Faculty and staff rally for funding

By Mitchell Roland - Staff Reporter

Faculty and staff from colleges around the sound held both virtual and physical rallies on Tuesday to protest funding levels for community and technical colleges from the Washington State Legislature.

Several colleges in the region held walkouts, and High- line staff and faculty joined in with a virtual rally to show support.

Cortney Marabetta, a Communications Specialist for the AFL-CIO which helped organize the events, said that six local collages including Seattle Central College, North Seattle College, South Seattle College, Shoreline Community College, Peninsula College, and Bates Technical College's Central campus were participating in walkouts and informational picketing.

"A walkout is intended to disrupt the school day to make the point to legislators about how important funding CTCs is," Marabetta said.

Marabetta said that Shoreline and the Seattle Colleges had speakers on their cam- puses, while Pierce College and Edmonds Community College held informational meetings "to raise awareness and get support from students and faculty and staff."

Marabetta said that while CTC students make up 60 per- cent of the students in higher education in Washington, these schools only receive about 40 percent of the funding.

Dr. James Peyton, an economics and statistics professor and the president of the Highline College Education Association, said that these protests were for a variety of reasons.

"The Legislature, for quite a number of years, has not really invested in the community and technical college system," Dr. Peyton said.

Dr. Peyton said that these protests were to draw attention to three main issues with the legislature in Olympia: Student funding levels, compensation and infrastructure.

"It's all interconnected," he said.

Dr. Peyton said that it is critical for students to get the financial support that they need from the legislature.

"Without good student aid, we're not going to have students," Dr. Peyton said.

Dr. Peyton also said that it is critical for staff and faculty to get compensated fairly, too. He said that it has been challenging to try and recruit and maintain a qualified staff.

"You have to be able to say to someone starting out...'ye- ah you're going to be able to make it,'" he said.

Once a staff member leaves for a new position, it can be a challenge to replace them, Dr. Peyton said.

"Once these people are gone, it's hard to recruit for those open positions," he said.

Highline President Dr. John Mosby agrees. He said that compensation has made it difficult to not only hire new employees, but keep current ones.

"It makes it challenging to hire, and then a challenge to maintain," he said.

Dr. Mosby said that he has worked to make sure that "our jobs that are posted are competitive" so that Highline can hire the best person for that job.

"We want to get the best person for that position," he said.

Dr. Mosby said that he has worked to make sure that pay for faculty is competitive, so that Highline can keep it's employees.

"We want to be able to pro- vide adequate compensation," he said. "So we don't lose them."

Dr. Peyton said that staff and faculty are "really, really dedicated people who haven't seen their salaries keep up with inflation."

Dr. Peyton said that talks with the state legislature "have been positive, but actually coming up with the money has been an issue."

Dr. Mosby said that he has traveled to Olympia multiple times this session to speak with legislators, and while there he feels like he has been listened to.

And he hasn't gone alone. Dr. Mosby said he has brought students and others with him to show the impact that com- munity colleges can have.

"It's really helping them understand," he said.

But both Dr. Mosby and Dr. Peyton said that it sometimes feels like community colleges are being overshadowed by larger four-year schools in the state, such as the University of Washington and Washington State University in the state legislature, and that those schools get a lot more attention.

"I do feel like we're the underdogs in terms of gaining that respect," Dr. Mosby said.

Dr. Peyton said that the college administration sup- ports the efforts to draw attention to funding levels.

"This year, there's been more coordination between college administrators and employee groups.," he said. "In the end, we're all on the same side."

Dr. Peyton said that there is not conflict with college administration, but rather with the "neglect in Olympia."

Dr. Mosby said that while other colleges in the region were protesting both the legislature and their administration, at Highline the demonstration was focused at the legislature.

"I'm very much in support of our faculty and staff," Dr. Mosby said.

Dr. Peyton said that before planning the virtual protest, he talked with college administrators.

"We [faculty and Highline administration] sat down and talked it over and thought for where we are in the legislative session, the leverage point that would be the most productive would be direct contact with legislators," he said.

Dr. Peyton said that staff and faculty on campus are happy with their jobs but are not happy with their compensation.

"Staff and faculty are dissatisfied with their pay. They're not dissatisfied with their job, but they're dissatisfied with their pay," Dr. Peyton said.

Dr. Peyton said that there are reminders on campus of the infrastructure funding that is still needed.

"This building doesn't have heat today," Dr. Peyton said. "It's a reminder."

In the current versions of both the House and Senate budgets, there is a three per- cent cost of living adjustment each year for state employees. And Dr. Peyton hopes that these demonstrations will motivate the legislature to keep it there.

"Don't pull anything that's there already," he said.

Cortney Marabetta said that students and staff should contact their legislators and tell them to fund community and technical colleges.

"Contact legislators and urge them to support the CTCs, and a progressive funding package that increases revenue," she said.

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