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Thursday, June 1, 2023
June 1, 2023

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Clark College faculty union seeks pay hikes

By , Columbian Education Reporter

If you thought it was only K-12 public schools affected by ongoing union negotiations, guess again.

The Clark College Association for Higher Education, which represents faculty members at the Vancouver community college, is currently in the midst of bargaining for pay raises. This is the first time the union has bargained for local dollars after the Legislature last year gave community and technical colleges the right to negotiate for local salary increases.

But Clark College officials say the college doesn’t have the money to give pay raises to its faculty, pointing to declining enrollment and an uphill climb in Olympia toward increasing funding for community colleges.

Members of the union call for pay equity with their peers at area public schools, noting that the top of their pay scale is tens of thousands of dollars less. CCAHE President Kim Sullivan said the union is advocating that, “for the same education and the same experience, we get the same top salary.”

“We’re inspired by what happened in K-12,” Sullivan said.

At Evergreen Public Schools, for example, a brand new teacher with a bachelor’s degree starts at $42,841, according to the district’s salary schedule. A top paid teacher with a master’s degree, 16 years experience and 90 or more continuing education credits makes up to $91,417. Full-time faculty at Clark College, meanwhile, start at $53,281 and top out at $76,145, according to a salary schedule provided by the union. Full professors see their salaries bump to $79,185.

President Bob Knight, who last week announced his retirement from the college, said at his State of the College address that declining enrollment means the college can expect to see budget cuts as high as 5 percent in the coming year. On the first day of school during the fall quarter, 11,717 students were enrolled in Clark College, down from 12,055 the year prior.

“Our No. 1 priority for the operating budget is funding for employee compensation,” Knight said.

But, he continued, “I have no control over revenue. The Legislature sets tuition.”

At a Wednesday board of trustees meeting, Knight and board members reiterated that they’re working to advocate for improved community college funding at a state level. But Chair Royce Pollard, former mayor of Vancouver, had a more aggressive take. He urged faculty to advocate for their own raises in Olympia.

“We value you and what you do for this college, and we will work hard on it, but we can’t do it alone,” he said. “If you don’t help us, then shame on you.”

Dozens of faculty members, sporting the familiar red T-shirts of public education employee unions, attended Wednesday’s meeting. Several grumbled at Pollard’s proclamation.

Suzanne Southerland, a tenured faculty member in the communication studies department, said Pollard’s comments “really hurt.”

“I’m frustrated that we were told it is basically our responsibility to go to (Olympia) and bargain for our salary increases,” she said. “It’s their responsibility to balance our budget.”

Sullivan said the college and union have bargaining sessions scheduled in the coming month.

“We are unified,” she said. “We are determined. That’s our message.”

Columbian Education Reporter