Proponents say City College of San Francisco provides training for nurses, paramedics, firefighters and other professionals essential to economic recovery. (Examiner file photo)

Mar wants voters to approve $20M a year for CCSF to sustain job training programs

Supervisor argues fiscally troubled college is key to economic recovery after coronavirus

Supervisor Gordon Mar has introduced a ballot measure to help City College of San Francisco survive the economic slump by setting aside $20 million or more a year for the financially challenged institution over the next two decades.

Mar introduced a proposed charter amendment Tuesday at the Board of Supervisors to create a Workforce Education and Recovery Fund. If approved by the board, the measure would appear before voters in November.

The proposal would earmark $20 million annually for CCSF from The City general fund beginning in the 2021-22 fiscal year. The set-aside would increase by $2 million a year until reaching $30 million in 2026-27 and gradually grow thereafter until it sunsets in 2040-41.

The cost of the legislation could raise concerns at a time when San Francisco is facing a projected $1.7 billion budget deficit over the next two fiscal years because of the COVID-19 crisis.

But proponents argue that the job training and education opportunities provided by the college are critical to The City recovering from economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

The college provides training for future generations of nurses, paramedics, firefighters and other professionals. One-third of the funding would be designated for workforce and professional development programs.

“City College provides the most comprehensive offering of vocational training and adult education programs in our city, and it’s tuition-free for all San Francisco residents,” Mar said.

“The Workforce Education and Recovery Fund will ensure that nearly 100,000 unemployed San Franciscans can upgrade their skills and get back to work as soon as possible,” he added.

Mar was speaking at a virtual press conference alongside the interim CCSF chancellor, members of the Board of Trustees, current and former students and faculty members.

Even before the pandemic struck, college officials were planning on cutting the course schedule by nearly 300 classes next school year, or 17 percent, because of budget issues.

Now, with Gov. Gavin Newsom proposing cuts to community colleges across California, the situation is looking even more dire.

As many as 500 classes could be on the chopping block in the following school year, said Interim Chancellor Dianna Gonzales.

Gonzales said it is critical for the ballot measure to pass so that the college can continue training students.

“We are the linchpin for economic recovery,” Gonzales said. “When the recessions hit, that is when our enrollment grows. But that is when we are least funded.”

“We want to break that crazy cycle, she added. We don’t want to be in a position where we are turning students away.”

Jennifer Worley, president of the American Federation of Teachers Local 2121, said the costs of operating certain programs including nursing already exceed the state funding currently provided.

Yet those programs churn out legions of health care providers who work in San Francisco, like the nursing students who were recently out swabbing people in the Mission District to test for COVID-19.

“There is a real funding gap for a lot of these programs and that is why San Franciscans are here today asking our city to help,” Worley said. “This fund is crucial to the survival of City College and the job training programs that we provide.”

Lt. Hashim Anderson, a member of the San Francisco Fire Department who graduated from the paramedic and firefighter training programs at CCSF, attested to the impact the college had on his life. He said the college offered him a direct path into the department.

“Prior to starting City College, I had no idea what the fire service was all about,” Anderson said. “I had no one in my family that was a member of the fire service, unlike many of the peers I work with currently.”

“Fortunately, City College helped me to get where I am today,” he said.

Shanell Williams, president of the Board of Trustees, said a study once found that the college provides $300 million worth of economic activity for San Francisco. She also noted that voters just approved an $845 million facilities bond to repair aging CCSF infrastructure.

“This legislation is a win for San Francisco,” Williams said. “Let’s just get this passed in November.”

The measure would expand on a voter-approved arts and sports fund for K-12 schools from 2004, called the Public Education Enrichment Fund, without reducing funding for the San Francisco Unified School District, according to Mar’s Office.

The legislation would also create an oversight committee to monitor the fund, Mar said.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

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