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Bill Introduced to Close College Instructor Pay Gap

HB 1179 aims to close the pay gap between part-time and full-time faculty at community and technical colleges. (SounderBruce/Flickr)
HB 1179 aims to close the pay gap between part-time and full-time faculty at community and technical colleges. (SounderBruce/Flickr)
January 24, 2017

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Part-time faculty at community and technical colleges live on shoestring salaries compared to their full-time counterparts, but that could change with a new bill introduced in the Washington State House. HB 1179 is getting a public hearing Tuesday in front of the higher education committee. It aims to give part-time instructors equal pay with full-time staff. On average, part-timers - known as contingent faculty - make about 50 percent less than full-timers while teaching the same courses.

State Representative Gerry Pollet, who is sponsoring the bill, says the legislature should act now while the economy is in good shape.

"The current part-timers who are piecing together a living, we need to keep them in the classroom and try to give them pay equity in order for those part-time faculty to simply have a chance to make a living if they follow their calling to be teachers," he said.

Pollet says part-time instructors often have to zip between colleges to find enough work. Contingent faculty average 70 percent of teaching employees at community and technical colleges. The bill would close the pay gap within four years.

Pollet says the Washington legislature embarked on a similar effort in the early 2000s, allocating funding to colleges in order to close the gap. But when the recession hit in 2008, that effort stopped. Pollet says the issue of pay equity is important for students, too.

"The students are cheated when we don't invest in the faculty here because when that faculty member is done with class and they have to get in the car and drive to another campus, they aren't able to stick around and advise and mentor the students," he explained.

Pollet says part-time faculty does not get to participate in making the curriculum for each quarter either. He adds that there should be regional adjustments to salary compensation to make up the differences in pay between urban and rural areas.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA