Low pay for part-time college instructors inspires plenty of sympathy in Olympia, but the emotions haven’t loosened government purse strings.
As legislators consider three versions of the state budget, the best the 700 part-time faculty at Spokane’s community colleges can expect is a few more dollars for groceries each week.
“They got shafted,” said Trevor Nielson, spokesman for the Washington Education Association, which represents community college faculty.
A handful of local community college instructors reminded Gov. Gary Locke of their plight Friday, picketing his visit to Spokane Community College.
“I don’t feel equality, I feel trashed,” said Terry Boyden, an SCC English teacher with two master’s degrees. “I make $15,000 a year.”
One of the signs speckling the 200-person audience read, “An exploited person = a community college part-time teacher.”
Almost half of the teachers at Spokane community colleges are part-timers who make a fraction of the wages of tenured faculty.
Like their peers statewide, they have no job security and often have to scrape out office space. The payoff: wages about 39 percent of full-time salaries.
Locke, a former part-time teacher at the University of Washington, carved out $4.5 million in his budget for part-timers, which would boost their salaries about $600 a year.
But the Senate’s budget, written by Spokane Republican Jim West, has nothing for the part-timers. The House set aside $2.9 million for them.
“There are some tough choices in the budget,” said Locke at SCC.
He contends lawmakers are doing the best they can, with all the various needs of the state. “You see the Legislature’s and the governor’s office’s efforts to close that disparity,” he said.
West did not respond to requests for an interview.
But both the Legislature and Locke found big pots for faculty at Washington State University and UW.
The Senate budget set aside $6.4 million to use as bonuses for high-profile faculty who could be wooed away by other colleges.
And Locke has $20.2 million in his budget for faculty at UW and WSU who are paid less than peers at other colleges.
All state employees are up for a cost-of-living raise; Locke’s budget calls for 2.5 percent per year, the House and Senate request 1.5 percent per year.
All who have considered the issue in Olympia empathize with the part-time instructors.
“They have been at the lowest end of spectrum and treated unfairly,” said Rep. Don Carlson, R-Vancouver, chairman of the House Higher Education Committee. “In some cases, they’ve been exploited.”
But Terry Fitzpatrick, head of the state community college faculty union and a Spokane Community College professor, found lots of alligator tears when he visited Olympia.
“You put all the effort in and hope it works,” said Fitzpatrick of his lobbying efforts. “It hasn’t.”
The part-timers in Spokane will meet later this month to consider lobbying strategies. A strike is not being considered but the 700 angry teachers in Spokane are getting organized, said Willene Goodwin, union representative for the part-time faculty.
“It’s at the point where something’s going to happen,” she said.
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