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WA Community, Tech Colleges Walk Out Over State Budget Concerns

At least 14 community and technical colleges have actions planned to send a message to Washington state lawmakers about funding their schools. (Rachel Samanyi/Flickr)
At least 14 community and technical colleges have actions planned to send a message to Washington state lawmakers about funding their schools. (Rachel Samanyi/Flickr)
April 16, 2019

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Faculty, staff and their supporters at several state community and technical colleges in Washington are walking out today to urge the state Legislature to boost funding for their schools.

Faculty and administrators at community and technical colleges say the state needs to fully invest in these institutions, which serve 60 percent of post-secondary students, but receive less than 40 percent of the state's higher-education funding. Annette Stofer, president of the American Federation of Teachers for Seattle colleges, said schools want to send a message to lawmakers.

"We desperately need them to fund our colleges better,” Stofer said. “And we can't stay on the same track that they've put us on and survive this and be able to offer an excellent experience to our students."

At least four Seattle-area colleges have walkouts planned. Ten more colleges in Western Washington plan on informational pickets and other events. King County Executive Dow Constantine is scheduled to speak at Shoreline Community College, and Seattle City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant is scheduled to speak at Seattle Central College.

Cortney Marabetta, communications specialist with the American Federation of Teachers of Washington, said the walkouts aren't strikes against school administrators, and noted schools are working to include students in the actions.

"Administrations of many of the colleges have been right there beside us in Olympia, talking to legislators, telling them that we need this increased funding,” Marabetta said.

She said elements of all the budgets being considered in Olympia will help community and technical colleges. But she noted the investments in salaries aren't enough for faculty and staff to keep up with the growing cost of living. She said many faculty members already can't afford to live in the communities where they work.

"We have adjunct faculty members who have as many as five jobs to try to make ends meet,” she said. “We have full-time faculty who have housemates to make rent."

The legislative session is scheduled to end on April 28.

Disclosure: American Federation of Teachers of Washington contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Early Childhood Education, Education, Livable Wages/Working Families. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA