SCC was ablaze with passionate speakers and enthusiastic crowds as underpaid faculty and staff cried “no more!”
The failure of Washington state to tax the rich and properly fund higher education came to a head on April 16, 2019 when nine community and technical colleges (CTCs) in the Seattle area held staff and student walkouts.
The demonstration began at 9:45 a.m. just outside the main PUB area. A number of speakers came from around Washington state, including union leaders, education directors and even a King County executive.
It ended at 12:45 p.m. with a march to Aurora Avenue.
Left to right: Laurel Ecke, Lauren Wilson, Juliet Lovejoy. Photo: Travis Tribble
Laurel Ecke is a professor of psychology at SCC first caught wind of the protest at North Seattle College where she also works part time. According to Ecke, when she presented the idea of organizing at SCC, SCC ESL Professor Lauren Wilson and SCC Math Professor Juliet Lovejoy picked up on it immediately. They only had three weeks to organize this event.
Ecke said the reason for their success was because of how well they worked together. With the school administration on their side, they obtained paid professional leave for any faculty that wanted to participate. Ecke also stated that one of the difficulties in organizing the event was the irregularity of adjunct faculty schedules. Wilson, Ecke and Lovejoy kicked off the morning by introducing speakers, and enthusiastically encouraging participants to write they’re legislatures and participate in the march.
Professors making less than public school teachers
Ernest Johnson is a tenured SCC professor with 22 years experience and a doctorate under his belt. He said his salary would be 30 percent higher if he worked at a public school. Lovejoy compared her wages and found she could be making nearly 50% more working at a high school.
A number of other professors have reported similar wage disparities between CTC professors and K-12 teachers.
Tax Breaks fueling the rich and depleting state revenue
SCC Professor Elizabeth Hanson spoke of 700 tax breaks that Washington state legislatures have granted to the richest people and corporations in our state. She claims this is a loss of ten billion dollars in revenue per year. Another notable tax break in 1996 was Senate Bill 5286 — a tax break for intangible property that lost state revenue four billion dollars a year.
Finally, the 2013 Boeing tax break: “The largest tax break given to a corporation in the history of the United States. A nine billion dollar tax break over 16 years,” Hanson said. This accounts for a loss of half a million dollars of revenue per year.
Tuition Costs in the past 50 years
A 450 percent tuition increase has occurred at CTCs in the past 40 years. John Burbank the Executive Director at the Economic Opportunity Institute compared these numbers in his speech. He went to Evergreen State college in 1970 and paid 1,500 a year, in today’s dollars, because of proper state funded community colleges.
Over 100 people marched from SCC’s campus to 160th and Aurora Avenue Chanting and waving signs. A banner was draped across the walking bridge on 160th reading “[Re]Invest In Our Colleges.” Several drivers honked and waved in solidarity.
What can be done
The American Teaching Federation has a “reinvest in our colleges” proposal that would establish a minimum counselor to student ratio, enhance professional development funding, raise the pay for all college employees to a livable wage, fund equity and diversity and inclusion and fund premium pay for faculty who are teaching incarcerated students.
The cost for all of this would be 250 million dollars a year. You can find and email your legislator asking them to fund CTCs at https://app.leg.wa.gov/districtfinder.
Adjunct professors are part time employees that usually teach at several different colleges and/or work part time in other jobs to make up for low salaries. They are often hired with little to no guidance or training of any kind. Keep in mind that some of these professors spent enough time in school to earn a doctorate and still don’t receive job security or benefits.
Traveling between schools and jobs leaves little time for office hours to help students. Adjunct professors make up two thirds, or 70 percent, of faculty at SCC.
Law Enforcement Activity
SCC Safety and Security was aware of the planned rally in advance and did not increase presence on campus for the event, according to Calob Peoples, an officer in the department.
“We don’t expect any problems,” he said.
Despite that expectation, a Safety and Security vehicle accompanied the protesters as they marched down 160th Street.
Shoreline Police received multiple calls about the march on Aurora Avenue from drivers concerned about protestors potentially walking into traffic, according to Ryan Abbott, the Public Informations Officer for the King County Sheriff’s office. A police officer was dispatched to speak with march organizers about these concerns.
“There were absolutely no issues with that, so we left,” Abbott said.