Letters to the Editor

Moral: Quality schools require adequate funding

I agree with Patty Budinich (Oct. 15, “Where’s a positive moral in the HCC and co-op preschool ‘fable?’”) that it’s difficult to find a positive lesson to her fable. I’d like to propose one.

But first, I’d like to take this opportunity to clear up Ms. Budinich’s misconception about the childcare center that is currently being built on Highline Community College’s campus.

She questioned why we’re able to spend $4 million to fund the building of a new center when we had just made cuts to the cooperative preschool instructional program. I can see why this would cause confusion. Let me explain how the funding works.

The Legislature appropriates funding to community colleges in two budgets –– the capital budget and the operating budget.

The capital budget is for the construction and maintenance of campus buildings. That budget is funding the childcare center, primarily for use by children of students, staff and state employees. In 2001, the Legislature appropriated the design funding for the center, and in 2003, the construction funding. Funds from the capital budget can’t be used to pay for an instructional program, such as parent education co-ops.

The operating budget is for general campus operations, such as salaries, benefits, supplies, etc., that are used in the instruction of students and operation of the college. Any tuition that we collect also becomes part of our operating budget. The funds to run the co-op preschool instructional program come out of this budget. Because of the Legislature’s cuts to our 2003-04 budget, we’ve had to cut some of the programs and services we offer.

The new childcare center is for children of students, not for instruction. It was not designed to attract a larger student body and new staff to campus. The center will replace two 30-year-old portable buildings currently serving the children of students, faculty, staff and state employees.

Back to the moral of the story. Here’s what I propose we can all learn from this fable: Quality education for our community’s residents requires adequate funding –– funding we all must work to find. Without adequate funding, we cannot continue all our instructional programs.

I urge you and your readers to talk with community leaders, legislators and Governor Gary Locke about finding a long-term plan for funding higher education in Washington. Higher education programs in the state will continue to be cut and tuition will continue to increase when the Legislature and the governor are forced to make difficult choices in a tough economy that often lacks public commitment for funding important state initiatives. The benefits of a strong higher education system in this state are wide-ranging. Let’s work together to see that Washington has one of the best in the nation.

Michael Allen

Dean of instruction, professional-technical education

Highline Community College

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