By Leslie Simon
City College of San Francisco has been under attack for the last seven and a half years by conservative forces whose goal is to shrink the college.
Education “reformers” seek to turn community colleges into junior colleges removing from the college’s mission “cultural enrichment, civic engagement, and life-long learning.”
The history is ugly, but the college has survived because the people of San Francisco, many of whom have taken CCSF classes, continue to love and nurture it.
In July 2012, a rogue accrediting commission, known as the ACCJC, now chastened by a successful lawsuit against it, launched an unfair attack on the college because it would not comply with the narrow vision of a junior college.
With a barrage of negative publicity, enrollment — the college’s major revenue stream — plummeted. San Francisco residents and friendly folks in state government, such as Mark Leno, rallied around the college.
The college never came close to bankruptcy, but the California Community College Board of Governors found another reason to put the college under state receivership. They used the fact that the ACCJC imposed harsh sanctions on the college based on dubious accreditation standards.
In 2013, the State disempowered the college’s elected Board of Trustees and imposed a “Special Trustee with Extraordinary Powers,” aka the STWEP. The Board of Trustees was reinstated in 2015, and in 2017, the college received full accreditation without any sanctions for seven years, the longest time possible.
A new state funding formula unfriendly to large urban districts like San Francisco is looming, however. Tragically, instead of looking for additional funds, Chancellor Mark Rocha is slashing classes now based on that formula.
On November 19, 2019, one day before Spring 2020 registration opened, the college’s senior administration cut nearly 300 classes due, they said, to a projected budget shortfall.
Here is a sampling of what was cut:
- Older Adults serving low-income elders lost 90 percent of its classes.
- In the era of #Me Too City college lost its last Women’s History class and both of its last remaining self defense classes.
- Art lost 51 classes and PE/Dance 45.
- Music, Journalism, Child Development, Culinary Arts suffered serious losses.
- Engineering lost 40 percent of its classes Paralegal Studies students lost the elective (Immigration Law) they needed to graduate from the college’s proud ABA approved program. The coordinator had to scramble to find the students classes elsewhere in the Bay Area.
Administration is cutting popular classes with healthy enrollments in an attempt to downsize the college. Students have seen their Ed Plans destroyed and their mental health deteriorate.
Over 100 part-time instructors have lost their jobs and many of them their health benefits. Since enrollment reductions this year become permanent, cuts set the school in a downward spiral.
Fewer classes equals fewer students equals less state funding equals more downsizing.
A valiant attempt, launched the week after Thanksgiving, via an ordinance for a supplementary allocation of $2.7 million from the City of San Francisco, championed by Supervisor Shamann Walton, so far has five other supporters (Supervisors Gordon Mar, Matt Haney, Sandra Fewer, Dean Preston, and Ahsha Safai).
The vote is this Tuesday, January 28. The $2.7 million is a bridge, not a band-aid as some opponents have called it. And here’s why:
- Proper budget adjustments made by the recently formed Budget and Finance Committee of the CCSF Board of Trustees would carry the college through 2020-2021 after which we hope to see augmented funds coming from the City of San Francisco and the State on a permanent basis.
- The Community Higher Education Fund (CHEF) will be on the San Francisco November 2020 ballot. Funds raised through progressive means would be dedicated to the kind of community college the people of San Francisco want and deserve. And, yes, this San Francisco jewel, what some fondly call the people’s college has never lost an election.
- In November 2020, California voters will have the opportunity to approve the Schools and Communities First Initiative, which through progressive property taxes on commercial real estate will bring in $6.5 billion-$11 billion each year to schools (40 percent) and other local governments (60 percent).
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors must take this opportunity to build another bridge, one that will get CCSF from a crisis not of its own making to a solid future.
Leslie Simon is a longtime faculty member and former chair of the Women’s and Gender Studies Department