This afternoon the Senate Ways & Means Committee held public hearings on twenty-seven different bills with plans to move out of committee nearly nineteen bills.
The stars of this afternoon’s hearing were two education related bills.
Senate Bill 6562 a.k.a. the tuition policy bill. SB 6562 authorizes the University of Washington, Washington State University, and the Western Washington University governing boards to set tuition rates. The average annual compounded rate of change of undergraduate tuition fees may not exceed 9 percent based on the previous 15 years, or 14 percent in any one year.
The Committee on Higher Education Performance is created and authorized to approve performance agreements. The performance agreement must be six years in duration. Annual adequate performance as determined by the committee is required to maintain tuition setting authority. The committee is composed of the chairs and ranking members of the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee, Senate Ways and Means Committee, House Higher Education Committee, and House Education Appropriations.
The UW, WSU, and WWU must waive full-time tuition fees for resident undergraduate students based on family and state median family incomes. Waivers of full time tuition fees for resident undergraduate students are provided on a graduated scale in 4.5 percent increments based on state median family income and the institution’s tuition fee rate. The waivers must be reduced by the amount of any state need grant, federal, state, and institutional scholarships, grants, and waivers. Such waivers are exempt from tuition waiver limitations.
Tuition fee setting authority remains the same as current law for Central Washington University, Eastern Washington University, the Evergreen State College, and the community and technical colleges.
The State Actuary presented to the committee the potential impact on the Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) Program. The State Actuary, given the assumptions in the bill, concluded there is virtually no risk of the GET Program running out of assets over the next 50 years if the program remains open and all other current policies and provisions remain unchanged. The one cautionary note shared by the State Actuary was that the impact may differ if purchaser behavior changes.
President Emmert (UW), President Floyd (WSU), and Trustee Phil Sharpe (WWU) testified in support of the bill. Each one stated that the bill provided the balance needed between a quality education and an accessible education for Washingtonians.
Members of the Senate Ways & Means Committee asked several questions, including the current percentage of state funds that make up the budget of those institutions in the bill and how under these policy changes policymakers can be assured that student-debt load would not rise and economic and ethnic diversity would not decline. In addition members asked whether or not the tuition setting authority in the bill allows the state to back away from future state support. Additional questions posed included the impact on retention and the middle-income student population.
Charlie Earl, Executive Director, Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges and the League of Education Voters also testified in support of the bill. The Washington Student Association and students from WSU, UW, and WWU testified in opposition to the bill. Students raised concerns regarding the increases in tuition identified in the bill and the fiscal pressure that will be placed on funding for state financial aid.
Senate Bill 6696 comprises several policy changes to K-12 to make Washington more competitive for Race to the Top dollars. The House proposed similar legislation, but disaggregated the policy changes among three bills – HB 3059, 3068, 3035.
Senate Bill 6696 seeks policy and structural changes in the areas of school and teacher evaluation, assessment, and preparation. Of importance to Evergreen are the policy changes to teacher preparation programs. In particular the bill would require Evergreen’s teacher preparation programs to offer an alternate route program, which may negatively impact the College. If grants and Race to the Top dollars are not received, Evergreen would be left to shoulder the costs of developing and implementing this program with no additional funds. Evergreen proposed a change to the language that would make offering alternate route programs permissive. The change in language was not included in the final bill approved by the committee and passed to the floor.
Evergreen also kept an eye on several other bills.
makes available educational programs for juveniles confined in adult jails. Each school district, within which there exists an adult jail, must provide a program of education for juveniles confined therein. Districts may contract with educational service districts, community and technical colleges, four-year institutions or other qualified entities to provide all or part of these services.
requires the Legislature to identify ten government priorities to verify that state agencies and activities are performing at their highest efficiency. The ten priorities include improving: student achievement in K-12; quality and respect for the public workforce; value of state college or university education; health of state citizens; security of the state’s vulnerable children and adults; the economic vitality of businesses and individuals; statewide mobility of people, goods, information, and energy; safety of people and property; quality of the state’s natural resources; and cultural and recreational opportunities throughout the state. The State Auditor is required to select the highest priorities to audit and the lowest priorities to assess. In addition, the State Auditor is required to present its work plan at an open public meeting for evaluation and recommendations prior to commencing audits.
SB 6374 requires the Office of Financial Management (OFM) to include economic modeling or other procedures that take into account increased economic activity which may result from economic development contemplated in legislation in fiscal note instructions.
SSB 5543 requires producers of mercury-containing lights (lamps, bulbs, tubes, or other devices containing mercury and providing illumination) sold in or into Washington to participate in product stewardship programs that are fully implemented by 2013.
SB 6843 temporarily suspends the two-thirds vote requirement for tax increases and permanently modifying provisions of Initiative Measure No. 960 for improved efficiency and consistency with state budgeting.
SB 6833 allows the Office of the State Treasurer to enter agreements with state agencies for investment by the Treasurer of funds not currently deposited with the Treasurer. At this time higher education is exempt from the bill. Evergreen supports the bill in its current form.
SB 6845 requires the collection and use of additional information regarding information technology projects, including the requirement that OFM obtain specific information about IT projects, including current and future costs by category, estimated operating savings and other benefits, and estimated start and end dates.