Thank you for taking action to contact senators on the Senate Ways and Means committee, telling them to fully fund our classified staff contracts at community colleges. Here’s what you can do:
Check out this list in the link above to find your college and figure out which senators represent areas close to your college.
Call their phone number or click on the link to send them an email. You can use the following example text, or share your own experience with being underpaid, underfunded, and high turnover at your college. “Dear Senator [blank]: My name is [insert your name], I’m a member of the Washington Public Employees Association, and I work as a [insert your job] at [insert your college]. I’m asking you to fully fund our state employee contracts for community college classified staff. The Senate budget funds only 83% of our contracts, at a time when our colleges are already facing cuts. Compensation for classified staff has not kept up with the cost of living. Our colleges are losing experienced, extremely capable employees to higher-paying jobs in the private sector or with other public employers. Meanwhile, many colleges are planning to implement cuts that would lay off the very employees who have stuck with their colleges despite better pay elsewhere. For example, Clark College is considering a 6% cut for the 2023-2024 academic year. Without adequate funding, colleges may be forced to make these kind of cuts - cuts that demoralize staff and cripple our colleges' ability to serve students now and in the future. Our state cannot afford a race to the bottom in higher education. Thank you.”
Check in with your coworkers and ask them to contact their legislators as well. Senators need to know what impact potential cuts would have on our community colleges.
Thank you for your work! If you want more information, check out the letter that WPEA sent in coalition with the Washington Federation of State Employees, the American Federation of Teachers - Washington, the Washington Education Association, and the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges: March 9, 2023 Dear Senators, Faculty and classified staff at our Community and Technical Colleges and the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges are unified around our commitment to public higher education. Our jobs vary within the system, but we all agree that teaching students, and setting them up for success in the workforce, is our primary goal. Our community and technical colleges serve over 260,000 students of all ages and backgrounds in local communities across our state. Investments in these students pay dividends for the workforce in our state. It’s hard to reach the goal of setting students up for success as we are losing expert faculty and staff to higher-paying employers in K-12 schools and private industries. We are united in the following requests as you compile your budget priorities:
Fully fund Cost of Living Adjustments negotiated by the Governor’s Office;
Fully fund Cost of Living Adjustments in compliance with I-732;
Restore 100 percent funding for any and all inflationary increases.
We are losing caring, committed, qualified educators and urgently request the above investments in our community and technical colleges.
At Spokane Falls Community College, for example, we lost two counselors. One left the community and technical college system to go into private practice and another left to go to the Spokane Public School District. The salary range for counselor positions at Spokane Falls Community College is $55,900 to $83,000. In the neighboring K-12 Public Schools, the salary schedule, based on education and years of experience, ranges from $62,500 to $103,000.
At Wenatchee Valley College, two tenure-track English positions and one tenure-track science position are currently unfilled because the entry-level pay range of $57,283 to $63,983 depending on education and experience was too low for candidates to accept and relocate. In the Wenatchee School District, faculty with a Master’s degree can make $62,000 to $88,000 by just driving 6 miles.
These are examples from just two of our 34 community and technical colleges, but the anecdotes highlight what our campuses are experiencing in efforts to attract and retain the faculty and staff our students deserve.
Many in the higher education world talk about the “fund-split.” This refers to the policy by which the legislature shifts a share of the cost of compensation increases onto colleges. The Legislature used to fund 100 percent of faculty compensation or inflationary increases, but that policy ended in the 2013-15 budget when our state was still suffering from the aftershocks of the Great Recession.
Compensation for classified staff has not kept up with the cost of living. Colleges are losing experienced, extremely capable employees to higher-paying jobs in the private sector or with other public employers. Meanwhile, many colleges are planning to implement cuts. For example, Clark College is considering a 6% cut for the 2023-2024 academic year. Without adequate funding, colleges may be forced to make cuts that demoralize staff and cripple our colleges' ability to serve students now and in the future. Our state cannot afford a race to the bottom in higher education. In closing, the irony is that we are losing our community and technical college workforce at the same time we are working to prepare the future WA workforce. We ask for your respectful consideration of the above investments to support faculty and staff at our community and technical colleges.