Dean Preston rallies with CCSF students over budget cuts

College board set to discuss $13 million deficit at Thursday meeting

In his first public appearance since declaring victory in the race for District 5 supervisor, Dean Preston joined protesters at City College of San Francisco Wednesday to show his support for students and faculty as they rallied against ongoing cuts to classes and services.

Organized by the Higher Education Action Team (HEAT) and the AFT 2121 CCSF Faculty Union, the protest was held to unite students and faculty impacted by the cuts, call for an increase in funding from the state and decry recent raises given to administrators while classes and services continue to be lopped.

Though the final ballots for the District 5 race have yet to be counted, Preston, who was endorsed by AFT 2121, has declared victory over incumbent Vallie Brown. Brown has yet to make a concession statement, and currently trails Preston by fewer than 200 votes.

“I wanted to stand in solidarity with my friends in the AFT 2121 union and with students,” Preston said Wednesday. “It’s important for any supervisor, no matter what district they serve, to go to bat for City College.”

Preston said he views issues facing CCSF as citywide issues.

Over the last year, CCSF has cut more than 300 classes and lost at least 100 instructors and counselors to balance a $32 million budget deficit. The college also approved pay raises for many top administrators in September, sparking outrage among students and the faculty union.

The Board of Trustees is planning to discuss additional cuts during its regularly scheduled Thursday meeting to prevent a $13 million deficit and negative reserves by the end of the year.

“They just recently have projected that if they continue with the spending that’s going on, they will have a $13 million deficit by the end of the year,” CCSF spokesperson Evette Davis said. “So they’re taking a closer look at what next steps could be. While there are obviously concerns amongst some about class cuts, the fact is that the college has no choice — it has to make these decisions in order to keep its budget balanced. And it’s had a structural deficit for decades because it continues to maintain classes that are under-enrolled.”

Students and faculty participating in Wednesday’s protest had their own take.

Brenna Stroud, a HEAT member and CCSF student learning auto body repair, said that classes that historically reach capacity are being cut before the first day of classes for not having 20 students enrolled, no matter how close to the threshold they may be. This makes it impossible for students to drop in on the first day and add the classes like they would have in the past.

Stroud cited numerous classes in the hybrid vehicle, automotive welding and motorcycle programs as examples.

“People can’t get their certificates or graduate if you keep cutting their classes,” she said.

Protesters said the cuts limit educational opportunities and prevent students from graduating or transferring on time.

But college officials argue programs and classes are only facing cuts necessary for balancing the budget because they are unpopular and under-enrolled.

“It’s not just about cutting,” Davis said. “The college wants to invest in academic programs that attract more students … The state pays the college to graduate students. That change in funding is an important reason for realigning the schedule. We’re being held harmless in the short term, meaning that we’re not being penalized financially by the state for a few years, but the state’s funding is shifting to reward colleges for graduating students and therefore the schedule must reflect that priority.”

The CCSF Board of Trustees meeting begins at 4 p.m. Thursday.

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