If you're out there with too few resources and too many students, with too little and too old equipment, take heart. Help could be on the way.
This budget season is unlike any we've known. The state budget surplus is at an all time high, and seems to keep growing. Recent estimates place the figure at as much as $10 billion. And education is the top priority not only of the Governor but also of the Legislature. At a retreat earlier this year, the Assembly Democrats indicated that community colleges are a top priority. The incoming speaker of the Assembly, Robert Hertzberg, has said community colleges are on the top of his list. The budget committees have begun meeting and are clearly signaling interest in funding community colleges. While the Governor's initial budget figures for the community colleges were disappointing, it's clear that the Governor and his staff are now interested and listening.
So, how will this play out? While none of us knows for sure, our best chance rests on being united as a system. That's why the recent agreement among faculty groups, administrators and the Chancellor on a budget packet is so important. For the first time all in the system have agreed that addressing human resources should be a priority. While it would seem obvious that hiring needs, particularly for faculty, would be a "no brainer," coming out of a long recession into a period of relative surplus, the system did not originally endorse this concept.
The agreement has three parts:
1. Adopting Board of Governors conditions to improve implementation and fiscal accountability for Partnership for Excellence (PFE) by ensuring that:
districts use PFE funds for goals related to student success;
expenditures follow appropriate collegial consultation and effective participation processes as required by Title 5; and
district governing boards review the PFE reports at a public meeting before sending them to Chancellor Nussbaum.
2. Creating an $80 million human resources infrastructure fund to be distributed on an FTES basis to districts, with a small college minimum guarantee. The fund would be earmarked for compensation, benefits and office hours for part-time faculty to be bargained locally. The remainder would go to funding full-time faculty positions; meeting faculty and staff diversity goals; providing employee compensation and staffing; and enhancing and creating programs for staff development. The allocation of the funds will be determined locally, consistent with existing law, through collective bargaining and through collegial consultation and effective participation processes.
3. Revise Title 5 Regulations for the 75/25 full-time/part-time faculty ratio requiring districts to develop a five-year plan, updated annually, for making reasonable progress toward the goal. Progress toward this goal would be made in years where ongoing, unrestricted funds are provided beyond fully-funded cost of living adjustments and growth. Local plans would be developed following appropriate collegial consultation and effective participation processes as required by Title 5.
Particularly important to the success in reaching this agreement has been the continued unity among the faculty organizations across the state. The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges worked closely with the Community College Association of the California Teachers Association (CCA/CTA), as well as the Community College Council of the California Federation of Teachers (CCC/CFT), the California Part-time Faculty Association (CPFA), the California Community College Independents (CCCI), and the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges (FACCC). All contributed to the collective dynamic and effort that pushed the discussion of the budget priorities toward meeting faculty and student needs.
The Academic Senate survey on the uses of the PFE funds created systemwide discussion on the issue of fiscal accountability and student success in the implementation of that program. While clearly many colleges have been doing exciting and essential work to improve student success, many others were not using the funds to address this legislative intent. The California Student Association of Community Colleges (CalSACC) was also active in bringing attention to their concerns about the lack of office hours available to students who take classes with parttime faculty. Their concern about the use of PFE and the involvement of students in local discussions about student success also was critical to the effort.
The work of Assembly Member Scott Wildman in carrying and ultimately passing AB 420 to address part-time faculty benefits and office hours brought hiring and compensation issues to a head. The willingness of the Governor to sign the bill and to order a study of wages and working conditions among part-time faculty was critical. Hearings in the Legislature on issues of part-time employment focused attention on the unmet personnel needs in our system, and further galvanized part-time faculty, who have been organizing, to demand more equity in their pay and professional working conditions. Numerous rallies and writing campaigns highlighted the issues. Assembly Member Sarah Reyes, chair of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee dealing with higher education, forcefully admonished all to come to agreement and speak to the Legislature in one voice.
Ultimately, we should all take heart in the willingness of the Chancellor and the administrative groups to sit down with faculty and students to hammer out a budget that addresses the collective needs of the system. The resultant $80 million budget proposal for human resource needs appears very likely to garner legislative support. Similarly, this unprecedented unity positions us well to advocate for the entire packet of budget priorities which includes: Partnership for Excellence, human resources, equalization, noncredit funding, technology, student outreach and access, faculty and staff diversity funds, scheduled maintenance and workforce equipment, as well as full COLA and growth.
The Board of Governors, too, deserve credit for urging us all toward compromise, and for recognizing and validating the work on the budget at their March meeting.
And hopefully, this new found agreement will become a foundation upon which we can all build an ongoing relationship of mutual respect and advocacy as we go about teaching and counseling and serving students.
If we are to capture these funds for our system, we all need to advocate for our colleges and for the system. There are many competitors for these dollars. I urge you to be active in articulating both the needs and the virtues of your colleges to your local legislators and newspapers. Remember, it's for the students. And please, advocate for the entire package. It's all of a piece.