Vol. 44, Number 3 - March/April 2009
We must keep the doors open to higher ed
By Ron Norton Reel
There exists a group of five community college presidents trying to push through what they are calling the “Accelerated College” that would allow districts to suspend safeguards that faculty have earned and allow the districts to do away with tenure. These administrators are constructing legislation as we speak that will eliminate the 50 percent law, which requires that 50 percent of a district’s budget be spent on faculty – the people who are educating our students.
At the same time, many districts are also chipping away at the 75/25 ratio, which sets forth that 75 percent of a college’s classes be taught by full-time faculty. If we don’t act,there may come a day when 75 percent of classes are taught by parttime faculty.
This is, of course, largely the result of the budget woes and deficit spending that our legislators have allowed to take place. The question before us is this: Does the statewide budget provide adequate funding to the community colleges in California? The answer is definitely not. With our students paying $20 per unit, and not even having all of the tuition students pay go to the community colleges, California fails to provide equal payment per full-time student equivalent. The community colleges get less than the K-12 and much less than the CSU and UC system get for teaching freshmen and sophomores.
Yet, our community college system has a major impact on California’s economy. Let’s look at some of the statistics:
- 64 of our colleges have fire technology programs providing 80 percent of firefighters in California.
- 80 percent of the Emergency Medical Technicians in California are credentialed at our community colleges.
- 39 of our colleges administer Police Training, accounting for 80 percent of law enforcement officers.
- 70 percent of the nurses in California received their education from community colleges.
And, if that isn’t enough, we provide 106,649 certificates each year for programs in vocational education.
Getting a community college education makes sense, and cents: A student earning an associate’s degree will earn approximately $1.6 million in lifetime earnings. That is $400,000 more than a high school only graduate during the average working career.
Students depend on us
Our students depend on us (whether they know it or not) to keep the doors of higher education open to them. They depend on us to make sure our legislators do what is right at the state and national level.
CCA/CTA is sponsoring two very important legislative bills that will help insure that the funds allocated to us by the legislature will actually arrive at our schools and are spent as intended. One bill will provide Community Colleges with the same guarantee that K-12 schools have regarding property tax shortfalls. When there is a shortfall of property tax calculations, the state is obligated to find those funds for the K-12. This legislation would provide community colleges with the same guarantee. The California Federation of Teachers, the independent unions, and the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges, as well as administrators are all co-sponsoring this bill. We must ALL support it.
Another CCA/CTA legislative proposal will provide five random audits each year within the 72 community college districts to insure they are spending at least 50 percent of the funds within the district on educating students and not other projects or administrative salaries. This will go a long way to insure that colleges are following the law.
The working conditions of our part-time faculty are also a concern for us.
Currently, there are 60,789 faculty members teaching within the community colleges of California. Of those, 17,840 are full-time and 42,949 are part-time faculty. In many of our colleges, the majority of classes taught within certain departments are being taught by part-time instructors who are not receiving fair compensation in the form of salary, office hours, and rehire rights.
We need to become active and persistent in supporting legislation that calls for 75 percent of the classes to be taught by full-time faculty. Current legislation only makes it a goal for the districts. Districts are given waivers and only a few have met the 75/25 goal.
This would produce an additional 1,500 full-time positions. Just as important, reaching the 75 percent level and having these additional positions would allow the college-wide committees and task forces to have dedicated and enthusiastic individuals meeting their professional obligations. CCA introduced such a bill this year. However, its passage hinges on the degree to which you are willing to support it. You must be the voice for this legislation.
We must also negotiate rehire rights for our part-time faculty who work semester after semester. Without job security, it really does not matter how much you get paid. Despite the economic meltdown that is foremost on everyone’s minds, CCA/CTA will continue to fight for our faculty and to advocate for an adequate budget for our community colleges, because we know that when economic recovery comes, it will be our community colleges that will lead the way to new prosperity.
Related Tags: Budget, Financial, Funding, Higher Education, Law, Lawmaker, Legislation, Part time, Student, Teacher, Teaching profession,