Cut the Cuts at City College, Says Education Group

By Christian Watjen, Epoch Times
May 21, 2013 Last Updated: May 22, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO—Amid ongoing negotiations with teachers and the finalizing of the budget at City College, an education coalition pushes for an end to layoffs and wage cuts.

The Close the Gap Coalition, an education advocacy group representing nine local labor, parent, community, and education groups, along with Save City College, held a media briefing Tuesday, expressing its hope that City College of San Francisco would stay open.

“We cannot lose City College. We cannot have City College compromised. It is critical to our city, critical to the education of our children,” Dennis Kelly, president of the United Educators of San Francisco said at City College’s Mission campus Tuesday.

City College of San Francisco, with 9 campuses and about 90,000 students per year, is one of the largest public colleges in the country.

The College is currently under review as to whether it will stay accredited after the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges put it on “show cause” status in July of last year.

The commission criticized the college’s governance structure, among other things, and announced 14 recommendations to carry through to ensure the institution can stay open. The commission’s decision is expected in June.

“Our communities deserve to have education, and to have quality education, that everyone has access to,” said Alisa Messer, president of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2121, representing the faculty at City College.

Messer said that—different from the past when both sides worked together—under the college’s interim administration, “Our voice has been shut down,” while decisions are being made in “very intransparent ways.”

According to Messer, the administration uses the accreditation process as a “hammer to hit people over the head” and to push through changes that are not all required by the accreditation commission.

Largely due to local Proposition A (the City College parcel tax passed in November of last year), and statewide Proposition 30, revenue will return to pre-recession levels next year, but layoffs and wage cuts are still being proposed in the current budget proposal, Messer said.

The education group demands that the trustees pass a “responsible budget” that will preserve quality education and essential services, particularly for low-income students and those with English as a second language.

The trustees will vote in the coming weeks on the 2013­–2014 budget.

Many speakers expressed solidarity with Chicago, where the closure of more than 50 schools has been announced by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Following a street theater performance, activists tried calling Emanuel on the phone to protest the cuts.