New City College Board rescinds layoffs, sets plan for rebuilding the school

Turns out the union’s budget numbers were more accurate than the administration’s.


MAY 29, 2023 (

With two new pro-labor trustees leading the way, the City College Board last week voted to overturn the layoffs that deeply damaged the education of hundreds of students last year.

Susan Solomon and Anita Martinez, who along with Vick Chung ran for office last fall as critics of the layoffs, put forward the resolution, which the board approved unanimously.

The three easily ousted incumbents John Rizzo, Brigitte Davila, and Thea Selby, who had voted for the layoffs.

Among the most interesting elements of this: The faculty union, AFT Local 2121, challenged the need for the layoffs last year, offering an alternative budget scenario—and it turns out the union was more accurate than the administration.

The school ended the year with a substantial surplus, that could have kept all of the full-time faculty on the job, and saved classes and programs that students badly needed.

“There was a waiting list of 300 people for English 1A, which is a requirement for everyone,” Martinez told me. “I talked to students who were ready to finish their program, but the person who taught a required class was laid off.”

Course offerings dropped over the past four years from 7,877 sections to 4,382 sections.

At the time of the layoff vote, the resolution states, the decision was based on the Board’s understanding that the District was “facing extraordinary financial circumstances and [needed to] make budget adjustments in order to ensure its continued operations.”

Actually, “the District’s FY 22 audited actuals were fortunately later determined to be significantly improved over what was projected in the FY 22 budget.”

Clare Heimer, a math professor at the school, told me that the union carefully analyzed the budget and found all sorts of problems. “They told the board there was a deficit balance,” she said. But in fact, a lot of money was set aside for contracts and work that was never done, and millions were transferred out for a self-insurance fund that was already solvent. “There’s no other way to say it, they were squirreling that money away” while classes were being cut, Heimer said.

The union budget analysis states that

How did AFT have more accurate projections than two CPAs? Because layoffs were [Chancellor] David [Martin’s] end goal, and budget numbers and projections were contrived to support that goal.

David “assumes aggressive enrollment growth” without a credible plan to achieve it (e.g. sufficient FTEF growth). Teachers, counselors and librarians know what it takes: educational services offered, and a focus on recruitment and retention. The District cannot continue to invest in everything but the classroom (reserves, transfers, trust funds, supplies, consultants, etc.) and expect to grow.

The union’s proposed budget for next year leaves plenty of room for hiring faculty and expanding efforts to grow enrollment—which, in the end, is the only long-term solution for City College.

From the AFT press release:

Trustee Solomon and Martinez’s Resolution marks a new day for the college. In the words of Board President Alan Wong, “This is a moment to redeem ourselves.” It is a moment to build a college that is capable of meeting San Francisco’s demand for new skills, better jobs, and hope.

Tim Redmond

Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.

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