The Community College Initiative: Make An Informed Decision
In February when we go to the polls to vote in the primary election, we will also be voting on the most important community college proposal we have seen in our careers: The Community College Initiative, formally known on the ballot as The Community College Governance, Funding Stabilization, and Student Fee Reduction Act. Since passage of Proposition 98 in 1988, several reforms have moved California's community colleges away from a secondary toward a postsecondary educational structure. This initiative seeks to establish the community colleges as an independent postsecondary system, recognized in the state constitution, with its own funding guarantee under Proposition 98 separate from that for K-12. The initiative is sponsored by Californians for Community Colleges, a coalition of the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges, the Los Angeles College Faculty Guild, the California Federation of Teachers, and the Community College League of California. The initiative would take three fundamental actions:
- Set an independent minimum funding guarantee under Proposition 98
- Wrest student fees from the political process
- Guarantee a system of independent community college districts under the state constitution
Minimum Funding Guarantee
Presently, community colleges are funded, along with the K-12 system, on the basis of a complicated Proposition 98 formula. Funding growth is dependent on the health of the state economy and K-12 attendance. (See the Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO) analysis dated August 10, 2006, cited below, for a helpful explanation of our funding).) According to the LAO, "The measure changes the Proposition 98 formula by establishing separate funding guarantees for the community college system and for the K-12 system." While keeping the system under Proposition 98 protections, the initiative bases community college funding growth on its own student population and ends the perennial squabble with K-12 over the community college share of Proposition 98 funds.
Reduction of Student Fees
If you have been working in the system for more than a few years, you have seen examples of sweeping cuts to college funding simultaneous with huge, unexpected jumps in student fees. This sends shock waves across our campuses, at times when state economic difficulties bring an increase in demand for our services. The state budget is balanced on the backs of our students who are expected to pay more for less.
The initiative puts an end to this backdoor taxation of our students by reducing fees to $15 and capping fee increases to a percentage of cost of living inflation.
While supportive of the initiative overall, the Academic Senate maintains its position in support of zero fees and, should the initiative pass, will continue (along with the other faculty groups) to advocate for this position.
The initiative protects the state Board of Governors (BoG) and community college districts by establishing them as independent entities with a funding mandate in the state constitution. At present, our system is only memorialized in regulation and too easily changed. Also, appointment of the system's chancellor and vice chancellors is currently in the hands of the Governor's office. The initiative gives the BoG power to appoint up to six executive officers, making our system office less political. Other system employees remain under civil service regulations. In addition, the initiative contains constitutional protections for collective bargaining and judicial review.
Resources for you
The most comprehensive and up-to-date information can be found on the FACCC web site, www.faccc.org. If interested, you or a member of your senate can sign up to receive updates about the initiative or to support the initiative. There is a FAQ as well as the text of the initiative itself. There is also information about the potential fiscal improvement for each district expected if the initiative passes. The Initiative Campaign web site at www.Californians-ForCommunityColleges.org promises to offer more information once the campaign is underway this fall. The campaign theme is "The chance for every Californian to go to College," and in addition to the three main issues-funding, student fees and governance-the campaign stresses that the initiative does not harm K-12 and does not raise taxes. Particularly informative about technical issues is the Legislative Analyst's Office report (LAO).
The Academic Senate's Position
In Fall 2005, the ASCCC passed resolution 6.04 which laid out the aims of the initiative and asked the Academic Senate to disseminate information about the initiative. Last Spring, President Ian Walton said in his President's Update, "In addition to supporting the initiative, the Academic Senate maintains its long-standing position in support of zero fees for CCC students." Because the initiative will accomplish so many critical improvements for the community college system, the Fall 2005 delegates voted to support the resolution, but they did not overturn standing resolutions about zero fees.
In addition, the Academic Senate resolution urged local senates to collaborate with other faculty organizations and hold forums or otherwise educate local faculty, staff and students about the initiative.
While there are many ways this can be accomplished, your senate might begin by downloading a file of the information at www.faccc.org to share in senate, department and local governance meetings. The initiative's potential for systemic improvement is so significant and far-reaching that it is incumbent upon all of us to ensure our colleagues, co-workers and students are fully informed prior to the February election.
The articles published in the Rostrum do not necessarily represent the adopted positions of the academic senate. For adopted positions and recommendations, please browse this website.