Volume 45, Number 1 - November/December 2009
Honored at CCA Fall Conference dinner
State Assemblyman Tom Torlakson was named "Legislator of the Year" by the Community College Association for his support of community college faculty and public education.
Torlakson is the author of the CCA-sponsored AB 581, a bill intended to make sure that community colleges spend 50 percent of their budget on faculty salaries, as required by the state's Fifty Percent Law. If passed, the bill mandates that the Chancellor's Office conduct random audits of five community college districts for compliance with the law. CCA had approached Torlakson after conducting an audit of 10 community colleges and finding they were wildly out of compliance. The Fifty Percent Law was originally passed to ensure that colleges are spending at least 50 percent of their budget on educating students, and not on administrative salaries or other projects.
"It was an easy choice for CCA to seek Assemblyman Torlakson out as the right legislator to carry out this very important legislation during this two-year cycle. Mr. Torlakson has always been a supporter of public education," said CCA President Ron Norton Reel. Torlakson received the award during a Friday night dinner at CCA's Fall Conference at the Santa Clara Marriott Hotel.
Torlakson, who represents the East Bay communities of Concord, Martinez and Antioch, began his career as a high school science teacher before being elected to the Antioch City Council, the California State Senate and State Assembly. He was re-elected to a final term as Assembly member in November 2008. He is a member of the Assembly's Education, Rules, Appropriations, and Transportation Committee and has also been appointed the chair of the Assembly's Select Committee on Schools and Community.
In accepting the award, Torlakson encouraged community college faculty to continue to advocate for their students.
"The work you do is valiant. It is hard, and it is going to take more organizing outside the classroom," he said.
"We must get the public to refocus on the value of education. As community college faculty, you offer the main gateway to higher education," he added.
Torlakson also authored SB 1133 in 2006, landmark legislation establishing the Quality Education Investment Act (QEIA), which allocates nearly $3 billion over seven years to public schools of greatest need. The legislation settles the lawsuit filed by CTA against Gov. Schwarzenegger in 2005 and repays public schools all the money they are owed under Proposition 98.
The act has also provided additional resources to community colleges to expand career education programs that integrate the curriculum of high schools and community colleges to give students four years of rigorous vocational training. Community colleges will receive $38 million per year until 2014 for that purpose. In addition, the community colleges receive a block grant of $10 million per year.