Hearing Out The ROC Bills

AFT Washington’s members and allies made a very strong showing at the House College and Workforce Development Committee hearing on our ROC bills on, Tuesday, January 29th. Among the people who came out to give testimony to the committee, we had several counselors, teachers across the system from CTCs to correctional faculty, classified staff, students, and Representatives Gael Tarleton (LD 36) and Lillian Ortiz-Self (LD 21), the prime sponsors of the two bills. AFT members who were present were Jim Howe, Local 3533 and Vice President of Legislative Affairs; Judy Mattson, Local 4787, Dawnmoon Jacques, Local 4254; Rick Geist, Local 3914; and Dr Earl Martin, Local 1873.

Some of the members and allies who spoke in support of the ROC bills, with Lillian Ortiz-Self (center)

The bills that were heard are HB 1300, which is the budget piece of the ROC, and HB 1355, which addresses counselor qualifications and ratios. They represent a solid foundation for investment in the CTCs, and they are necessary. HB 1300 addresses the declining funding CTCs have received from the state over the last thirty years, requiring robust investment in the system to take more of the cost of education off of the students and end the practice of subsidizing the CTCs through wage stagnation and over-reliance on adjunct faculty. HB 1355 recognizes that students succeed when they have access to faculty counselors who have the specialized skills needed to address the range of challenges they face and establishes a counselor ratio of 1 counselor to 900 students – the current state ratio is about 1:1900.

Soon a third bill will be introduced, prime sponsored by Javier Valdez (LD 46), and calling for an investment in achieving diversity, equity and inclusion. This bill, along with HB 1300, will ensure that colleges have strategic plans and funding to implement them. The Shoreline Federation of Community College Teachers, 1950, weighed in with their written testimony on the subject, stating that “Another important aspect of HB 1300 that must be highlighted is the request for funding for diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives to forefront the issue of the lack of diversity, particularly faculty of color, in the CTC system. With your support, it will shift the diversity conversation from aspiration to implementation. We all know that where we put our money is what is important to us. Washington State claims to embrace social justice, equity, and inclusion.”

While everyone spoke passionately and eloquently (and you can hear their testimony here!) the students were particularly compelling, especially given the diversity of experiences they represent and the specific needs they addressed.

Kristina Pagosian, Student Body President of Tacoma Community College, spoke in support of HB 1300,   saying “As already mentioned, House Bill 1300 will also increase the compensation for our faculty members, which is very important because these are the people that are guiding our students, that are teaching our students, that are supporting our students every single day. When we support faculty in this way, we are in turn supporting our students, because we are attracting and retaining the quality instructors that give our students a quality education.”

Eduardo Alcantar, a student at Spokane Community College and a student senator for athletics, spoke regarding HB 1355. “In 2014, I began my academic career at Spokane Community College and one quarter in I left without any plans of returning. Three years passed by, and in 2017 I decided to go back and get my associates degree. I took my first my appointment with the counselor and that one appointment alone gave me a path to see the light at the end of the tunnel. As of now, I’m going to graduate and move on to a four-year university.”

The bills are still in the House Committee – if you haven’t already, you can send a letter to the members of the committee urging them to pass the bills out. Share your stories and tell the committee why you support these bills!

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