HEAT Rallies with Bay Area Labor Chorus for Bridge Funding

By Tyler Breisacher

Faculty and students from the Higher Education Action Team (HEAT) spoke, chanted, and sang in front of City Hall on Feb. 4 in hopes of swaying at least one more supervisor to approve $2.7 million in bridge funding intended to restore hundreds of classes to the spring 2020 semester.

The board had already approved the funding a week earlier, but the seven-vote majority was not enough to override a veto from Mayor London Breed. The final vote was also 7-4, and Breed ultimately did veto the funding on Feb. 14. A representative from Breed’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Instructor Kate Frei’s speech at the rally highlighted some of the many ways City College is vital to the community in San Francisco. “When you go to the hospital and you want a nurse who can take care of you, you want someone who has gone through City College’s program,” she said. “If you go to any restaurant here, you probably eat something made by someone who went through City College’s culinary program.” 

Supervisor Shamann Walton, who introduced the legislation for the bridge fund, joined the rally too. “We’re not going to stop until the resources are received,” he said. “We’re going to keep pushing and working together to make this happen.”

After the speeches and chants, Pat Wynne from the Bay Area Labor Chorus led the crowd in a series of song parodies with lyrics changed to highlight some of the recent struggles at City College. For example, to the tune of “Solidarity Forever,” they sang, “They call themselves professional / Oh, please don’t make me laugh. / They double their own salaries / And underpay the staff. / They’re cutting classes left and right / It cuts your heart in half / But together we will win.”

Among the four supervisors who voted against the funding, one of their reasons for opposing it was that the college trustees and administration had not formally asked for the money.

However, Trustee John Rizzo said he “would not turn it down if it is not too late to start the classes,” but noted that by the time the mayor approved the funding, it may be too late into the spring semester to bring the classes back.

Trustee Ivy Lee said, “I support additional resources from any source to support City College. However, I also think that the priority for the college right now is to ensure that our reserve meets the state-mandated minimum of 5%, which we currently do not.”

Other members of the Board of Trustees did not respond to a request for comment.

Alan Wong, a Legislative Aide for Supervisor Gordon Mar and candidate for the Board of Trustees, noted that a revote to override Breed’s veto was unlikely, and emphasized the importance of long term solutions.

“I am working on legislation in Supervisor Gordon Mar’s office to expand the city’s Public Education Enrichment Fund (PEEF) to provide permanent and long-term support to community higher education,” he said. “This fund to support community higher education will be the game-changer.”

Anita Martinez, another candidate for the Board of Trustees, also expressed support for the bridge fund and had hoped Breed would approve it.

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