Staff and faculty asked questions to Senator Karen Fraser and Representative Chris Reykdal about higher education and the upcoming legislative session at the legislative forum meeting held at South Puget Sound Community College.
Rising tuition costs and low teacher wages were also two major topics that staff and faculty asked the legislators about at the Oct. 18 forum.
The legislators discussed the McCleary Court Case. In this case, Mathew and Stephanie McCleary, parents of school-aged children, claim Washington State is not funding education to the extent it should be.
In 2010 the Thurston County Superior Court agreed the state is not funding education enough, but the decision was appealed.
“I believe we’re going to win this case, said Reykdal. “It’s so critical, if you look at the court in the last year and the decisions they’re making.”
“When they said that you’re failing to fund the basic ed, they were handing us a $3 billion bill,” said Reykdal.
He said if the state doesn’t win the case, they will have to find $3 billion of spending on K-12.
The audience also brought up the cost of tuition.
Reykdal said, “One of the greatest things we can do for higher ed in the next couple years, short of coming up with lots of new money, is at least finally stopping the bleeding of the tuition increases.”
Other funds the legislature gets would go to patch the holes in financial aid revenues, which currently need funds.
Another questioner asked how much political willingness there is to completely redo the state’s tax system.
Senator Fraser agreed the tax system should change, and said it isn’t fair, but in the State of Washington, there is a “tax culture” that is resistant to a change.
“It will take a huge coalition, and it takes more than some rational people sitting together and saying that we should have a better system; it’s gonna take a huge powerful coalition that attracts the support and trust of voters,” Fraser said.
An topic important to the faculty was pay raise. Reykdal said since tuition is the major source of revenue for higher education, it’s time for that money to start going to teacher’s pay.
“All sources of revenue need to be on the table now,” Reykdal said.
Compensation for faculty should no longer be the state’s obligation, he said.
According to Fraser people have done a good job advocating for higher pay, but it’s been put on the backburner as far as the state is concerned.
“Expenses are going up, and with the McCleary decision, it’s quite a situation,” Fraser said.
SPSCC Professor Lynda Swanson said unions and these forums are very important. “Voters really make a difference in this state.”
According to Swanson the people we vote in have a lot of impact on what decisions are made.
Swanson also said she goes to these forums because it’s an easy way to keep up with the local news, and because she believes strongly in unions.
Orkida An, events coordinator for the Campus Activities Board, said students can get involved with campus events such as forums, by dropping by at their meetings.
“We talk about all the different activities that happen on campus,” An said.
Meetings are held every other Tuesday in the Building 27, Room 121.
Lobbyist of the American Federation of Teachers in Washington, Bernal Baca, said students should realize “the importance of supporting their faculty, because they oftentimes become the voice of the student that is not heard in Olympia.”
Baca also suggested students “get out and vote!”