Keeping “community” in community college
For the last year, San Francisco Community College faculty have been under siege, not just from a newly-hostile administration, but from an accreditation commission that has threatened the District’s very existence. To protect their institution, faculty have worked with students and community leaders, given up wages, campaigned for ballot measures to secure new funding, and defended their vision of community-centered education.
Unfortunately, AFT Local 2121 has been forced to fight at a time when cooperation is needed to save the school. “Our hope was that the college would look at a long-term plan to stabilize it,” says Alisa Messer, local union president. “What we have, however, is an administration that isn’t interested in talking with us.”
September 4, 2012—The atmosphere was festive and colorful at the "Save City College" rally, held on the steps of City Hall in San Francisco. Students, faculty, staff, and community supporters sent a strong message that the San Francisco City College community is ready to roll up its collective sleeves and pass Measure A, a parcel tax on the city ballot this November, to enable the college to continue to serve its huge student population. Chris Hanzo photo
President Barbara Beno, ACCJC
10 Commercial Boulevard, Suite 204
Novato, CA 9494
Ms. Lurlean Gaines, Chair, and Commissioners of the ACCJC
10 Commercial Boulevard, Suite 204
Novato, CA 94949
Re: Amendment of ACCJC Standards III.A.1.c. and II.A.6.
Dear President Beno, Chair Gaines, and Commissioners of the ACCJC:
I write as President of the California Federation of Teachers, AFT/AFL-CIO. As you know, the Accrediting Commission for the California Junior Colleges (ACCJC) serves an important function by virtue of California law. In particular, the State has dictated that,
"Each community college within a district shall be an accredited institution. The Accrediting Commission for California Junior Colleges shall determine accreditation."
(5 Cal. Code Regs. § 51016)
In conferring on this important responsibility on the ACCJC, the State of California and the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges expect the ACCJC to fulfill an important state objective, providing education through accredited public community colleges. ACCJC may or may not be a quasi-governmental entity, but either way it must respect State laws created by the Legislature, when fulfilling its functions.
Contracting Out: Coming to Your Local Campus Soon?
For the past few months, the corporate media have been filled with outsourcing stories. The Bush administration has overseen the loss of more than three million U.S. jobs in less than four years. While the precise number of jobs shipped overseas remains under dispute (part of the overall figure is due to recession) it seems likely that at least a third of those are manufacturing jobs, gone forever.
That's not exactly news. The trend, while accelerating under the Republican administration, was well in place for the last quarter century, during Republican and Democratic regimes alike. What's novel is that the president's chief economic advisor openly states that this is a good thing for the economy.
What's also new is that a significant chunk of those jobs lost is white collar. Low wage, low skill call centers in India have received much attention. But so has relocation of the work of educated people such as software engineers, graphic designers, tax preparers, and medical technicians. The offshore workers are paid a fraction of U.S. salaries.
Not Just Overseas
But outsourcing isn't just jobs disappearing overseas. In his state of the state speech in January, Governor Schwarzenegger took aim at a California law passed in 2002, saying, "We must give local schools the freedom to be more cost efficient. One way to do this is to repeal SB 1419, the law that prevents schools from contracting out services such as busing and maintenance."
Authored by state Senator Richard Alarcon, working with public sector unions, the law, despite Schwarzenegger's spin, doesn't prevent contracting out. It put in place guidelines for contracting out classified jobs such as those in food services, campus bookstores, and, in K-12, bus driving. The law states that the vendor must demonstrate that it is indeed saving money for the district, but not solely through reductions in wages and benefits.
As Alarcon put it, "We not only need to insure school districts are spending their money wisely and efficiently, and cost effectively, but we also need to maintain the integrity, the quality of lives of the workforce we create." Alarcon's perspective grows out of a concern that good jobs, with decent pay and retirement with dignity, are just as important to the community as efficient delivery of public services.
Free market rhetoric versus reality
The Senator is also concerned about the hidden costs of contracting out masked by free market rhetoric about 'efficiency.' "So many people who are outsourced can never buy a home," notes Alarcon. "They never have adequate health care; they are forced to rely on other public sector dollars or charity. And they don't have retirement plans that can maintain them, which means that by the end of the day they end up relying more on taxes from other people. All 1419 does is require that school districts are held accountable, to prove that they are not costing taxpayers more."
This isn't an abstract argument. Case in point: the bookstore at Orange Coast Community College. Last summer the district's Board of Trustees signed a contract with Barnes and Noble that turned over the campus bookstore to the corporate giant in exchange for a guaranteed $500,000 per year payment to the district. The Coast Federation of Classified Employees was able to get a clause into the agreement stipulating that current bookstore workers would keep their jobs and their union salaries and benefits. But, as Florence Crumsey, an operations assistant in the bookstore, points out, "As we leave, as we move on, retire, whatever, those classified positions will not be filled. Barnes and Noble will fill them with Barnes and Noble temporary help, with less wages, and no benefits."
Those lost jobs could, as Alarcon predicts, ultimately affect the community, in lost purchasing power for those workers and their families, and the potential drain on public dollars to support them in sickness and retirement.
But the impact arrived sooner than that for students and faculty on campus. In a video on contracting out screened at the CFT convention, False Economics 101, Crumsey noted that the store offers fewer used textbooks¤which cost less than new ones¤than it used to. She reported that already "There's not enough of us to go around. We can't give that personal service. We can't spend quality time with students, faculty, whomever may come into the store."
She also said that markups on items sold in the bookstore were higher than the contractual agreement allowed. Which led to the following: after bookstore managers learned that Crumsey had appeared in the CFT video talking about the problem, they spoke with the bookstore employees about it and realigned the markup with the contract.
"What's at stake is our ability to deliver a quality education to the people of California," says CCC president Marty Hittelman. "If private vendors get their foot firmly in the door in classified services we are likely to see a deterioration in service as well as a negative impact on the wages and benefits of not only bookstore workers, but all classified employees. That is something we must fight against." — from the CFT/CCC Community College Perspective, May 2004
Many employees of California’s schools and colleges have been willing to accept lower salaries during their working lives in exchange for the benefit of health insurance coverage in retirement. The gain from that trade-off is now in jeopardy. Most public schools and college districts are currently facing health cost increases that are well above the rate of increase of the Consumer Price Index. Some of these districts are moving to eliminate or reduce health care coverage to their current employees and to their retirees. One of the major drivers of the movement to deny employees of their hard won heath benefits is the newly established Governmental Accounting Standards Board 45 (GASB 45) reporting standards.
FACE legislation passes first legislative committee hurdle
Leaders of the FACE coalition join Assemblyman Tony Mendoza on April 17 in a Sacramento news conference to launch the effort to pass AB 1343. From left, Dennis Smith, President, FACCC, Ron Reel, Treasurer, CCA/CTA, Marty Hittelman, President, CFT, Mendoza, and Susan Meisenhelder, Political Action Chair and former President, CFA. Fred Glass photo