What a second state takeover of City College could look like – the Guardsman
City College again faces the prospect of a state takeover following an April 7 letter from the state’s Fiscal Crisis Management Assistance Team (FCMAT), a state-run public school tax watchdog agency, which says City College is heading toward financial insolvency.
The letter says high spending on faculty salaries and benefits threatens City College’s ability to remain financially solvent. Specifically, the letter states that the high percentage of money going to pay faculty, set at 98%, means that the college cannot fund other expenses, such as the maintenance of its facilities, which may jeopardize the ability of City College to serve its student body.
Balancing the ratio of full-time equivalent students to full-time equivalent faculty (FTES / FTEF) is a major item on the FCMAT agenda, which states: “The correct sizing of its staffing for all employees will clearly be the factor. most important in improving the financial situation of the FLSAC. ”
The board addressed this issue by removing the classes, but enrollment data shows that the FTES / FTES ratio has not changed with the class reductions. Malaika Finkelstein, president of the teachers’ union AFT 2121, said the most recent letter from FCMAT looked like a repetition of the reasoning used by the state to take over the college in 2013.
Rafael Mandelman, District 6 supervisor and former City College administrator, played down the possibility, saying the latest takeover did not significantly benefit the state. “I think the last thing the state wants to do is take City College back.”
In the event of insolvency, FCMAT can take over the college by appointing a Special Trustee with Extraordinary Powers (STWEP) whose authority replaces the elected directors of the college.
Some argue, however, that the FCMAT’s findings are misleading, claiming that expenses in addition to salaries, such as the maintenance of college facilities, are funded by prop A, which was passed in 2012 and established a 1.1 cent parcel tax for every $ 100 of actual assessed. property.
“TThey fail to recognize that we have funding for maintenance, it’s our obligation, ”said student advisor Vick Van Chung.
Mandelman said the previous takeover had a negative impact on registrations, exacerbating the insolvency risks the state used to justify the takeover in the first place – the registrations data from the integrated data system on post-secondary education show that between the 2012-2013 and 2016-2017 school years, the number of full-time equivalent students at City College fell by 38%, from 19,917 to 12,373.
“City College has emerged… considerably damaged by the whole experience in terms of falling enrollment numbers, and the [subsequent] the financial problems were only exacerbated by this process, ”Mandelman said.
Others, however, remember things a little differently.
Steve Ngo, who served as an administrator alongside Mandelman during the state takeover of City College, said he remembered the local authority’s department heads and faculty committees, both of whom have a much to say in the day-to-day management of City College, being largely intact during the tenure of the two STWEPs.
“I don’t think governance has changed so much internally. You still had faulty leadership, faculty steering committees … trustees had to consult with different constituency groups and come up with a policy, present it to the chancellor and the board, and there would be a public hearing that would review those changes. policy in the same way that the board would.
Ngo said replacing the authority of a STWEP with an elected board was not a good thing, but there were questions about whether the college was even able to save itself without state intervention.
“[The public] would try to persuade that person whether a policy change or decision should be made or not, ”Ngo said. “Obviously, this is not the same as having a council elected by the San Franciscans to decide what policy to adopt or reject… but at this point there were concerns about keeping the college open and whether or not the board is in a position to make the decisions it needs. Make. “
According to Wynd Kaufman, an engineering professor and president of the faculty union during the first takeover in 2013, Robert Agrella, City College’s first STWEP, introduced a policy requiring students to pay for their classes before the start of the semester. end 2013. .
This policy was eventually suspended, but automatically removed over 9,000 students from classes over four semesters, ultimately costing the college more than it saved – college funding is primarily determined by the number of students. registered students.
Kaufman added that the years 2012 Prop 30, which from 2012 to 2017 provided billions in tax revenue to fund public education, including $ 100 million for City College, helped mitigate City College’s financial losses resulting from the takeover of the ‘State. These funds have also enabled the college to increase its student body to a rate faster than normally authorized by the state, thus helping to increase the income of City College.
According to Mandelman, the need for legislation providing for emergency funding highlighted the need to “recognize the difficult road that college was on. [on and] to allow the college, if possible, to recover quickly.
Finkelstein said that a state takeover, and the subsequent appointment of a STWEP, would mean the deprivation of the vote of the locally elected Board of Directors, “which means [City College] be run by someone who is not accountable to the San Francisco community, ”according to Finkelstein.
Miguel Quintero, who served as the student advisor in the 2004 state takeover of Compton College, said that while the college’s STWEP, Art Tyler, allowed the board of trustees to continue functioning, Tyler ultimately ran the show.
“Table [of Trustees] could lead the conversations, but at the end of the day it was one person who made the decisions, ”said Quintero.
Administrators aren’t the only ones who think the impending layoffs will have an impact on the college’s future. Leslie Simon, a former City College faculty member who founded Project SURVIVE, a peer training program run by the Department of Women and Gender Studies that helps prevent domestic violence and provides counseling to survivors domestic violence, said that while the layoffs help the college avoid a takeover, they will damage the college as much as a takeover could, if not more.
“If these cuts happen I’m not sure it will matter more,” said Simon.
Finkelstein echoed Simon’s remark, saying the board’s loss of influence “doesn’t necessarily mean the policies of the new [STWEP] would be radically different, if our local council does exactly what the state wants anyway. “
John Rizzo, outgoing City College administrator who also served at the time of the first takeover, said the board should avoid another takeover with a balanced budget and a 5% cash reserve. which, according to Rizzo, will be adopted by the council. in June.
However, Chung said class cuts, which have often focused on preserving certificate, transfer and associate degree programs, could also suppress enrollment and further marginalize students who were once incarcerated, favoring students who were once incarcerated. young people and / or survivors of domestic violence.
Finkelstein believes that an increase in registrations would simply require an investment in the future. Such an investment may come from the supervisory board, several of which, including Gordon Mar and Hillary Ronen, have said they will pledge to support emergency funding for City College, although no such law has been created. yet been introduced.
Mandelman said he expects the city to vote for additional emergency funding, in part so City College can continue to offer credit-free programs that serve marginalized communities, such as ESL. and Project SURVIVE.
“The city should put its money where it is,” Mandelman said.