By: Ron Norton Reel, CCA President
Here’s what you can do
I recently attended a “funeral” at Long Beach City College that marked the death of higher education as we know it in the California Community Colleges. The CTA Long Beach City College Faculty Association, the part-time CHI Long Beach City College association, students and staff gathered in funeral attire to mourn the death.
They enrich us all
For me, it was a time to reflect on how much community colleges have enriched the people of this state. Community colleges provide a path for many students to enter four-year colleges and universities. They train the police, nurses and paramedics, who are the first to respond to emergencies.They provide a way for unemployed to get job training, and workers to gain additional certification. They provide English language courses workers need to advance. They provide personal enrichment classes that benefit members of the community. They provide many students with an opportunity for a second chance.
The Community College system as a higher education family member was born in the 1960s. It was supposed to provide a free education for anyone thinking they could benefit from going to college. Community colleges began to flourish and multiply because of the great number of people enrolling, until today we have expanded to 112 campuses with 2.6 million students in attendance.
It was a sad day knowing the Long Beach City College Board of Trustees had recently passed a resolution to cut 35 percent of the staffing jobs at the college. Does the board believe the college can continue to exist with more than one-third of its staff suddenly eliminated? LBCC is not the only college to make drastic cuts. Various colleges have decided on lay-offs to help close projected budget shortfalls.
Funding initiative needed
Yet, these actions are premature, and based on a projection of a worse-case-scenario. If Gov. Brown’s initiative, the Schools and Local Public Safety Protection Act of 2012, passes in November, there will be no need for such a reaction. The initiative will go a long way in beginning to restore the funding our schools and colleges need.
We have now cut over 4,000 part-time faculty members from the teaching profession at the community college level. Without any explanation, our full-time faculty members are being told they are not going to be granted tenure.
With many of the faculty members facing retirement during the next five years, colleges are choosing not to replace full-time faculty. Instead, part-time faculty are being used but in much fewer numbers than before. This practice isn’t fair to either full-time or part-time faculty, and it certainly isn’t fair to students.
Our students are being harmed. Every section that is cut from the teaching catalog impacts our students. These students are the reason the college exists. We are forcing class sizes to increase, which hurts students because less class time is spent with each student.
Instead of mourning the passing of our community colleges, we need to organize. I think the students of the community college system should file a class action lawsuit against all of the colleges for not providing the same learning environment to all students. Do our students agree to randomly sign up for a class and simply hope the class offers a full-time faculty member who has the office hours to help them? The cost of such an education is being pushed onto our students who must simply pay higher fees. Beginning this summer, our students will be forced to pay $46 per unit. It is not fair.
California is the 9th largest income economy of the world, yet we are 48th in the nation in funding our schools. What should we do to find peace within our hearts? We must:
- Organize, and stop over-reacting to the crisis we face.
- Be willing to spend down reserves for a couple of years.
- Hold the boards of trustees accountable for their actions.
- Start a recall campaign for boards not carrying out their duties to the community.
- Demand that corporations and wealthy people in California pay their fair share of taxes to support the education system from which they benefit.
- Register to vote. Make sure our students are registered to vote.
- Support the Schools and Local Public Safety Protection Act of 2012 in November.
Otherwise, there will only be more funerals for higher education we will be attending.