Best case budget scenario looks bad; State could cut up to $900 million from community colleges

By Tony LeTigre
The Guardsman

Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year includes a $400 million reduction in funding for the state’s community colleges, which could grow as high as $900 million if four tax measures Brown proposed don’t make it onto the June ballot, or fail with voters.

In the worst-case scenario, the combined impact of budget cuts and cost increases specifically on City College could approach the $40 million mark, Vice Chancellor of Administration and Finance Peter Goldstein said.

All of this comes on top of the approximately $18 million that City College lost in last year’s budget crunch.

Darlene Alioto, chair of the social sciences department, sees the latest budget cuts as part of a crippling assault on higher education as a whole.

“The University of California and the state universities are now becoming private institutions, when they were the jewel of our public education system,” Alioto said. “Now they’re getting pushed back to us, the community colleges. And now we’re just going to shut the door on all of them.”

City College Board of Trustees President John Rizzo said the tax measures proposed by Governor Brown must be passed by the legislature before even making it to the June ballot, which will require a two-thirds majority.

“To pass it, the Democrats need some Republicans to agree. Otherwise they’ll have to pull off some parliamentary procedures,” Rizzo said.

Chris Jackson, vice president of the board, said the faculty is helping to shoulder the increasing burden caused by overcrowded classes and shrinking budgets.

“City College instructors are volunteering to take on more work for no more money,” Jackson said. “You’ll notice it on the first day of class, when instead of 30 students in class, you’ll see 40 or 50. Teachers aren’t even getting cost of living increases at this point. They’re saying ‘education is not a privilege, it’s a right.’”

Jackson said the cuts will impact City College not just in the form of further cuts in classes, but also in reductions to student support services and categorical programs such as the Educational Opportunity Program and the Second Chance Program.

“Governor Brown is cutting 50 percent from those programs, on top of 50 percent last year,” Jackson said. “We value those services and programs, but budget cuts like these stop us from investing in our community.”

At the same time that City College faces further severe budget cuts, enrollment continues to increase and the college has chosen to reinstate summer school at 80 percent of its former size.

Measures to deal with the budget cuts include the possibility of a parcel tax on the November ballot, as well as a major voter registration drive. City College is also seeking an increase in funding from the Foundation of City College of San Francisco, as well as private donations, and “other creative solutions as well,” Jackson said.

Rizzo said the board is also asking the city for help, though normally the city actually charges the college.

“One of the strengths of City College is unity,” said Bob Davis, interim dean of liberal arts. “When we’re all working together on a campaign, we throw around a lot of weight, influence and intelligence. There are special interest groups who are only involved in their own narrow issue, and some of those are now realizing that they need to get involved in the greater good, too.”

Jackson admitted that the current outlook is grim, but wanted to stay as positive as possible.

“We always have to hope for a better tomorrow, and a better environment where investing in higher education is more of a priority,” Jackson said. “Because the reality is that, right now, it’s just not.”


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