“We should have got more people out to this,” says Karen Strickland President of the local teachers union at a public meeting with the Washington State Student Achievement Council (WSSAC). The event held at Seattle Central on Wednesday at 5pm brought out about less than 20 to discuss the future of higher education in the state. The event was attended by only one member of SCCC’s Student Achievement Council.
WSSAC was formed in 2012 by the governor to identify ways to improve student graduation rates and look into problems surrounding the issue. Marty Brown, one of two speakers at the event says the group will be preparing a “10 year roadmap by the end of this year” hoping to increase student learning retention. Despite the modest show out, the crowd was vocal.
President of SCCC, Paul Killpatrick says “We’re not setting the bar high enough for students” in relation to student preparedness but says he has been meeting with area superintendents monthly to help address this. Mark Crawford, Executive Director of the Committee for Children, was disappointed that no one on the council works within the early learning market. This was addressed by the second presenter, Ray Lawton, who says the higher education rep within the governor’s cabinet will be involved with the group in some manner. Lawton early in the meeting says the group hopes to collaborate with different educational sectors to improve the group’s viability of success. Prior to the public feedback some math teacher scaring stats were produced.
“Nearly 25% of our students don’t make it through High School,” says Brown. WSSAC presented a PowerPoint with outlines of their goals noting that Washington is ranked 42nd in the nation among Bacceularate degree producing states. This is exacerbated by the states reduction in funding by nearly 42% over the past 10 years says Brown. The Powerpoint also illustrated that enrollment in Western Governors University, an online college which has increased by 312% since fall 2011. The mention of WGU spurred on some strong reactions from the crowd.
Karen Strickland was concerned that WGU may eventually start taking money away from public institutions for a group whose success has not been clearly measured. Lawton notes that the state’s community colleges have transfer agreements with WGU. Although WGU is starting to make moves on the educational market, one student says it all comes back to ”money.”
Mike Lepton a student at North Seattle Community College and member of their Research and Advocacy board had some pointed opinions for WSSAC. “I don’t think they really understand how bad this sitation is,” he says of the state legislature on school funding. He spoke of the multiple physics classes that have extended waitlists.“Every last one of them.” He adds this is no new trend and that students could “form a new section with all the people on the waitlist.” Brown agreed saying, “You’re absolutely right, we have 15,000 students on the waitlist.” And as Lepton says, it “all boils down to money” which is exactly where the conversation proceeded.
Karen Strickland asked the group, “To what extent will the council have a political agenda?” Adding that despite issues in the state’s schools that legislature needs to be pushed to invest more heavily in public institutions. “The dominant message I hear is, we have to keep doing more with less…I think that is really wrong,” says Strickland. Lawton says he is unsure of what influence the council will have on state policies.
The meeting concluded shortly after 6pm, a hour and a half before it was scheduled to close. NCC accidently stumbled upon the event via Google searches and a Seattle Times article. The school says an email blast was sent early Wednesday on the event. While only a small band of students were able to voice themselves others can add their voice to the discourse by visiting this site.