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WA Law Aims to Make Comm, Technical Colleges More Inclusive

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Monday, July 5, 2021   

SEATTLE -- Washington state community and technical college staff members are excited about a measure aimed at improving the success of students of color.

This legislative session, lawmakers passed Senate Bill 5194, which will ensure community and technical colleges have diversity, equity and inclusion plans next year.

Jaeney Hoene, an English faculty member at Green River College, and part of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) of Washington, said the coalition Community for Our Colleges pushed the effort to pass the measure and commended students for leading the way.

"That bill came out of very grassroots efforts to really look at what community colleges need to be doing in terms of equity and anti-racist work," Hoene explained.

Hoene noted the bill comes at a crucial time as the pandemic ebbs, because community and technical colleges are usually engines of growth in the aftermath of downturns.

The bill also set up the Guided Pathways program to help students better navigate college and increases access to mental-health counseling.

Part of the new law will help colleges recruit and retain more diverse faculty.

Tracy Lai, a history instructor at Seattle Central College and AFT Washington member, said students of color are more successful when they see themselves reflected in their teachers.

"When some of their instructors do actually look like or come from [the] same community or a similar community or at least can more directly relate to the experiences that they themselves are coming out of, they felt that that was something that really helped them to persevere," Lai observed.

Lai added students of color make up a large part of the population at community and technical colleges.

"If we don't pay attention and make plans and build an infrastructure that can really support that success, well, we've really kind of betrayed that generation then," Lai contended.

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


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