Local Control – Who Needs It

January
2010
Dianna Chiabotti, Executive Committee

Our students.

When I attended my first Senate Leadership Institute, not only was I a new Senate President, I had also never heard of Assembly Bill (AB) 1725. I was also surprised to learn that the Academic Senate existed!! Needless to say, I wasn’t quite sure what all the excitement over local control was about. But it was clear that this concept was a huge issue, an issue that continued to surface at plenary sessions. Other local senate presidents and the Academic Senate kept referring to it. On top of this, many outside sources and articles I was reading stressed the need for uniformity and sameness among community colleges. I remember thinking that sure would make my life easier as I was trying to figure all this out. Then one day, I woke up. A light turned on (as my high school Calculus teacher would say). I got it. Local control was essential for our students!

Effective pedagogy dictates that we meet the needs of our students. In addition, the literature consistently suggests that we meet the diverse learning needs of our students and that we teach using multiple modalities. The answer to good education within the classroom is instructor control of the learning environment. An extension of this outside of the classroom walls is local control by community colleges.

Community colleges, in general, serve their local communities. Each community surrounding a college has its own diverse set of cultures. The businesses in the local area have developed to serve that community or the larger area as needed. Nonetheless, each business has specific skills needed by its employees and traits that they desire in job applicants. These skills change to some degree based on the community that the business serves. These nuanced differences demand that colleges have local control in career technical education programs so that students are better prepared for entering the workforce. Community colleges are specifically organized to allow for variance among communities and respond to the needs of their populations, hence the need for local control. Uniformity would prevent this from occurring.

This same variance exists for transfer students. Four year colleges have differing requirements for transfer and different standards for entrance. This variance also requires that local colleges have control over their transferable course work as well. With local control each community college is able to work directly with the four-year colleges to develop curriculum that best meets the specific needs of their local transfer students.

Uniformity in education, all education, not only hinders learning but also hinders our ability to address the diverse perspectives of students, local culture, and instructors. At a time when we are striving to value diversity in all forms, why would we revert to a practice that eliminates thoughtful responses to diversity among local colleges? If we truly value diversity and difference, then we must also value local control for our colleges.

A responsive and respectful education system acknowledges that learners are unique from each other. We need colleges that allow for this uniqueness and that acknowledge through local practices that learners are diverse in their needs, communities are dissimilar from each other, and businesses are distinct in their requirements.

Local control allows for an education system that is responsive and just. Local control allows colleges to create curriculum that specifically addresses universal topics as well as local issues. It allows for curriculum, degrees, graduations requirements, and educational practices that address the interests and needs of local students, local communities, and local industry. Local control in community colleges reflects the wonderful tapestry that is California.

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.