“I am San Francisco City College” - city rallies to save beloved institution

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SAN FRANCISCO - On the eve of the March 15 accreditation deadline for City College of San Francisco, a rally at City Hall brought together students and allies of the college, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Local 2121 and several social justice organizations under the umbrella of Save CCSF.

This year has been marked by draconian sanctions placed on City College by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) - 14 conditions that were to have been met by March 15, or risk having the college's accreditation yanked.

Students, teachers and community speakers listed the cuts that have occurred in the wake of these conditions: deep staff cuts in student counseling, wage concessions, and threats to close campuses and consolidate or end programs for at-risk, minority working class students who depend on City College to bring them into higher learning. AFT 2121 is facing even more cuts and loss of a democratic voice in the college.

Among speakers were Tim Paulson of San Francisco Labor Council, San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, AFT 2121 President Alisa Messer, Associated Students President Chanelle Williams, a member of the Chicago Teachers Union, and several other representatives of local community coalitions.

Mirkarimi echoed the concerns of many speakers that losing City College would be detrimental to the health of at-risk communities, largely low-income and minority students who depend on CCSF and education to bring them a future.

"I fear by us letting City College fall by the wayside that that only affirms exactly what is happening in San Francisco: that our commitment to class diversity has been completely breached and we must draw lines to make sure that this doesn't happen anymore," he told the crowd.

Hopes that passage of the city's Proposition A parcel tax and the state's Proposition 30 in November would bring revenue into CCSF have been frustrated by the lack of transparency of the CCSF Board of Trustees and interim Chancellor Thelma Scott-Skillman, who said they intended to use any surplus revenue to fund "accreditation purposes," rather than to replace programs and stave off cuts.

Revenue from the propositions would also be placed in the District's reserve over and above the state's suggested five percent. This is contrary to the mandate given by Proposition A's victory, which showed that over 70 percent of voters wanted the money to go towards education.

One of the points of contention between CCSF and ACCJC is that CCSF tried to use reserve funds to replace money lost through budget cuts affecting many state universities and colleges. In spending the reserve funds, CCSF was trying to preserve its high level of education, and it sought to use Prop A and Prop. 30 resources to lower its dependence on reserves.

In response, Save CCSF has formulated a three-point plan:

  • City Hall must ensure that Proposition A funds are used for education.
  • City Hall must fill any extra budget gap by advancing funds to CCSF.
  • City Hall must call on the Department of Education to stop the ACCJC's unjustified "show cause" sanction against CCSF.

The next step for accreditation will be for inspectors to verify if the college has taken steps to address the 14 conditions by the March 15 deadline. The ACCJC will then meet June 5-7 at the San Francisco Airport Marriott in Burlingame.

Save CCSF will hold further actions to broaden support for its three-point plan to save the college. The coalition's next meeting is March 20, from 6-8 p.m. at CCSF Mission Campus, Room 109, 1125 Valencia St., San Francisco.

For more information on meetings and other opportunities to support CCSF:

https://www.facebook.com/saveccsf

PDF files with more details on the ACCJC and CCSF (files may be slow to load):

http://aft2121.org/PDF/Scott-Skillman-Gap.pdf

http://aft2121.org/PDF/Accred_CCSF_March13.pdf

Photo: Michelle Kern/PW

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