Janurary 13, 2014: The Legislative Session Begins
The 2014 Legislative Session is scheduled to run from January 13 through March 13. Throughout the session, Western's state government relations team will be providing periodic updates here so that you can follow what's going on in Olympia.
Last year, after one regular 105-day legislative session and two special sessions, the legislature adjourned on June 29, passing a budget that made significant reinvestment in Western, and targeted investment in computer science and engineering. This year is scheduled to be a much shorter, 60-day session, and revenue forecasts indicate that there won't be much new money on the operating or capital side. Western will be going in to the session with a couple of modest decision packages and one capital budget request, which you can read about below:
Our first proposal is aimed at STEM teacher preparation. Washington's schools are experiencing a critical shortage of highly qualified teachers in the areas of science and math, and STEM teacher preparation is a core strength at Western, where we've received more than $20 million in grants aimed at improving K-12 STEM education. The NextGen STEM Teacher Prep proposal will help meet the state's needs by expanding and improving our science and math education program at Western, recruiting a diverse cadre of motivated STEM students to teach, preparing at least ten science specialists each year to serve in high needs schools, and creating a next generation model that can help improve STEM teacher preparation across the state of Washington.
Our second proposal is a request for state support for our highly successful Compass 2 Campus mentoring program at Western, and will be a joint effort with the Public School Employees who have also identified this as a priority. Compass 2 Campus sends trained Western students in to classrooms for four hours per week offering mentoring and academic tutoring to 5th through 12th grade students in a program that is designed to increase access to higher education for students from traditionally underrepresented and low-income backgrounds. Student mentors lead tours each for about 800 fifth-graders so they can get a glimpse of college life and see themselves as future graduates. Compass 2 Campus also partners with Whatcom Community College, Bellingham Technical College, Northwest Indian College and Skagit Valley College, and Central Washington University is planning to bring the program to its campus. The program currently serves 29 schools, with 900 Western students serving as mentors each year providing over 31,000 annual hours in schools. Compass 2 Campus simply needs more than grants and donations to continue to succeed, and this request will ensure not only continued success at Western, but the ability to expand well beyond Northwest Washington.
Western enters the 2014 Legislative Session with one Capital Budget request, asking for funding to renovate the Carver Academic Facility. Carver was ranked as the #1 renovation program among the six public baccalaureate institutions by the Office of Financial Management, the state has already invested $7.3 million in predesign and design money for the project, and the one year delay in construction funding already increased the cost of the project by almost $2 million. Carver is the most heavily used building on Western's campus, and is a vibrant hub for many large volume academic programs and campus life activities. Substandard seismic and life safety conditions must be addressed now if this building is to continue serving students at Western. While the project request was $71 million, it will be difficult in a supplemental budget year with very little capacity in the capital budget to achieve the full amount. We were very pleased that Governor Inslee recognized this project as a priority in his budget proposal, and proposed $5 million for Western to begin the project and take care of some critical life safety issues in 2014 and keep the project moving.
In addition to these items, the six public baccalaureate institutions will be working with legislators and stakeholders on the recommendations put forward by the Performance Funding Taskforce which met six times this past interim to put forward a proposal at the direction of the legislature.
If you have any questions on specific legislation or the legislative session please contact Sherry Burkey at Sherry.Burkey@wwu.edu or Brad Sherman at Brad.Sherman@wwu.edu and we will be happy to help.