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Topic: higher education
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October 18, 2013 at 6:00 AM
In the vast arena of public education, the part least understood or addressed well is mental health. Think about it. Schools remain vigilant about ensuring students perform well academically. Immunizations are legally required and periodic check-ups for hearing and vision remain even as school systems have cut back in many areas. These things are appropriate because they directly impact students in the classroom.
Mental health also directly impacts students, as I note in my latest column. But a combination of stigma and inattention has left mental health issues on the periphery of education policy discussions. I write in my column about the many ways that is changing.
An example: In the Seattle Public Schools, all the comprehensive high schools and middle schools, plus the Interagency Academy and the World School, have mental health professionals on staff. This is possible because of the Seattle Families and Education levy, a seven-year measure approved by voters four times, most recently in 2011 for $231 million.
A focus on student health that includes the range from emotional/social issues to diagnosed disorders is a key piece of prevention efforts. It is obviously needed. About one in five adolescents has a mental health disorder and 60 percent to 90 percent of them don’t ask for or receive treatment, according to Child Trends. Most mental health needs of adolescents are first identified in schools, although the point I make in my column is that intervention often does not come soon enough.
This conversation ought to continue next Tuesday when Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler holds a public hearing about insurance plans and coverage of mental health services. Participation is vital because testimony from the public hearing will be used to craft rules guiding mental health parity requirements in this state. Families looking for more information about mental health services can find plenty at the Early Assessment Support Alliance website.
October 8, 2013 at 9:06 AM
Thoughtful responses have piled up in my email inbox since my column about Proposition 1 which, if approved by City of SeaTac voters, would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for about 6,300 workers at Sea-Tac airport and nearby hotels, car-rental agencies and parking lots.
I disagree with the Nov. 5 ballot measure. There’s not much point in raising the minimum wage for thousands when the issues are wage depression for millions of workers and a yawning gap between the skills workers possess and the ones they need to have a shot at a good paying job. Going city by city – SeaTac today, Puyallup tomorrow - will result in a nationwide shift in the minimum wage by, oh, 2070.
Dean Shoemaker from Kent said: “Of course, not many have the talent and determination of a Subelbia. All I would ask is that the minimum wage stay up with inflation. Choose any decade in the last half century, any you want and track inflation and the minimum wage down to the present. Minimum wage has fallen behind which suggests that working folks have suffered a decline in their standard of living.” (more…)
October 4, 2013 at 6:15 AM
My latest column moves beyond debate about the City of SeaTac’s Proposition 1 to the low-wage jobs issue that inspired it.
It is not clear whether voters will approve the Nov. 5 ballot proposal to raise minimum wage at Sea-Tac International Airport and nearby businesses to $15 an hour. The Washington Research Council opposes the measure out of concern for Washington employers who already contend with the nation’s highest workers’ comp benefits and fifth-highest unemployment insurance benefits. An economic impact analysis by the Economic Opportunity Institute says higher wages would boost the economy because people who earn more will spend more. Still, my colleague Thanh Tan wondered in a recent blog post why fast food strikes have not inspired more people to demand an increase in the minimum wage. And this piece in The Atlantic punctures inflated hopes by predicting little change on a national scale in the minimum wage.
Time to look beyond scattered city-by-city efforts and to the larger issue of education, chiefly its power to raise wages. Federal and state minimum wage laws create a solid floor for low-skilled workers. Union representation also helps. But there is near-universal agreement about an education premium, the idea that the best way for low-wage workers to earn more money is to get more education. The more value that can be created in one’s skill sets, the more someone might be willing to pay you.
The two women I profiled in my column, Roxan Seibel and LeeAnn Subelbia, would agree with me. Both said college is the route to better opportunity and away from the low-wage retail jobs both started out in, but only Subelbia was fortunate enough to earn a college degree. No surprise, she now owns two businesses employing a combined 50 people. This piece in The American Prospect wonders if education is the cure for poverty. I think it is part of the cure. Poverty is a debilitating condition that requires a number of strategies to overcome.
But as I point out in my column, efforts to raise the minimum wage are having mixed success. Stronger results lie in helping more students afford and attend college. What do you think?
August 13, 2013 at 6:00 AM
The choice of turning the old PacMed Center into apartments or classrooms is expected to be made Tuesday.
The Pacific Hospital Preservation and Development Authority, the public entity that owns the sprawling art deco-style building atop Beacon Hill, is holding a public meeting Tuesday starting at 6 . Afterward, the authority’s governing council is expected to vote on whether to lease the Pacific Tower building to Seattle Central Community College or to a Miami-based developer looking to convert the historic building into market-rate apartments.
For reasons underscoring the vital importance of education and healthcare, Seattle is better off if the college is chosen. Seattle Central’s plan to expand its nursing, dentistry, respiratory, surgical technical and optician programs would increase employment options for students entering the fast-growing medical fields. Healthcare providers would have access to skilled, locally-trained employees.
There is an appropriate interest in keeping the building consistent with its historic role as a place for good health care. The building was built in 1932 as a hospital for military veterans, merchant seamen and the Coast Guard. From 1998 to 2011, the building was the headquarters for Amazon.com.
A credible plan is not marred by the big feet of House Speaker Frank Chopp, who unilaterally earmarked $20 million from the state capital budget to pay for Seattle Central’s renovation of the building. An additional $4.8 million from the state operating budget would cover lease payments and other operating costs for two years.
Chopp’s rare public flexing of political muscle, detailed in this Times story, rankled some, including Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina. Chopp’s 43rd legislative district includes Seattle Central and the Democrat found a workable way to preserve a historic building and help a fine educational institution grow.
Chopp is not the first legislator on either side of the political aisle to earmark money for a project in his or her district. That does not mean keeping an eye on the public debt created by capital spending is not a worthwhile endeavor. It is. But in this case, the spending is on an important and beneficial project.
July 29, 2013 at 7:09 AM
My recent column took on a sobering report by economists at Harvard and University of California at Berkeley that poor children growing up in certain cities will have a far more difficult time escaping poverty than others. Check out this New York Times interactive and map of the “Equality of Opportunity” project.
The reasons make sense: some cities, Atlanta for example, are sprawling behemoths where good jobs, schools and housing are located geographically out of reach for low-income families, many of whom often lack cars or other reliable transportation. Cities most likely to engender success, including Seattle, have strong economies and accessible public services.
Readers responded with views that often diverged on their personal ascents out of poverty:
Anna Bee wondered what researchers, and my column, meant by economic “success.” This reader also appeared to take issue with my mentioning social safety nets as key to successfully moving out of poverty.
“I am betting it has everything to do with how graciously one accepts handouts. I’ve never been good at that. We just weren’t raised that way. Maybe it is because our zip code was always changing so that my mother and father could keep us fed without having to ask for hand outs.”
Good ole Preposterousness from Idaho offered a sobering truth: “In today’s economy you can do everything right, including being born in the correct ZIP code, and still fall out of the middle class.” Indeed. (more…)
July 26, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Where do lower-income households have the best chances of rising into the middle class? You’d be surprised. Check out this cool map to compare upward mobility rates across the country. Lighter colors represent areas where children from low-income families are more likely to move up in the income distribution. A New York Times interactive of this map allows you to chart different comparisons.
Source: (The Equality of Opportunity Project)
July 19, 2013 at 6:40 AM
Yolanda L. Watson Spiva is the College Success Foundation’s new chief executive officer and president, replacing co-founder and CEO Bob Craves who is retiring.
This is a quality match.
Spiva is coming to a foundation that has worked successfully in this state and Washington, D.C. increasing the numbers of young people, especially those from low-income families, in college. The Issaquah-based nonprofit was built on solid ground, the brainchild of Craves, a co-founder of Costco, and Ann Ramsay-Jenkins. Craves was co-chair of the Washington State 2020 Commission on the Future of Post-Secondary Education. Craves and Ramsay-Jenkins deserve a community’s lasting gratitude for their ability and willingness to tackle Washington state’s low college attendance and graduation rates.
Tapping Spiva was a smart move. She brings a strong professional and civic resume, most recently as CEO and executive director of Project GRAD Atlanta, Inc., a nonprofit working with the Atlanta Public Schools to boost the number of students graduating from high school and college. Spiva also has ties to higher education. She was assistant dean at Trinity College in Washington, D.C.
The expectation that Spiva can not just sustain but grow the well-respected and effective CSF is not misplaced. (more…)
July 18, 2013 at 7:40 AM
On Wednesday night, a bipartisan deal emerged to reverse a doubling of loan rates for federally subsidized student loans. Rates were supposed to increase from 3.4 to 6.8 percent after July 1. Instead, according to an Associated Press report, students would pay 3.85 percent in the fall in a deal senators hammered out but have not voted on.
Here is what’s in the deal from the AP report:
“The interest rates would be linked to financial markets, but Democrats won a protection for students that rates would never climb higher than 8.25 percent for undergraduates. Graduate students would not pay rates higher than 9.5 percent, and parents’ rates would top out at 10.5 percent.”
Let’s hope that Congress finds a way to avoid eating our young.
Our editorial board called on Congress to prevent the doubling of the loan rates back in an April editorial.”
As I wrote in my column “A millennial voter’s manifesto for 2013,” young people have taken the brunt of the recession thanks to increasing student-loan rates and mounting debt. The average Washington student graduated in 2011 with more than $22,000. A graduate I quoted in that column had student loan payments totaling $1,000 a month.
It’s hard to envision when you’re in college. But at some point you may want to buy a car. When it comes time to take out a loan, the interest rate you pay, and how much car you are able to afford, will depend on how much you owe in student loans. Or a college graduate may decide he or she wants to buy a house (against the urging of my July 2 column “Why you should not buy a house.”) Whether you qualify for a mortgage and again, how much house you can afford, will be based on how much debt you owe in student loans.
So the actions of Congress now on student loan rates would ripple 15 years into that college student’s life.
The compromise deal would only last through the 2015 school year, the AP report said. That’s not the predictability that students and parents need. Our goal should not be to make college affordable for two years. A bachelor’s degree takes four, often five years to attain. But it’s at least a reprieve.
July 1, 2013 at 6:00 AM
The state Legislature narrowly averted a government shut down last week by passing an operating budget. Congress had a fiscally-related deadline too but failed to meet it. The result is that today federal student loan interest rates rose from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. That’s double the current rate paid by more than 7 million students nationwide. The jump hits Washington state hard. Last year, 45 percent of the freshmen enrolled in our public higher-education system borrowed for college.
Congress’ failure is disappointing. Times editorials here and here argued for action by Congress. Last year, lawmakers extended the current rate when they could not agree on a more long-term solution. But they failed to do so this time. A nation hamstrung by more than $1 trillion in student loan debt must tackle interest rates.
Congress recessed for the Fourth of July holiday and several members of the state’s delegation, including Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Suzan DelBene will be at the University of Washington at 10 a.m. this morning to push for the Keep Student Loans Affordable Act of 2013 (S. 1238) which would extend low rates for a year giving Congress time to work on a long-term solution.
June 28, 2013 at 6:30 AM
The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling on affirmative action gave a reprieve to the use of race in higher education enrollment decisions. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the 7-1 majority, underscored the value of diversity but was clear that use of affirmative action to promote diversity and maintain a level playing field had to pass the “strict scrutiny” test.
Washington state voters in 1998 passed Initiative 200, banning state governments, including public institutions of higher education, from considering race.
As I noted in my Friday column, our public universities and colleges have been successful building diverse campuses. But given the fast-growing minority populations in Washington state, it is worth asking whether our state is hindered by having a law at odds with the rest of the country. Agree or disagree?