Category Archives: Budget

Thanks, San Francisco!

Thanks, San Francisco, for passing Prop. A and thanks, California, for passing Prop. 30. Because of your generosity, City College has a much better fiscal foundation from which to continue serving our community. Now it’s up to the college to use your money well and to prove we deserve the trust you showed by voting to support us. As I said in my last post — vote for us and make us accountable for those votes.

Again, a huge thank you. We look forward to your continued support, input, and watchful eyes.


Vote for Prop. A — And Keep Your Eye on CCSF

A friend recently asked me if I support Prop. A, the eight-year, $79 parcel tax to support City College on the November 6 ballot. I answered, yes — I’m certainly going to vote for it and pay it if it passes — more money for education is almost always a good investment for public dollars.

My friend asked the question because he’s concerned about a college that can’t seem to manage its finances properly and that’s in danger of being de-accredited. He’s not sure it makes sense to give more of his money to a school that has shown it can’t handle its money.

These are real concerns and a month ago, I would not have been able to answer his question as confidently as I can today. But when, at last Thursday’s meeting, the CCSF Board of Trustees voted unanimously to restructure the college over the vocal protest of many faculty, it represented a turning point for the college in terms of accountability to and control for the public. The Board sent a message that they are looking out for the public’s interest, whether those of us inside the college like it or not. They made it clear that the city of San Francisco is in charge at City College.

Over the past four months, City College has been under the watchful eye of the press, the state Community College Chancellor, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, and numerous public officials, including Mayor Ed Lee. The normally unnoticed votes on budgets and contracts and other issues for a nearly $200 million budget, are suddenly very much in the public eye. Maybe the Board would have voted the same way even without all the scrutiny. We’ll never know. But from my perspective, all the attention is the best thing that can happen for the college.

Prop. A says the money will be spent to:

prevent layoffs; provide an affordable, quality education for students; maintain essential courses including, but not limited to, writing, math, science, and other general education; prepare students for four-year universities; provide workforce training including, but not limited to nursing, engineering, technology, and business; and keep college libraries, student support services, and other instructional support open and up-to-date.

That sounds good for the college, good for our students, and good for San Francisco, but only if that’s really how the money is used. So I hope the voters of San Francisco join me to vote “yes” on Prop. A — and then demand to know exactly where the money goes. Support the college with our wallets and with our watchful eyes. Increase both the budget and the accountability.

City College Leader Leaks Accreditation Report to the Press

At last night’s Board meeting, Chancellor Fisher announced that someone leaked the upcoming accreditation report to the press and that we should expect an article about it in Saturday morning’s SF Chronicle.

The report, which won’t be officially public till Monday, had already been given to “leaders of the college,” including the members of the Board and top administrators. All indications are that the college will be taken to task for various problems — at the top of the list will be financial responsibility — and given tight timelines to fix the issues.

Exactly why a college leader would want to leak the report to the press is unclear. But on a night when the Board approved a budget that cuts 700 classes, and as the college prepares to ask San Francisco to support a parcel tax, the leak was not good news.

Who’s in charge at City College of San Francisco?

On May 31, 2012, the Board of Trustees for City College of San Francisco officially committed to ask San Francisco voters in the November election to support the college through a $79 parcel tax for eight years.

If approved, the unprecedented request would bring in at least $14 million per year. According to the language of the Board resolution, the money would be used to provide City College “with funds the State cannot take away; offset budget cuts; prevent layoffs; provide an affordable, quality education for students; maintain essential courses including, but not limited to, writing, math, science, and other general education; prepare students for four-year universities; provide workforce training including, but not limited to nursing, engineering, technology, and business; and keep college libraries, student support services, and other instructional support open and up-to-date.”

This is an important moment to remember who is in charge at City College of San Francisco – and it’s not the administrators or the faculty or the classified staff. As professional educators who take pride in our work, we take responsibility for our students, for our practices, and for our college, as a whole. The day to day work of preparing for classes and working with students and colleagues creates a sense of ownership and accomplishment. We love our college and do all we can to make it the best possible institution of higher learning.

The justifiable pride and ownership we feel, however, can obscure the real owners of the college: the citizens of San Francisco. All authority – for courses, for policy, for salaries, for everything we do – comes from the voters, as represented by our Board of Trustees. And if we expect the City to support the college, we must remember who’s really in charge at the college – because if we don’t the voters will remind us to our detriment.

We don’t work in the summer?

I’ve been hearing colleagues around the college say, in very public meetings, that they don’t work in the summer. That may be true for some, but, as much as I wish it were true, it isn’t for me or most of the teachers — both full- and part-timers — I know at the college.

The school year is so busy with preparing for classes, helping students, grading, department and other meetings, advising student clubs, and other activities, duties, and responsibilities that there is little time for much else. Summer is the only real time we have to create new curriculum, to rethink our pedagogies, to stay current in our disciplines by reading and studying. During the summer, we frequently redo our syllabi and rework our reading lists. During the summer we have time to reflect on our expectations for students and reconsider our grading rubrics.

So, while I don’t wish to doubt any of my colleagues, I think they are not being completely honest with themselves when they say they don’t work during the summer. Teaching is a life’s work, an art of balancing our content expertise with our knowledge and experience of being a human being; we are part mentor, part coach, part enforcer, part performer, part counselor, and all educator. We can always improve our teaching and  every teacher I know continues the work of improving year round.

It is true that summer offers a break from daily classroom teaching, but teaching is a cycle and the summer is as much a part of that cycle as the beginning of the semester and finals week. To say otherwise, is a disservice to all the work that so many of us do in June, July, and early August. It also lends itself to the very criticisms we hear so often lately, about the public sector costing too much — if we really aren’t working in the summer, why should we expect society to pay us for it? When other folks don’t work, they generally don’t get paid. We shouldn’t expect anything different. Many (perhaps most?) part-timers work during the summer and don’t get any explicit pay for it. Those of us lucky enough to be full-time, tenure-track or tenured, do get paid during the summer and most of us definitely work for it.

Get Ready for a Rocky Ride

The college faces a $12 – 14 million hole in the budget for next year — and this is the “good news”. If the governor’s tax initiative doesn’t pass in November, we could be looking at $25 million.

Even if we all gave significant wage concessions, the college will have to cut classes in the fall and spring, along with other student services. But, we also have to reach our base number of full time equivalent students (FTES) in 2012-13 or else we lose even more money from the state. And in 2011-12, the college didn’t serve that base number of students. How, you might ask, do we cut classes and serve more students than we did this year?

At Tuesday’s College Planning and Budgeting Council meeting, new Interim Chancellor Pam Fisher put it like this: we have to be as efficient as possible. Or, to put it more concretely, almost all the classes we offer have to be full. In fact, Fisher sounded a lot like she was ready to add classes back to the reduced summer and fall schedules — as long as those classes are almost guaranteed to fill. What she didn’t say, but what cannot be far behind, is that we have to cut classes that do not fill.

So, to summarize, get ready for last minute changes. What seems to be cut today, may be restored tomorrow. And vice versa. We’re professionals and we can handle it, but — as one college veteran put it — we’re in for a rocky ride.

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