(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Walton’s $2.7M plan to restore City College class cuts heads toward approval

Supervisor Shamann Walton’s proposal to provide $2.7 million to City College of San Francisco to restore hundreds of class cuts this semester advanced Wednesday toward approval.

But whether it will achieve its intended purpose could depend on whether Walton can obtain the eight votes needed to block a possible veto by Mayor London Breed — and whether the college will actually use the money.

The Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee voted 2-1 Wednesday to send the $2.7 million supplemental to the full board for a vote on Jan. 28. The board does not meet next week.

Walton voted for it along with Supervisor Sandra Fewer. Supervisor Rafael Mandelman opposed it.

“I really do not understand this particular proposal,” Mandelman said. “City College has not officially asked for this.”

“City College needs to get its fiscal house in order,” he added.

But supporters argued that the class cuts were misguided and were done without sufficient community input. They argue that the city should restore the cuts and in the meantime work on a longer term plan to address the school’s finances and determine the overall direction of the courses the college should offer for years to come.

“The $2.7 million is to help restore the 300 City College classes cut for the spring 2020 semester,” Walton said at the committee hearing. “These cuts were made without proper community input and the way that City College handled the situation has brought us to where we are now, with The City needing to step up to support our most vulnerable populations who would be disproportionately impacted by these cuts.”

In addition to Fewer, the proposal is supported by Supervisors Matt Haney, Dean Preston and Gordon Mar.

“We need eight votes for a veto proof majority ,” Walton told the San Francisco Examiner after the committee vote. “I know we will have six. We will keep reaching out to my colleagues in hopes of getting full support.”

The funding would come out of the city budget’s general fund reserve, which has about $130 million in it.

City College of San Francisco’s Office of the Chancellor “removed approximately 225 credit sections and 63 non-credit sections from the Spring 2020 schedule, as well as reduced the summer class schedule by 25 percent, in an effort to curtail a projected $13 million budget deficit for the 2019-2020 fiscal year,” according to the budget analyst report relying on the CCSF Chancellor Mark Rocha’s November statement.

The college has said it will need to cut and revise its course offerings due to recent changes in how funding is apportioned at the state level, focusing more heavily on graduation rates.

Wynd Kaufmyn, vice president of the American Federal of Teachers 2121, said that “we need money.”

“We are not getting the money from the state,” she said. “We need the money from our city to support the college that we deserve and that we all want and that will serve the communities that need it.”

Mandelman questioned if it wasn’t too late to provide funding to save classes for the spring semester since it already has started.

“There is precedent for classes being brought back to life, so to speak,” Walton said.

Walton called his proposal “not a band aid, but this is bridge funding.”

He said that there are discussions to bring to voters in November a ballot measure to increase city funding for City College.

“The Community Higher Education Act is something we will push for to appear on the November 2020 ballot so that San Franciscans can leverage funds from The City to pay for the kind of community college that we want to see here in San Francisco.”

Walton likened the idea to the voter approved Public Education Enrichment Fund that provides tens of millions of dollars annually to the San Francisco Unified School District.

He said “details are not finalized.”

Fewer acknowledged that “City College is experiencing and has experienced financial difficulty” but she said that “I feel like what happened was sort of piecemeal and last minute.”

She said there needs to be a larger conversation about what the future of City College should look like. She also noted if City College doesn’t use the money to restore the classes, the money will be returned to The City. The board cannot compel City College to use it.

“The College and the Board of Trustees will evaluate any funding initiative from the BOS when it is received,” a City College spokesperson said in a statement emailed to Examiner.” The preference of the College is to work towards long-term sustainable funding measures, such as the Community Higher Education Fund (CHEF), rather than one-time funding measures that do not help the College overcome its structural budget issues.”

Those who spoke at the hearing identified specific courses they were disappointed were slashed. Those included a sculpture class at the Fort Mason campus, an upholstery class at the Evans Avenue campus, a self-defense class as part of the Women’s and Gender Studies program at the Mission campus, an immigration law class as part of the college’s Paralegal Studies program and a Criminal Justice Report Writing course.

The college defended the cuts in the statement.

“The College made adjustments to the Spring 2020 schedule to balance the budget, with a focus on offering credit classes that graduate students,” the statement said. “We want to reassure the community that the College is still offering thousands of classes and hundreds of programs, which are open and enrolling now.”

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