City College of San Francisco and Public Education Under Attack

DAVID ZLUTNICK, PRODUCER: On March 14, hundreds
of students, faculty, and community supporters of the City College of San Francisco rallied
at City Hall to demand an end to cuts and layoffs, and full funding of public education. CCSF is the largest public school system in
California, with a total enrollment of over 85,000 students and over 1,600 faculty. But
CCSF is currently facing a crisis over its accreditation, often described as an issue
of budget and management, but many believe is representative of an attack on public education
as a whole. Colleges and universities are given accreditation
by one of several organizations recognized by the US Department of Education. CCSF is
overseen by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, or ACCJC, a
division of a private corporation called the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. In July 2012, the ACCJC placed CCSF on “Show
Cause” status, its most serious sanction short of removing accreditation altogether. The ACCJC has come under much criticism from
student and faculty organizations for what they call a disproportionate use of sanctions.
In 2012, the ACCJC issued 35 percent of all sanctions nationwide while only overseeing
5 percent of higher education institutions. Over the past decade, more than half of the
ACCJC’s schools have been sanctioned, and currently 27 of California’s community colleges
are under sanction. The “Show Cause” status mandates improvements
within a given time period, typically two years, but in this case only eight months,
even though CCSF had never received a sanction in the past. In fact, CCSF was praised by
the ACCJC for the outstanding quality of its educational opportunities, its accessibility,
and its diversity. Yet nonetheless, the sanction has resulted in several drastic measures being
taken, including a restructuring of administration, faculty and staff layoffs, and cuts to classes
and student services. This has outraged students and faculty who
are bearing the brunt of these actions. The claim that there has been poor financial planning
has particularly touched a nerve, as CCSF has suffered extreme budget cuts. Between
2009 and 2012, CCSF lost more than $53 million in state funding. Yet even despite these massive cuts, CCSF
worked to ensure minimal disruption to its programs. It dipped into its reserves to retain
classes and staff and was still able to maintain a balance above the state’s recommended minimum.
But in its evaluation, the ACCJC blasted CCSF for tapping its reserves without making more
staffing cuts or cancelling additional classes. ALISA MESSER, PRESIDENT AFT LOCAL 2121: What
happened in California in the last several years was we pushed nearly half a million
students out of the community college system. And at City College of San Francisco, we’ve
really tried not to do that. We didn’t cancel as many classes, we didn’t lay off as many
faculty and staff–in fact, we laid off no faculty and staff for several years. It’s being framed now as though–now that
the accreditation commission as come in, it’s being framed as though we made a mistake,
like we didn’t know what we were doing. But it’s actually something that we did together,
and it’s about decisions that we made together, trying to defend access for our students under
very challenging circumstances. And so for labor that looked like making concessions,
taking money out of our pockets on a number of occasions over a period of years to give
back to try and keep the college going. ZLUTNICK: The faculty union had already agreed
to a 2.85 percent wage cut for the present school year. But in the fall, the district
unilaterally lowered faculty wages by nearly 9 percent. At the same time, layoffs took
place and cuts were made to programs for disabled students, as well as child care. Many critics
of these measures are saying this is endangering the long-term mission of the school. EDGAR TORRES, CHAIR, LATIN AMERICAN/LATINO
STUDIES DEPARTMENT, CCSF: We’re just losing way too many staff. The sustainability of
the school is now in jeopardy. The same thing with faculty. Faculty are leaving. The conditions
are just so miserable that people are finding jobs elsewhere and they’re going there. We’re
going to lose a lot of students. We already have. We’ve probably lost about 15,000 students
already. And no one asked about those students. No one’s asked–the district doesn’t care
about the 15,000 students that aren’t coming here any longer. ZLUTNICK: The district’s new concentration
on moving students quickly through programs reinforces this belief. The ACCJC’s report
demanded that City College improve its monitoring of student advancement and limit the ability
to take courses that do not move them out of the institution and on to four-year schools. TORRES: This new accreditation team and the
new district that wants to impose a business model on our school that’s trying to basically
make it serve fewer people with an agenda of making people get out of school–not that
we’re against that. We’re definitely in favor of that. But it can’t come at a cost of losing
these programs that are facing the at-risk populations. ZLUTNICK: The district administration has
also overturned CCSF’s progressive system of shared governance, where faculty had a
voice in decision-making. MESSER: You know, reform can look a lot of
different ways. And what we should have is a more transparent, more democratic, stronger
institution. That’s what we’d like to see. That’s not what’s happening. In fact, there’s
a very top-down process that’s been implemented that has really excluded the voices of the
people who are impacted by whatever happens to City College and of the people who do the
work. ZLUTNICK: In the November 2012 elections,
voters passed two ballot measures allowing for tax increases to fund public education.
One was State Proposition 30 that provides funding throughout California, and the other
was San Francisco Proposition A, providing funds specifically for City College to prevent
cuts and layoffs. But although Prop A was to raise between $14-16 million annually for
this purpose, the district has announced this money will be set aside to increase reserves
and not re-fund programs. The district has claimed this is a mandate of the ACCJC, and
what voters may have thought they were voting for is irrelevant. MESSER: San Franciscans voted at an overwhelming
amount, at 73 percent, to say, “Yes, we want to take money out of our pocket to save
this college.” and unfortunately that’s not what it looks like right now. It doesn’t
look like they’re saving our college. It looks like maybe they’ll save a smaller college. ZLUTNICK: And that’s what brought protesters
to the steps of City Hall this past Thursday to demand adequate funding of San Francisco’s
community college. LALO GUTIEREZ, CCSF STUDENT: We’re actually
saying that it’s not budget crisis, that it’s not a financial crisis, but it’s actually
a priority crisis. We’re saying that City Hall has an obligation to the people of San
Francisco to step in and basically fund this school by giving us the Prop A money right
now–that would prevent cuts–and demand that the state start funding the schools more.
And so we’re also saying that City Hall also has to call on the Department of Education
and basically call out the ACCJC. ZLUTNICK: Students and faculty warn that what
is happening here is not just of concern for San Francisco. If the district continues along
its path of implementing the ACCJC’s directives, it will entirely redesign the institution
to its own model, a startling precedent at one of the nation’s largest community colleges.
If it happens here, they say, it can happen anywhere. GUTIERREZ: This is a huge privatization attempt
from the wealthy to literally try to profit off of public education. They want people
to come to this school and any school and literally go straight into the work force.
They view critical thinking as something that’s useless in this capitalist society, capitalist
economy. What they need right now is a work force. MESSER: It’s not really just an accreditation
crisis, and it’s not really just a budget crisis. It’s a crisis in terms of what’s happening
with public education in California and beyond. ZLUTNICK: From San Francisco, California,
this is David Zlutnick for The Real News Network.

17 thoughts on “City College of San Francisco and Public Education Under Attack”

  1. That's an impressive City Hall Building San Francisco has. It must be one the most Classically French designed buildings this side of the Rockies.

  2. I really must disagree with the motto 'The Truth Shall Make You Free.' What an idiotic quote. Only Ignorance is Bliss. The So Called 'Truth,' is an unmanageable burden at best. It's often Vulgar, Ugly, and Life Threatening.
    A well told lie, is much more pretty and convincing, especially when it is engineered for the brainless morons who make up the masses.

  3. So true. Nietzsche said:" "And when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you". And no one wish this really, because its to frightening and the illusion is so sweat.

  4. you shoudl all wait for the inevitable brainless comment about how these students cannot possibly understand that when capitalists bring another crises down on us that its our job as the masses to accept attacks on our standard of living. be it healthcare or education we are the ones who must be squeezed dry

  5. First they break public schooling, then they use that as an excuse to privatize public schools. Good idea, oligarchs!

  6. Come on Americans – be aggressive, show some balls! We Europeans fight and shout on the streets when we are angry.

  7. fuck school. There are a lot more countries that need to be occupied.
    The military will take care of the children.

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