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OP-ED: If City College Shuts Down, What Will San Francisco Lose?

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The Accrediting Commission of Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) has made a decision that could result in shutting down City College of San Francisco in July 2014 by withdrawing accreditation, which would mean a loss of access to public funding.

The college has been working with the accrediting commission but has not succeeded in meeting the commission’s requirements.

If City College shuts down, what does San Francisco lose?

Students: Over 100,000 students typically attend City College at centers all over the city. Since the controversy over accreditation started in July 2012, enrollment has dropped to 85,000.

If the college closes, these and other potential students will have no good alternatives. The San Mateo Community College District (Skyline, College of San Mateo and Canada) is already at capacity, and there is no good public transportation to the campuses. The Peralta District is across the Bay.

Affordable higher education: The cost per credit at City College is $46. The cost per credit at private colleges is many times that. Currently, City College students graduate burdened with minimal debt.

Employees: Over 1,600 faculty work at City College. About 758 of these faculty jobs are good, full-time jobs with benefits. The 827 members of the faculty who are part-time can also earn enough to live on, have access to health benefits and some job security, which results in much less turnover than at most colleges.

Both full-time and part-time faculty are represented by a union, AFT 2121, and have a contract that is among the best in the nation. Over 1,800 staff and administrators work at City College.

While some of these are management jobs, the majority are decent working-class jobs.

Staff at City College is represented by SEIU 1021. If City College is shut down, nearly 3,000 jobs will be lost.

An educated citizenry: City College has historically served the broad mission of community colleges. It offers over 50 educational programs that lead to transfer to universities and over 100 career technical programs, ranging from website development to infant care to culinary arts.

CCSF also offers free adult education classes at locations throughout the city in English and Spanish. These include GED prep, ESL, citizenship classes, yoga, local history and basic computing. City College can take some credit for San Francisco’s creative, dynamic and progressive activist culture.

Employers: Graduates of the career technical programs in fire, police, emergency services, healthcare, construction, business, technology and over 100 other programs provide the staff for public and private workplaces throughout the city.

Of the students who completed a CCSF career technical program, 42 percent found jobs, and 74 percent of those found their job within 6 months of graduating. If City College is shut down, employers will have to recruit outside the city.

Diversity: The students at City College reflect the diversity of the city. Nearly half are between 25 and 49 years old. They are 29 percent Asian, 26 percent White, 20 percent Hispanic, 9 percent African American, 6 percent Filipino and 8 percent of mixed or unknown race.

Minorities do well at City College: of the African American students who came prepared for college level work, 82 percent completed a degree.

Figures on those who came “unprepared” for college work, meaning requiring them to take remedial classes, reveal success at an even tougher challenge: 35 percent of African Americans, 36 percent of Hispanics, 47 percent of white and 71 percent of Asians who came to college despite being “unprepared” managed to stick with it and complete a degree.

This is not only a greater challenge for students; it is a greater challenge for teachers. Providing a ladder to achievement for underprepared students is at the heart of the community college mission.

Services for Veterans, Health services: Among its many special outreach programs is the Veterans Services Office, providing help with GI benefits, career planning, retraining and psychological assistance. The student health service offers emergency care, mental health, preventive care and special women’s health outreach.

Legacy: City College was established in 1935 in the heart of the Great Depression to answer a need for education. Until 1971, it was part of the San Francisco Unified School District.

Generations of students, faculty and administration have poured their careers and lives into building a school that belongs to and reflects the city. Their free gift of support and loyalty is at risk if City College is shut down.

Hope: For most people, education is the path of hope. If City College shuts down, hope will be destroyed for many youth, which can only lead to more drug use, crime and other self and socially destructive behaviors at just the time when the next generation is needed to pick up the mantle of leadership.

Helena Worthen is Professor Emerita of Labor and Employment Relations, University of Illinois, and long-time community college English teacher and union activist. Joe Berry is a retired City College teacher (History and Labor Studies), union leader and researcher on higher education and its workforce. They can be reached at Worthenberry@yahoo.com.

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Activism

City Receives $3 Million Grant to Advance Violence Prevention Among School-Age Youth

Although the Department of Violence Prevention works to advance community outreach with life coaching, gender-based violence services, violence interruption, and community healing, this funding is focused on the family systems model, targeted specifically at Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) schools for school-site violence intervention and prevention teams.

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Guillermo Cespedes is the head of Oakland’s Dept. of Violence Prevention.
Guillermo Cespedes is the head of Oakland’s Dept. of Violence Prevention.

By Post Staff

The City of Oakland’s Department of Violence Prevention (DVP) has received a $3 million, three-year grant to support its violence interruption efforts.

In partnership with the Oakland Public Fund for Innovation, the Gilead Foundation awarded the grant to invest in health equity strategy, including a focus on prevention and intervention services to school-age youth, disrupting the pattern of violence.

“The Gilead Foundation is proud to support the Oakland Fund for Public Innovation and the City of Oakland’s Department of Violence Prevention,” said Kate Wilson, executive director of Gilead Foundation.

Chief of Violence Prevention with the City of Oakland Guillermo Cespedes said the grant will allow “DVP to strengthen families and protect its members from becoming involved in lifestyles associated with violence, while increasing educational outcomes and lifelong learning skills.”

Although the Department of Violence Prevention works to advance community outreach with life coaching, gender-based violence services, violence interruption, and community healing, this funding is focused on the family systems model, targeted specifically at Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) schools for school-site violence intervention and prevention teams.

Students who are routinely exposed to violence at home or in the community often experience toxic stress that leads to cognitive impairment, hyperactivity, and attention deficits that make it challenging to succeed in the classroom.

Exposure to violence also contributes to lower school attendance and a higher likelihood of suspension, which further promotes disengagement from school.

Using a public health approach, the DVP will strengthen family, school, and community contexts for OUSD school students living in neighborhoods with high rates of violence, to reduce their exposure to violence and increase their chances of succeeding academically.

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Activism

OPINION: Oakland Could Take More Innovative Steps to Help Solve Homelessness 

We must ensure that we are able to build sufficient housing, especially that which is affordable. Oakland is currently producing under 10% of our state Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) requirements for very low-income housing; in contrast, we have met our goals for market-rate housing.

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Janani Ramachandran is running for City Council seat for District 4. Photo courtesy of Janani Ramachandran 
Janani Ramachandran is running for City Council seat for District 4. Photo courtesy of Janani Ramachandran 

By Janani Ramachandran

First, we must conduct a comprehensive audit of where our homelessness dollars are being spent. The recent City Auditor’s report revealed $69 million was spent on homelessness services for 8,600 people over the past three years – yet at least half the participants are believed to have returned to homelessness. We must conduct a deep dive into the third-party entities receiving homelessness contracts and to what extent they use evidence-based models of homelessness reduction.

Second, we must establish a regional board across all neighboring East Bay towns because homelessness certainly crosses borders, and the financial costs of assisting our unhoused while building affordable housing should not exclusively fall on Oakland. We must develop a plan to build on land owned by cities, CalTrans, BART, EBMUD, and other public agencies. A regional strategy must also include better partnership with the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, which is primarily responsible for providing meaningful mental health and addiction services. Oakland must ensure that our residents in need are able to access the County’s supportive services, regardless of language or technological barriers, and not waste funds duplicating efforts.

Third, we must ensure that we prioritize homelessness prevention, whether tenants or homeowners, from losing their homes. The city should re-allocate some of its homelessness dollars to provide emergency vouchers to at-risk individuals, prioritizing households with children and elders.

Finally, we must ensure that we are able to build sufficient housing, especially that which is affordable. Oakland is currently producing under 10% of our state Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) requirements for very low-income housing; in contrast, we have met our goals for market-rate housing.

There’s little doubt as to why – it’s expensive. Each unit of permanent housing may cost up to $500,000 to build. The elimination of redevelopment agencies under Governor Jerry Brown was a severe blow to Oakland’s ability to build affordable housing, and we must compensate for that by ensuring developers pay their fair share.

This involves drafting an inclusionary zoning ordinance (moving away from the current tiered “in-lieu fee” system) to ensure that developers either include a percentage of affordable units in new buildings, or pay an impact fee, up front and at the start of construction, that directly funds other affordable housing projects.

But the private sector should not shoulder this burden alone – we must be more proactive in applying for competitive state and federal funds. This will require our city to streamline internal processes to help nonprofit or private developers secure local funding (which is generally the first step in applying for state and federal grants) with predictable deadlines.

Underlying all of these priorities, our policymakers must shift their perspective and recognize that those who are housing-insecure or unhoused are not a monolith. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but my stated priorities will hopefully begin to move us forward in the right direction.

Janani Ramachandran is a public interest attorney and former Oakland Public Ethics Commissioner running for Oakland City Council District 4.  For more informationJananiForOakland.com

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Activism

Why Sarah Syed Is My Choice for AC Transit Board of Directors, Ward 3.

As the AC Transit board president, a challenge I am confronted with is that traditional transit planning practice has ignored the pervasive issues of segregation, displacement, and exclusion from opportunity. Although the impacts of redlining can be felt in almost every aspect of life: from access to high quality education, to job opportunities and even healthy food options, our region doesn’t invest in transit service to repair past harms.  

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Elsa Ortiz is the AC Transit board president and the retiring Ward 3 director, which includes Oakland, San Leandro, and Alameda.
Elsa Ortiz is the AC Transit board president and the retiring Ward 3 director, which includes Oakland, San Leandro, and Alameda.

By Elsa Ortiz, President of AC Transit Board

The challenge of inequitable transportation access is felt by tens of thousands of residents in inner East Oakland and communities of color across the Bay Area.

These challenges are compounded by the legacy of redlining, which systematically denied Black and Brown residents access to homeownership and lending programs. Ultimately, the American dream of homeownership, investment in communities and building generational wealth was blocked.

As the AC Transit board president, a challenge I am confronted with is that traditional transit planning practice has ignored the pervasive issues of segregation, displacement, and exclusion from opportunity. Although the impacts of redlining can be felt in almost every aspect of life: from access to high quality education, to job opportunities and even healthy food options, our region doesn’t invest in transit service to repair past harms.

Last week, aboard an AC Transit bus, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg toured Oakland as part of his new effort to repair the damage done by large federal transportation projects, like freeways, which divided neighborhoods where people of color were the majority of the population.

Residents of underserved communities are the experts in understanding what they need. Unfortunately, the number of local political leaders who are ready to invest in transportation equity are few and far in between. Therefore, we have important ballot choices on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Sarah Syed, a candidate for AC Transit Board Ward 3, is the leader our region needs to turbocharge equitable cities. As a mixed-race woman, Sarah understands that access to transit is a question of equity. Through her work with the Bay Area Rapid Transit, the Valley Transportation Authority, and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, as a transportation planner and engineer of 20 years, Syed worked to help underserved communities.

In Los Angeles, where 88% of riders are people of color, Sarah took on a heavily bureaucratic system and planned enhancements to the routes disadvantaged riders were already using, including improving service frequency to every 10 minutes on two lines, new bus shelters at nearly 400 locations, and improvements along six different streets to extend the sidewalk and improve street safety and accessibility to bring better bus service.

Through her work with UC-Berkeley’s Othering and Belonging Institute, Syed is helping community-based organizations and local government agencies in eight communities across the state of California so that local equity leadership can drive the agenda of transportation planning to meet the priority concerns of underserved residents

As your next AC Transit Director for Ward 3, Syed will champion policy-based interventions to close equity gaps, equitable hiring and personnel practices.

She will work to build broad, ethnically inclusive coalitions to stand up for bus transit and communicate its value in ways that inspire members of the public and potential political allies.

When we improve bus service, we make our cities better places to live and help address some of America’s deepest problems.

Please join me, State Senator Nancy Skinner, Supervisor Nate Miley, the Alameda County Democratic Party, the three Mayors in Ward 3, and three BART Directors in supporting Sarah Syed for AC Transit Ward 3.

Elsa Ortiz is the AC Transit board president and the retiring Ward 3 director, which includes Oakland, San Leandro, and Alameda.

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