HB 1398 which is the UW’s request legislation to expand our local borrowing authority passed the full House of Representatives this morning 93-1 which four members excused. The House bill will now be referred to the Senate for consideration. SB 5384, which is the Senate companion measure should be acted on by the full Senate sometime next week.
Much of my time this past week has been spent meeting with various legislators on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education to help them better understand the policy rationale for the Washington Learns recommendations to use what are called Global Challenge States for higher education funding benchmarks.
For many years, per student funding for the UW has been measured against a set of 24 peer institutions referred to as the “HECB 24.” These schools were selected almost 20 years ago to help guide legislative budget decisions to improve per student funding, but were essentially abandoned during the economic downturn in 1993-95. Since that time, higher education budgets have not been constructed with per student funding improvements in mind.
The Washington Learns effort recognized the need to take a fresh look at the existing peer groupings in order to be able to justify a renewed interest in improving per student funding for higher education institutions. Instead of choosing similar institutions to the UW as has been done in the past, the consultants recommended selecting other states that like Washington, were ranked highly in their potential to complete in the new knowledge-based global economy.
The top eight states in what is called the New Economy Index (Connecticut, California, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Washington, Virginia and Colorado) became the Washington Learns Global Challenge States. Peer institutions were identified within each of these states and then per student funding comparisons were made. As most of us know by careful reading of this blog, per student funding for the UW ranks near the bottom of this institutional grouping and about $3,700 per student below the 60th percentile benchmark recommended by Washington Learns.
A number of House members expressed reservations this past week about the global challenge states and the logic and rationale behind their selection. Some of the concern is based upon the fact that not every elected official had an opportunity to participate fully in the 18 months of Washington Learns meetings in which these issues were thoroughly discussed and debated. Other concerns have more to do with the choice of states as comparisons rather than the individual institutions within them, while others are resistent to changing the existing HECB 24.
The importance of the Global Challenge State benchmarks to the University is the critical need to improve per student funding in order to maintain our competitiveness and improve the overall quality of our educational offerings. Establishing these in statute will also insure that the legislature has a long term framework to guide their budget allocation decisions. I’ll keep you posted on this issue in the coming weeks as budget proposals are finalized in the House and Senate.
Last Tuesday, February 20, alumni from all six of Washington’s baccalaureate institutions along with their Presidents and governing boards met in Olympia for the 2007 Higher Education Day and the timing could not have been better.
The planning for this year’s event was very strategic and focused on bringing a united voice of support for the Governor’s Washington Learns Initiative and increased funding for higher education tied to other similar institutions in the Governor’s “Global Challenge States.” With the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education poised to release a draft budget for higher education, having UW alums meeting on-one-on with their own elected officials and reinforcing these principles was a dream come true for the University’s state relations team.
The day began with a legislative briefing conducted by President Mark Emmert and myself, giving alums an overview of the session and key speaking points that everyone could use when they met with their legislators in the afternoon. Immediately following the briefing, a luncheon was held at the Indian Summer Golf and Country Club where Governor Gregoire presented the Robert G. Waldo Award for outstanding contribution to public higher education to former Governor Booth Gardner. David Horsey, the two-time Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist for the Seattle P-I gave the keynote address.
After lunch, all higher education alums moved to the state capitol campus for a busy afternoon of meetings with legislators and catching portions of the many committee meetings that were happening. Mascots from all six schools were visible around the campus and in many buildings, mixing with lobbyists, staffers, visiting school children and even attending the six presidents media availability in the State Reception Room. The day ended with a wonderful reception in the Governor’s Mansion hosted by the Governor and her husband Mike Gregoire.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt thanks to all who took time out of their busy schedules to come to Olympia and advocate for more funding for higher education and the UW in particular. Also, kudos to the super staff at the UW Alumni Association and the Office of State Relations who worked tirelessly over the past year to pull this successful event together.
As you can tell from the dearth of blog postings, this has been the most intense week of session yet. Between individual appointments with legislators to lobby our operating and capital budget proposals and a head spinning number of committee hearings on bills that both please and concern the University, I have hardly had much of a chance to sit down and take stock of where we are after six weeks in the session.
Budget issues continue to fair generally well, although we are still at least one month away from the next revenue forecast and the release of our first legislative budget proposal. Next week, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education will release their budget recommendations for all educational sectors including higher education. The subcommittee will hold hearings on February 21 and two additional hearings on February 22. These are only advisory suggestions and will be forwarded to the full House Appropriations Committee for their consideration.
Much of our work this week on legislation deals with bills affecting personnel management and collective bargaining. Previous blog entries have discussed the implications of SB 5514 and HB 1875 and the UW remains opposed to both bills which are wrestling with the long-standing issue of a large number of parttime faculty in the two-year college system. We also continue to work with representatives from the Council of Presidents and PERC staffers on clarifying amendments to HB 1399 which would grant professional staff the ability to collectively bargain. Many thanks to Cheryl Cameron from the Provost’s office and Lou Pisano from Human Resources for coming to Olympia this week to testify and work on these issues.
Yesterday, Provost Phyllis Wise and special assistant Harlan Patterson testified on HB 1385 sponsored by Rep. Fred Jarrett (R-Mercer Island) which would establish a comprehensive strategic direction for higher education. Other academic officers from around the state praised the bill for taking a systemwide view of higher education looking at both funding needs and outcome measures.
UW athletic director Todd Turner made a rare visit to the state capital this afternoon for a meeting with state Senator Ken Jacobsen (D-Seattle). The senator has introduced a bill (SB 5571) which would establish a student athlete bill of rights. Of concern to the UW and other schools in the state is that the measure would in effect, prohibit the UW from participating in the NCAA or being a member of the PAC-10 conference. The bill will be heard in committee next week.
Have a great weekend. My next blog entry will preview the seventh week of the legislative session which includes the long-anticipated Higher Education Day celebration on February 20.
At a meeting of the Senate Ways and Means Committee on January 25, committee staff person Tim Yowell gave a presentation on higher education budget issues that has been getting rave reviews from legislators, staff and the broader higher education community.
Here’s a link to Tim’s presentation from the committee webpage. Even for the casual observer, it contains a wealth of comparative and historical information about Washington’s higher education system and many of the challenges budget writers will face this session.
Yesterday was UW student lobby day in Olympia and more than 100 students dressed in colorful purple shirts were a visible presence in the state capitol for much of the day. As I waited to testify on one of the Governor’s primary Washington Learns bills in the Senate Higher Education Committee, the room slowly filled to capacity with a bevy of purple-shirted Huskies who certainly caught the eye of committee members as well as the assembled gallery of higher education legislative officers.
As for the hearing itself, the hearing was on SB 5806 which is sponsored by Sen. Mark Schoesler (R-Ritzville) and contains most of the substantive higher education recommendations from the Governor’s Washington Learns Initiative. Of primary importance to the UW is the first section of the measure which establishes the Global Challenge States as the primary competitive comparison group to benchmark funding for all higher education institutions including the UW.
If you would like to see how UW funding measures up against the competition, check out the State Relations website and look for the UW vs. Global Challenge States under the 2007 briefing papers section.
The crunch of committee hearings has arrived and given the volume of legislation our office is managing presently, posting blog entries will have to take a back seat to more pressing issues for the next few days.
Thanks for understanding and we’ll try to get back to you by the end of the week.
Today’s Seattle Times has an interesting story written by Nick Perry that chronicles the difficulties of some parttime community college faculty to establish successful careers due to their inability to gain full-time status. This has been a perennial issue in Olympia and one with no easy solution as the story indicates.
Two bills which attempt to remedy this issue (SB 5514 and HB 1875) will be heard in the Senate and House higher education committees this coming week. Both measures are similar and set goals for overall two and four year faculty compensation as well as prescribing ratios of full and parttime faculty positions at all higher education institutions in the state.
While the UW applauds the salary goals of both measures to peg faculty compensation to the 75th percentile of global challenge states, the prescriptive nature of the bills which would establish full and parttime faculty ratios down to the departmental level are simply too onerous for the campus to be able to support. The Council of Presidents (which includes the UW) has taken a position against these aspects of the measures and will be seeking amendments to have all four year universities omitted from the bills.
Both the House and Senate versions of the University’s legislation to expand local borrowing authority passed their respective fiscal committees this week and are headed to the full chambers of the House and Senate for eventual floor action.
HB 1398 (Fromhold) easily cleared the House Capital Budget Committee on Tuesday by a vote of 21-1. Rep. Jamie Pederson (D-Seattle) offered an amendment to the bill which removed the requirement that the University maintain at least an “A” bond rating, but added some additional reporting requirements related to the expanded authority granted in the measure. The amendment passed by a vote of 14-8.
SB 5384 (Fraser) passed the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday without any changes and was sent to the Senate Rules Committee. Both versions of the bill are receiving strong support in both chambers and our goal is to try and schedule floor action in the Senate and House within the next several weeks.
Nothing like a real “grab you” headline, right? As you have surmised, my planned campus legislative briefing for 10:30 a.m. this morning was sidetracked by the House State Government and Tribal Affairs Committee which decided yesterday to schedule executive action on HB 1506 at their 10:00 a.m. meeting this morning. This measure reauthorizes the University’s ability to use what is called “design build” and “general contractor construction management” or “GCCM” for major capital construction projects, and is one of our “high priority” bills for the 2007 legislative session.
So, let me try to use the blog to cover the main points I was going to talk about at the briefing this morning.
1. The legislative session is officially 25% completed and so far, all is going generally well for the University. Although some legislators have expressed mild frustration about the Governor’s overall spending level, their has been general acknowledgement that her higher education budget is the strongest in more than a decade and that “now is the time” to make these kind of investments.
2. The tone among legislators in “one-on-one” meetings and in committee hearings has been more positive for higher education that I have seen in my three years representing the UW. Higher education has been granted greater “airtime” in the fiscal committees to present our budget and policy priorities, and questions and comments from individual legislators have been more supportive and less hostile than in the past.
3. While the debate over the Alaskan Way Viaduct has certainly dominated the headlines in the press and been the subject of most Olympia hallway conversations, it has not distracted legislators from spending most of their time in committee meetings on education. Washington Learns and it’s focus on early learning, K-12 and higher education continues to dominate the budget and policy discussions. In fact, watch for more attention on the WASL issue in the coming weeks as the Viaduct moves off the front pages until after the special election in Seattle on March 13.
4. The overall budget situation continues to improve. Major entitlement programs which drive more than 50% of all general fund expenditures are trending downward, meaning that even without additional revenues, the legislature will have more money to spend on their individual priorities, decreasing the risk that the Governor’s higher education budget will have to be substantially reduced.
5. Over the next few weeks, committee action will increase as they rush to hear and pass bills before their cutoff deadlines. Fiscal chairs have begun evening meetings on the budget as they anticipate the next revenue forecast on March 15.
Since I won’t be there in person to answer questions this morning, feel free to email me your questions and I’ll try to respond as legislative business permits.