By Alex Wukman
Concern has spread throughout San Francisco after news broke that the City College of San Francisco’s accrediting agency, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, ordered the school to begin making preparations for closure.
College Interim-Chancellor Pamela Fisher and the board of trustees held a series of public meetings to discuss ways to save the school.
The accrediting agency said CCSF was at “a financial breaking point” because the school used 92 percent of its budget on salaries and benefits.
But much of the community reaction to the news of the impending closure has been to advocate for increases in state education funding. In an editorial sent to the media, CCSF Trustee Chris Jackson argued that the real problem is “the state’s defunding of public education and its disinvestment in our community-college system.”
In 2011 California reduced state aid to community colleges by $1 billion which cut $17 million from City College’s budget alone.
College spokesman Larry Kamer addressed the issues raised in Jackson’s essay and said “like all of our trustees Mr. Jackson speaks for himself.” He then stated that the college suffers from “structural, managerial, and governance issues that would still exist even if funding is restored.”
One of the ways that the college is seeking to restore funding is by putting a $79 parcel tax before San Francisco voters. If the resolution passes it is expected to raise roughly $18 million or increase the school’s budget by approximately 10 percent.
In addition to the proposed tax, California voters will be going to the polls to decide on Governor Jerry Brown’s tax plan which, if passed, would provide the school with another $11 million.
However, Kamer acknowledges that funding increases would not solve all of the school’s problems. One of the persistent problems that the accrediting agency identified in its report was the school’s shared governance organization, a model that significantly reduces the amount of administrators and slows down the decision making process.
Despite being the second largest college in the country, with a student body of 90,000 and more than 2,700 faculty and staff members, CCSF only has 39 administrators. Jackson states that the relatively low number of administrators represents the embodiment of the San Francisco value of “chopping from the top,” or cutting administrators before teachers.
Kamer said the model reflects the college’s cultural commitment to “be more democratic,” and places much of the institution’s authority in the hands of senior faculty and department heads.