Senate Bill 5905 is receiving a lot of attention at Bellevue College. The potential passing of this bill affects more than half of the staff and faculty members on campus. As of May 13, 2013, SB 5905 has been reintroduced by resolution and retained in present status in the senate.
“81 percent of the faculty teaching at BC are adjuncts and part-time faculty who would lose their health care coverage if this bill were to pass,” said Paula Sebastian.
Both students and faculty are concerned.
“This year while lobbying in Olympia we made a point to express the value of faculty to our education. This bill with save the state money at the expense of taking away one of the only things that make our college’s low wages remotely livable,” said Kristin Velez, the legislative director of the Office of Student Legislative Affairs.
The passing of SB 5905 would save Washington state $90 million annually. In return, adjunct and part-time state employees will no longer be eligible for health insurance. Millions of people currently working 20 to 30 hours each week will be forced to pay out of pocket for health coverage while receiving a salary that is substantially less than they would earn elsewhere.
“This proposed bill further balances the budget on the backs of adjuncts,” said Sebastian.
Many teachers will potentially find themselves considering other career options because it would no longer be economically feasible for them to earn a livable wage. Currently part-time instructors receive an estimated one-third of what full-time faculty receive for the same amount of work. The pay divide has been partially supplemented with health coverage.
“Most adjuncts, including myself, want to teach full-time. Unfortunately loss of state funding and ill-informed hiring practices over the past 10 years have drastically cut the number of full-time positions offered annually,” said Sebastian.
If Washington’s educational system is already experiencing financial strain, the legislature voting to save $90 million annually and forcing its employees to cover their own health coverage expenses will add to the pre-existing budget issues. With adjunct faculty potentially switching careers to ease financial strain in the own lives, the quality of education in state-funded colleges will become a secondary priority in the hiring process.
“Our schools need to strive to be competitive. The passage of this legislation would be counter-intuitive,” said Velez.