By Essie Harris
In the face of up to $900 million in budget cuts, students, faculty and alumni joined together April 17 at Hands Across California, to raise awareness of the community college system’s dyer financial situation.
The Foundation for California Community Colleges, who organized the event, also attempted to raise scholarship dollars for students. Supporters who attended the rally called for more people to rise up and challenge the politicians responsible for the dismal state of public education.
“The hope is that people will wake up and demand accountability from their legislators,” said Jaime Borrazas, an ESL instructor who has been with City College for 31 years. “They pay no attention to the poor, and they just exacerbate the problems. They’re trying to convince people they’re doing the right thing when actually they are destroying society.”
The drastic budget cuts worsened after elected state officials denied placement on the June ballot of a proposed tax extension that could have raised revenue for California community colleges.
According to a memo sent to department chairs by Chancellor Don Griffin, even with a June tax extension, City College would receive an $8.5 million reduction in state revenue for 2011-12 fiscal year.
“Without the June tax extension, the cut from the state will increase to the $15 to 16 million range and, in the worst case to as much as $24 million.” Griffin said.
As a result of budget reductions, City College and all departments within it must shrink to cater to the inevitable financial short falls, so the partial freeze on hiring will continue.
“Reluctantly, we must reduce the size of the college: classes, counselors, librarians, categoricals, administrators, classified, etc., beginning in Fall 2011,” Griffin said.
Upward of 76 percent of certified and classified staff who left the district in 2010-11 due to retirement or illness, will not be replaced. Additionally, the 2011-12 school year will have a smaller course offering compared to 2010-11.
“California has the largest population in the nation and we were 46th in education funding,” Borrazas said. “After these cuts, what are we going to be, 50th? Community Colleges are vital to the state. We are training people and taking the burden off the corporations.”
The state has indicated that it will only fund roughly 33,500 full time enrolled students, 3,500 fewer students than the 2010-11 school year. Anything beyond that amount will not be paid for by the state.
Juan Cendejas, Mission campus Associated Student president, advocated for the student body’s concern.
“We want the public and government to know that community college means something to us,” Cendejas said. “We want to keep it open.”
In addition to budget cuts, members of the City College community have increased fears over the potentially massive hikes in student fees.
“In Sacramento, it is considered likely that if the cuts to the California Community Colleges budget are particularly steep, the revenue per student will be increased by raising student fees beyond $36 per credit to as high as $66 per credit,” said Academic Senate President Karen Saginor, citing a fee increase the Legislative Analysts Office has proposed for years.
While City College is pursuing additional money through fundraising and hoping for a parcel tax to pass in the November election, the consequences of these cuts are unavoidable.
Holding hands in protest at various City College locations, 80 people came together at Mission campus and 45 people at Ocean campus. The event represented an estimated 3 million students in California that will experience the impact of state cuts to educational programs.
Jill Scofield, the Director of Public Relations at the FCCC, estimated the turnout to be in the tens of thousands at dozens of sites across the state.
“We are proud of the day,” Scofield said. “The event opened a door of awareness.”
The Bernard Osher Foundation, based out of San Francisco, donated $25 million to the FCCC in 2008, promising to match that amount if a total of $50 million is raised by June 30, 2011.
So far the FCCC has raised $40 million, not including the money raised from Hands Across California. If the additional $10 million is raised by June 30 the total of $100 million will go towards scholarships for students.