Building political relationships
For the first time since anyone can remember, a contingent of CCA leaders joined their K-12 colleagues at two legislative conferences in Washington D.C. sponsored by the Congressional Black and Hispanic Caucuses.
The event proved to be a watershed moment in building better relations with Congress as well as with their K-12 colleagues in CTA.
“We wanted to establish a political relationship with members of Congress so that we become the people they ask about community college issues,” said Julius Thomas, a Rio Hondo College counselor and CCA Ethnic and Racial Minority Board member.
“But this also helped us to build a visible partnership with our K-12 colleagues in CTA, so that when they advocate in Washington, D.C., they also consider the needs of higher ed,” said CCA Board Member Josie Malik, an instructor at San Joaquin Delta College.
Thomas was one of four community college faculty in a CTA delegation that attended the 43rd Annual Legislative Conference held by the congressional Black Caucus Foundation in mid-September. Joining him were CCA Secretary DeWayne Sheaffer and Board Members Fola Odebunmi and Phyllis Hall. Board Member Josie Malik attended the annual policy conference sponsored by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute a week later.
Supported by CTA staff, the group put in long days meeting with congressional representatives, both from their area and across the country.
Republicans and Democrats
The importance of building relationships was brought home to the CCA delegates while meeting with representatives from both sides of the aisle. Among the Republicans contacted were Rep. Darrell Issa, Republican whip Kevin McCarthy, and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher. Democratic representatives Maxine Waters, Karen Bass and Barbara Lee also sat down with the delegation.
“We need to connect with them directly and explain why there shouldn’t be any more budget cuts,” Odebunmi said. “Our students are the future of this nation and they shouldn’t be begging to be educated. Education should be bipartisan.”
The delegation believe that advocating on the federal level is just as important as working with state legislators, especially when it comes to issues involving Pell grants, student loans, campus safety and federal funding, in general, which pumps millions of dollars into our community colleges.
There is a federal portion of our budget,” Sheaffer said. “Prop 30 will sunset someday in the distant future (it’s actually 4 years) and is now supplanting the federal dollars we would have gotten. Federal funding does have a direct impact on students and the work we are trying to do.”
“When we were lobbying the legislators, one asked me ‘What can we do for higher ed?’ and I told him if you take good care of K-12, you are taking care of us, because whatever happens there comes to us, it just looks a little different,” Hall said.