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WEA higher education leaders testify on college budget transparency bill

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Suzanne Southerland testifying 2020 2
Clark College Association for Higher Education President Suzanne Southerland testifies for a college budget transparency bill.

Two of WEA’s higher education faculty union leaders testified this week in support of legislation that would make college budgets more transparent.

House Bill 2654 is sponsored by Rep. Mike Sells and has bipartisan support. According to an official summary of the bill, it would require the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges to “maintain annual financial information for each community and technical college. The information must include revenue, expenditure, and fund balance data.”

Similar budget information for K-12 school districts is available from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

James Peyton, president of the Highline College Association for Higher Education, testified in support.

“Open information increases trust and reduces the potential for adversarial relationships,” Peyton said. “Open and available information supports the strong partnerships colleges have between administrations and faculty.”

Suzanne Southerland is president of Clark College Association for Higher Education, which recently had a three-day strike over fair pay. She joined Peyton in testifying before the House College and Workforce Development Committee.

“My own experience bargaining over the past year at Clark College, we found that when delving into the college budget the college's numbers didn't match the numbers reported by the State Board. This created a lot of uncertainty about the college's budget,” Southerland told legislators. “It also created a lack of trust in the college's reporting of their budget, and ultimately it made it difficult to communicate about the budget because there was always a huge shadow of doubt about the legitimacy of the college's numbers.

“This bill, HB 2654, would help minimize the uncertainty and distrust that currently exists in some of the contract negotiations at community colleges across our state.”
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