City supervisors move to save CCSF classes after budget cuts

San Francisco supervisors are proposing funding to restore hundreds of classes that have been cut from City College of San...

San Francisco supervisors are proposing funding to restore hundreds of classes that have been cut from City College of San Francisco’s course schedule in response to recent budget woes.

Supervisor Shamann Walton on Tuesday introduced an ordinance to appropriate $2.7 million to restore some 300 classes that have been trimmed from the Spring semester schedule as an immediate intervention. That money would come out of The City’s current fiscal year’s budget reserves.

“Every year thousands of District 10 residents rely on CCSF for various programs for its jobs and skills training. I understand CCSF has to make some hard decisions while it looks to the future,” said Walton, who described recent cuts, made without community input, as “concerning.”

Looking forward, Supervisor Gordon Mar on Tuesday announced that he has asked the City Attorney to draft legislation that seeks to expand funding that The City gets from the Public Education Enrichment Fund (PEEF) to include a set-aside for City College. The county education fund was established within the City Charter with the passage of Proposition H in 2004 to counteract decreasing funding at the state and federal level.

San Francisco currently receives some $79.9 million in PEEF funding for PreK-12 education programs. The charter amendment, which must still be introduced, would not tap into those funds, but add another supplemental set aside for City College to restore and expand programs and classes at City College, including those serving older adults and workforce programs.

Mar recently provided funding for City College’s planned expansion into the Sunset district with six courses, including one for older adults, which he announced last month.

“Given the ongoing budgetary challenges faced by CCSF and the great success by PEEF of providing critical supplemental funding [to education programs], I believe its timeley and essential that we expand the support to CCSF,” said Mar.

Walton’s ordinance has been co-sponsored by supervisors Sandra Fewer, Matt Haney and by Mar. It would take eight votes to override a potential mayoral veto.

Mayor London Breed’s stated priority is to fully fund mental health services proposed under Mental Health SF, which was approved at the board on Tuesday.

“Any discussions around other funding priorites has to include the recognition that funding Mental Health SF and helping those in crisis on our streets is going to take a real commitment of our resources,” said Jeff Cretan, a spokesperson for Breed.

A total of 288 classes and 345 class sections were slashed from the spring 2020 schedule to avoid a projected $13 million shortfall at the end of the 2019-2020 academic year. The cuts came the evening before registration opened on Nov. 20, blindsiding students and faculty members, as the San Francisco Examiner reported previously.

Before that, the college had already made a 12 percent reduction to its class offerings — which translated to 554 credit and 309 non-credit classes being cut — and parted with over 100 instructors over the course of the year, balancing a $32 million budget deficit.

The spring semester class cuts resulted in 107 part-time instructors either losing their benefits or being laid off, and decimated the arts program and Older Adults Program (OLAD). Heavy reductions were also made to the college’s physical education, engineering and dance programs.

In the OLAD program, 50 of 55 classes that were initially offered were cut, the Examiner reported previously. The schedule could be further downsized once enrollment numbers are in, and the college is “reviewing its real estate arrangements” — including a current lease it holds at Fort Mason — as a way to address budget gaps, a spokesperson confirmed previously.

In a letter penned to Mayor London Breed and the Board of Supervisors last week, City College Chancellor Mark Rocha defended the cuts and said that it is an issue the college is handling internally. Rocha said that the class reducations are “not an emergency” but part of a “long-planned restructuring of the academic program” to prioritize increasing the graduation rates of students of color.

“This plan is in compliance with the new state law, the Student Centered Funding Formula, that significantly changed the basis of our funding from enrollment to performance on our graduation rate,” said Rocha in the letter.

He added that another change in state law under AB 705 now requires the college to “do away with remedial courses that previously did not advance students of color to graduation.” Instead, the college must focus on boosting enrollment in “college-level English and math and then add additional support courses to get them through successfully the first time.”

“We have prioritized the budget to give more budget to high-demand courses that students need to graduate,” said Rocha, adding that “any student who needs a course to graduate in May 2020 will get it, regardless of budget.”

Since 2017, the college has offered free tuition to San Francisco residents as part of its Free City College Program as a means to increase enrollment, which plummeted after the college nearly lost its accreditation in 2013. The Free City College program was implemented with revenue from a real estate transfer tax approved by voters the prior year.

The program this summer received a 10-year funding commitment from The City totalling over $200 million, but instructors who have been impacted by the recent round of cuts told the Examiner that they worried that further downsizing the college’s offering could impact enrollment under Free City.

A financial report presented to the college’s Board of Trustees last month showed that enrollment in the fall semester was down by 777 full-time equivalent students from last school year. One FTES, which is the formula used to calculate the apportionment of state funding that City College receives for its enrollment numbers, equals 525 hours of student attendance.

Prior to Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors hearing, some two dozen people rallied in support of Walton’s legislation.

The proposed $2.7 million is expected to address the “immediate crisis,” said Wynd Kaufmyn, vice president of the college’s faculty union, AFT 2121. Kaufmyn added that long- term solutions are needed and will likely require further investment in the college by The City.

“We need to make sure that we have sustainable funding for the community college that The City needs,” said Kaufmyn. “Long term, that means that The City needs to pass some stable funding for the college.”

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