achievement Initiative, and reminded the committee of the 21,000 eligible CTC students who are unable to receive Need Grants because of insufficient funding.

Stokes focused on the value of STEM training at CTCs, particularly in light of a March 2013 Washington Roundtable report detailing our state’s critical shortage of STEM workers.

“We stand at the ready … to address the Washington Roundtable investments in the areas of advanced manufacturing, pre-engineering, computer science, and allied health to provide living-wage jobs and to increase economic prosperity in all of the communities across our state,” Stokes said.

Link to testimony (begins at 2:44:00).

Apprenticeship work session

The Senate Trade and Economic Development Committee heard an overview of trade apprenticeships in the state.

Marie Bruin, SBCTC policy associate, described how community and technical colleges partner with local apprenticeship training committees to offer related/supplemental instruction (RSI), the theoretical and technical subjects related to an apprentice’s occupation.

She explained that while about two-thirds of the system’s colleges offer apprentice RSI courses, nearly 90 percent are offered at the eight or nine colleges with the largest apprenticeship partners.

“Over last four years, the CTCs have seen decrease due to the economy,” Bruin explained, “because you have to have a job to be an apprentice.”

Sharon Buck, Everett Community College vocational director and dean of business for EvCC North and East County, said colleges partner with apprenticeship councils in different ways to deliver RSI.

“One-size seldom fits everyone,” Buck said. “Multiple pathways to learning helps build a workforce that meets demands.”

She said apprenticeship maximizes the use of scarce training resources. “During the day, we run college programs. In the evening, we have apprentice classes. And we partner with K-12 to use their training equipment.”

Barbara Hins-Turner, Pacific Northwest Center of Excellence for Clean Energy executive director, said apprenticeship is one of the most effective training models. “Journeyman apprentices can pursue further higher education,” she said.

Innovative degree pathways create opportunities for apprentices to earn an Associate in Technical Arts (ATA) or Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Multi-Occupational Trades. This degree allows individuals to build on their journey-level status and, in some cases, pursue certain applied baccalaureate options.

CTCs help students become college ready

On Wednesday, the House Higher Education Committee heard how community and technical colleges move students through precollege (or “remedial”) courses at a quicker pace.

Jan Yoshiwara, SBCTC education services deputy executive director, described how precollege education at community and technical colleges is based on research showing that the initial student experience determines the likelihood of degree or certificate completion.

“[Precollege] is a small, but very essential part of what we do in the community and technical college system…It’s a very critical starting point for students who come to us without college-level skills,” Yoshiwara said.

Statewide CTC initiatives to accelerate college readiness include multiple assessment measures, I-BEST, participation in Core to College, Achieving the Dream, the Student Achievement Initiative, and competency-based student progression.

David Prince, SBCTC research director, presented data showing student characteristics and completions for two-year colleges over the past few years. “[Our research is] interested in applied research, looking at our students and finding out who they are, what they’re doing within our system and what happens to them after they leave our system. We have several areas that we focus on – transfer education to student issues.”

Rebecca Hartzler, Seattle Central Community College accelerated math initiatives lead, shared how SCCC is using accelerated developmental math courses to better prepare students. The four main challenges students face when taking math courses at SCCC are: the sequences are too long, courses aren’t taken consecutively, there are multiple college readiness levels within classrooms, and the traditional math pathway is mainly STEM focused. SCCC is using a variety of models to address these challenges and increase student success.

Sharon McGavick, Lake Washington Institute for Technology interim president, shared how LWIT is transforming the way students prepare for a competitive job market by combining workforce and academic courses. “We have been challenged with trying to get people trained to go to work… the integration of academic classes in workforce training was far more powerful than academic courses by themselves,” McGavick said.

Hector Valenzuela, LWIT math faculty and Doug Emory, LWIT dean of instruction, testified how curricula has been researched and developed to improve student outcomes. Using the nationally-recognized I-BEST model, LWIT has been able to connect students with basic skills and workforce needs for real-world training.

Link to testimony (begins at 1:00).

Faculty increment bill gets hearing

On Monday, the Senate Commerce and Labor 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 when 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 local control and responsibility. “They (colleges) bargained it; they know their fiscal house better than we do. This idea that they can bargain locally and then send the bill to Olympia has us completely out of balance.”

Several faculty members also testified in favor of the measure: Kevin Asman, South Puget Sound Community College; Carla Naccarato-Sinclair, Community Colleges of Spokane; Kim Sullivan, Clark College; Doug Brown, Bellevue College; and Sharon Mitchler, Centralia College.  

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. However, he said the bill represents another cost-shift from the state to local colleges. With $10 million already negotiated, colleges would be hard-pressed to come up with funding beyond what the Legislature provides, resulting in lost services, fewer sections, and less flexibility to meet the education needs of communities.

“The state board and colleges are strong supporters of improving all our employees’ salaries. They are underpaid. They work hard. They deserve better,” said Boesenberg. “We ask that if you’re supportive of faculty increments and professional development, you support our budget request.”

Link to Rep. Reykdal’s testimony on TVW.

Link to faculty panel and testimony from John Boesenberg on TVW (begins at 1:56:07).

Policy committee cut-off round-up

Wednesday, April 3, was policy committee cut-off. Any bill that did not pass out of policy committees by Wednesday will not move forward this session. Bills in fiscal committees were exempt from this cut-off date.

Bills of interest still in play after Wednesday’s policy committee cut-off include:

·       HB 1109 – requires colleges to have a process by the 2013-14 academic year to offer early registration for eligible students who are veterans or National Guard members.

·       ESHB 1247 – eliminating the dollar for dollar match for small businesses participating in the Job Skills Program.

·       SHB 1472 – expands access to computer science education.

·       SHB 1686 – replaces “general equivalency diploma” with “high school equivalency” to provide flexibility in test options.

·       HB 1736 – providing higher education operating efficiencies.

·       ESHB 1769 – providing higher education capital efficiencies.

·       ESHB 1872 – Governor-request STEM education.

·       SB 5180 – creates a taskforce to improve higher education access for students with disabilities.

·       SSB 5195 – allows nonprofit institutions to be eligible to participate in the State Need Grant program.

·       SB 5318 – removes the one-year waiting period for veterans or active military members to be eligible for resident tuition.

·       2SSB 5624 – creates a high school-to-community and technical college STEM pathway by requiring the further development of STEM-specific applied baccalaureate programs, subject to available funding.

·        SB 5712 – encourages colleges to use multiple student assessment tools.

·        SSB 5774 – allow a permit for alcohol tasting for adults under age 21 (sip and spit).

Bills of interest that did not survive policy committee cut-off include:

·       HB 1043 – eliminating differential tuition.

·       HB 1348 – requires increments for faculty as negotiated in local agreements.

·       SHB 1536 – requires one business and labor representative on boards of trustees.

·       ESHB 1817 – providing eligibility for undocumented immigrant students

·       SHB 1858 – requires that higher education institutions adopt a policy awarding academic credit for prior military service.

The next cut-off date is Tuesday, April 9, when bills in fiscal committees must be voted out to continue this session.