On Sep. 11, the Washington state legislature was declared in contempt of court for failing to draw up their plans for the restructuring of the K-12 by the April 30 deadline as stated under the McCleary decision of 2012. “The original decision and recent court ruling, finding the state in contempt, will likely result in additional fiscal cuts to all of the community and technical colleges,” said Dave Rule, BC President. In Jan. 2012, the Washington Supreme Court issued a ruling in response to a lawsuit filed in 2007, determining that the state legislature had failed to fulfill its “paramount duty” under the state constitution “to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste or sex.” The legislature was then ordered to implement various reforms to the public school system and invest an additional $18.5 billion in public schools by 2018.
Paul Bell, student programs’ policy research intern and previous legislative director of BC’s Office of Student Legislative Affairs, predicts that “the governor is probably going to be looking at an 18 to 22 percent cut when he does his initial budget report in December,” but continued to explain that “we’re looking at closer to 8-14 percent depending on how well the legislature does their job.” Money for these reforms will come from discretionary funds of the state, funds that institutions of higher education also tap into. Since K-12 is non-discretionary, according to Teague Crenshaw, Associated Student Government vice president of external legislative affairs, if there is not enough money to go around, the legislature could fully fund K-12 and cut out community and technical colleges as well as four year colleges.
Seeing as the state budget operates every two years and 2014 is an off year, no sanctions were provided, but the ruling goes on to explain that “the state has assured the court that education funding is the legislature’s top priority and that the legislature is determined to (and the state expects it to) take meaningful action in the 2015 budget session.”
This reassessment and Initiative 1351, meant to reduce class sizes in K-12 schools, threatens all public institutions of higher education in Washington state in that it jeopardizes their budget. The Washington Student Association has and will continue to lobby for dedicated funding for higher education. The Washington Community and Technical College Student Association will be lobbying for dedicated funding this year as well under the motto “basic education has evolved, protect Washington’s future.
In an effort to illustrate the importance of higher education, Crenshaw anticipates an increase in advocacy efforts from years past. In addition to lobby days, Crenshaw hopes to conduct video campaigns as well. The OSLA is also currently passing around their annual survey to determine their legislative agenda for the legislative and budgetary sessions in Jan. According to OSLA Policy Coordinator Tai Yang, the OSLA is pushing to have “at least 800 people fill out the surveys” by the time of print. This is important as the survey will determine the stance which the college will take in January.
The OSLA is currently searching for a policy research intern who will live in Olympia for two months during the session, receive special training from the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges and act as a liaison for the Policy Coordinator.