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Prop A supporters rally at City Hall to “save City College”

San Francisco resident Kevin Branan holds up a peace sign during a rally in support of Prop A on Sept. 4, 2012 in front of City Hall. Photo by Sara Bloomberg/The Guardsman

By Sara Bloomberg

The Guardsman

Bright yellow, blue and red signs proclaimed “I am City College” in several languages on Sept. 4 as nearly 200 people rallied outside of City Hall to support Proposition A, a local parcel tax initiative that will raise $14 million a year for the college.

The diverse and passionate crowd of students, faculty, staff and politicians related their personal connections to the college and urged San Francisco voters to approve the tax in November.

City College Board President John Rizzo talked about the unsustainable nature and devastating effects of the recent budget cuts.

“It means fewer teachers, it means fewer workers, it means fewer classes,” Rizzo said. “It means student taking longer to get through City College because they can’t get into the classes they need.”

City Supervisor John Avalos urges voters at a rally on Sept. 4, 2012 to approve Prop A, a local parcel tax initiative that will raise around $14 million a year for eight years for City College. Photo by Sara Bloomberg/The Guardsman

Much of the school’s funding comes from the state and this November California voters will be presented with Proposition 30, a state-wide tax proposal which City College also needs voters to pass.

Combined, the two tax proposals would help the school prevent a huge deficit.

Prop 30 would create a temporary tax increase of one to three percentage points on personal incomes starting at $250,000 and is the result of a compromise between Governor Jerry Brown and the backers of the now defunct Millionaires Tax, which would have created a similar but permanent tax increase.

Last year City College shouldered $17 million in cuts. Around $3.6 million of those cuts were unexpectedly ordered by the state halfway into last fiscal year. As a result, administrators cut dozens of classes from the spring schedule shortly after the semester had already begun, and more cuts loom if no new revenue is found.

“This semester that just started, we had to cut 700 classes,” Rizzo said. “This is not sustainable.”

Demonstrators raise their signs in unison at a rally on Sept. 4, 2012 in front of City Hall in San Francisco. The rally was held to urge voters to approve a local parcel tax initiative, Prop A, in November to raise much needed funds for City College. Photo by Sara Bloomberg/The Guardsman

Alex Tom, executive director of the Chinese Progressive Association which endorses Prop A, explained why City College matters to him personally and how it’s an important to our local economy.

“My family came in the 60s and benefited from City College,” he said. “It is one of the best public institutions to lift people out of poverty. This is a job creation machine. GEDs to ESL to job training classes. This is what it’s about. If everyone really cares about jobs, you must support proposition A.”

He then led the crowd in a passionate multilingual call and response chant.

“I am City College! Yo soy City College! Ako ang City College! Woh hay City College,” roared the rallyers along with Tom.

San Francisco resident and musician Kevin Branan, 41, said he wants to enroll in City College as soon as possible to build on his international business degree and hopes to earn his master’s degree one day.

“You can’t rely on rock and roll to pay the bills,” Branan said, and continued that he’s choosing City College because “it’s cheap. Same people. Credits are credits.”

He’s worried about being able to get the classes he needs but said City College is still the best option for him.

Demonstrators hold signs that read “I am City College. Yes on Prop A. Save City College” at a rally on Sept. 4, 2012 in front of City Hall in San Francisco. Photo by Sara Bloomberg/The Guardsman

With close to 90,000 students enrolled, City College offers both credit and non-credit classes, which altogether cater to just about anyone’s interests, whether you seek to transfer to a four-year university, earn a certificate, learn English or brush up on a skill.

In addition to its financial woes, that broad mission is also at risk of being scaled back as the school fights to hold onto its accreditation, a certification required to receive federal funding.

The Board of Trustees must present a plan of action by March to the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges that proves it deserves the independent organization’s seal of approval.

Although a voluntary process, most educational institutions around the nation submit to the process of renewing their accreditation every six years and only accept transfer credits from other institutions that do the same.

The commission dinged the school in 14 problem areas, eight of them major—including administrative and fiscal mismanagement—but also recognized the quality of instruction that the school provides to students.

Follow Sara Bloomberg on Twitter @bloomreports.

Watch Supervisor John Avalos and City College Student Trustee William Walker talk about the school’s future and why Prop A is important. These video interviews were conducted by a former City College journalism student, Joe Fitzgerald.

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