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Supes give final approval for free CCSF, but mayor has other plans

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CCSF students, faculty and supporters gathered on the steps of City Hall to introduce a proposal for free community college for all in San Francisco. (Ekevara Kitpowsong/Special to S.F. Examiner)
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The free City College of San Francisco debate continued Tuesday when the Board of Supervisors voted for the second and final time to allocate $9 million toward the effort.

The vote was significant in that while the board had approved it on the first read, when it was voted again the board had changed with new members.

Mayor Ed Lee, however, is defying the board by refusing to release all the funding, which means CCSF will likely not be free in time for the fall semester.

SEE RELATED: Balancing SF budget could come at cost of free City College

Jeff Sheehy, the mayor’s appointment to the District 8 seat vacated by now-state Sen. Scott Weiner, began serving Monday as did supervisors Sandra Fewer, Hillary Ronen and Ahsha Safai, in Districts 1, 9 and 11, respectively, replacing termed-out supervisors Eric Mar, David Campos and John Avalos.

The new board voted 10-1 to support the funding. Supervisor Mark Farrell opposed it, saying it wasn’t a priority given other needs like homeless services.

SEE RELATED: Mayor to defy board support for funding tuition-free CCSF

“I firmly believe in the proposal, making it free for everyone,” Safai said.

Fewer, who is a CCSF graduate, said, “This is one of the solutions to our wealth gap, it is one of our solutions to homelessness.”

The mayor is refusing to spend the $9 million as the board has directed. Instead, he has decided to spend that amount of money over time, meaning CCSF will be free for some students but not all by next fall.

SEE RELATED: CCSF dealt $38.9M blow from state as City Hall squabbles over free tuition funding

Last year, Supervisor Jane Kim placed on the November ballot a tax increase on the sales of high-end properties to fund a tuition free CCSF. The measure prevailed.

But since the measure didn’t legally bind The City to spend the money – it’s not legally possible to restrict property transfer tax increases — the mayor turned to that revenue source to fund other priorities amid projections of budget deficits and the defeat of the sales tax hike on the November ballot.

Supporters are holding out hope that the mayor will change his mind, but time is running out. Kim suggested that March was the absolute drop-dead moment to determine if CCSF could be tuition-free for the semester beginning in August. Kim’s effort is supported by the San Francisco Labor Council.

Kim said that a free CCSF would give people “a fighting chance to enter into our middle class.”

“I don’t believe a high school diploma is enough to give most Americans the tools and resources that they need just to have an opportunity to succeed in today’s society,” Kim said. “A K-14 education should be universal and free.”

Meanwhile, discussions among the Mayor’s Office, Kim and other free CCSF supporters as well as CCSF’s administration are ongoing.

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