Professional Development (with the emphasis on “Professional”!)

March
2011
Jon Drinnon, Faculty Development Committee Chair

SEC. 70. (a) There is a direct linkage between those sections of this act which constitute the further professionalization of the faculty and the moneys required to enhance the programs of the community colleges for “transitional program improvement,” as specified in Section 84755 of the Education Code.

I don’t think I need to give you three guesses to come up with the source of this quotation. AB1725 of course. In 1988, when this legislation was enacted, the Legislature fully recognized the professional nature of what we do and the need to fund ongoing professional development so faculty could maintain their currency to adjust to shifting student demographics and needs and develop their professional skills. The legislators of the time thought it was critical enough to earmark a 2% funding level for professional development. Shortly after enactment the funding was reduced to .25%, a fraction of what we need to accomplish the original intent of the legislation. And, as we are all painfully aware, since then due to the recent budget cuts and the lack of focus statewide on the importance of professional development, the figure has dropped dramatically, in many cases to 0 depending on the situation at your college or district. Approximately thirty seven percent (36.6%) of 58 colleges responded in a recent Academic Senate faculty development survey they had NO annual faculty development budget.

In spite of the fact that professional development and innovation is hampered by a lack of funds to meet the needs of our students, the California Community College system nonetheless continues to come under a constant barrage of criticism from a variety of directions, with faculty taking the brunt of much of the criticism. Suggestions for reforms stream in, some valid and others totally erroneous. A system-wide move towards a focus on student learning outcomes and assessment descended from on high, reforms that have admittedly been transformed into a faculty driven movement to improve student learning, faculty teaching and assessment driven pedagogy. Others want reforms that move community colleges from a system of funding that emphasizes open access to funding based on student “success” tied to completion of courses and programs. Where is the discussion of providing needed resources for professional development in the face of all these additional duties and responsibilities and ideas for reform? The legislators who wrote AB1725 actually anticipated just this thing. They said:

SEC. 70. (1) “Phase I of transitional program improvement,” as used in this section, means a period of reform during which community college programs are improved and enhanced to prepare an appropriate environment for the subsequent professionalization of faculty. In this connection, the Legislature finds and declares that it would be an unsound and wasteful policy to expend moneys to professionalize faculty without first making the program changes necessary to enable that faculty to assume a more effective role in the educational process. It is the intent of the Legislature that those changes, combined in proper sequence with the professional improvement of faculty, will improve the overall quality of education within the system. It is the intent of the Legislature that moneys appropriated during Phase I fully fund any state-mandates created pursuant to this section. (emphasis added)

Clearly the Legislature’s intent was to couple funding program reform with funding faculty professional development. They knew that one cannot be done without the other. The Academic Senate has repeatedly taken the position that faculty need to be fully involved in the creation of program reform as well as the implementation, tasks which require regular appropriate levels of professional development funding. If the funding levels for professional development were kept as originally intended (2%), faculty might well be in the forefront of the student success reform battle advocating for reforms that we deem necessary from the inside. As far as faculty are concerned, AB1725 is the law that represents the foundation of our modern community college system, but the foundation is cracking around the edges. We need to find a way to fight for just enforcement of AB1725. We don’t need a new law. We just need proper enforcement of what we already have.

The Academic Senate has a number of resolutions that ask the Senate to campaign in one way or another for increased funding for professional development. One of the most recent, 12.01 F09, asks us to “explore with local colleges the historical and current funding levels for faculty development committees, faculty representation, decision making processes, and types of activities that are funded by faculty development committees and present findings in an appropriate venue” and to consider “future actions to support local senates relative to faculty development functions.” The Academic Senate Faculty Development Committee conducted the aforementioned survey to which an impressive 58 colleges responded. It was clear from the survey that funding for professional development committees across the state has been cut dramatically since the budget crisis. The results of the survey are available upon request. One of the most salient and also disturbing findings was that 75% of respondents indicated that they had no stated goals or outcomes for their committees. Under those circumstances how can we possibly organize any movement for change? The committees are cast adrift without direction, without any sense of hope for the future. Add to that the fact that our statewide organizations do not have a unified plan to fight for appropriate professional development funding, and we have a recipe for failure. Whenever funding for professional development is brought up people always give up before they even start. They say, “Be realistic.” Or “Now is definitely not the time.” Or “Let’s wait until things improve.” I say, now is the time. It is now or never. We can do this, but only if we form a unified coalition of like minded professional development groups to lobby for enforcement of the law, to fight for adequate funding for faculty professional development.

Part of the Faculty Development Committee charge from 12.01 F09 was to disseminate the results from the survey, which we did at a very well-attended breakout at 2010 Fall Plenary Session and in this Rostrum article, and to come up with future directions. We vetted a resolution on the future at the breakout that met with approval by the attendees; the resolution, 12.01 F10, Developing Goals for Faculty Development Committees, was approved unanimously by the body. The resolves urge local senates to require their committees to develop goals; and senates, professional development committees and administrations to explore alternative funding for committees, BUT most importantly it resolves that:

the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges create a coalition of Faculty Development groups inviting participation of the following: the Faculty Association for California Community Colleges (FACCC) faculty development committee, California Community College Council for Staff, Program and Organizational Development (4C/SD), the faculty unions, the Chancellor’s Office, and other interested parties with liaisons between the groups to develop a strategy to push for the 2% level of faculty development funding that was guaranteed by passage of AB 1725.

From personal experience I have seen the impact of transformative politics with other movements in the past — the anti-war and civil rights movements in the 60s and 70s, the environmental justice movement in the 80s, 90s to the present. Citizen organizers Harry Boyte and Sara Evans say this transformation creates free spaces,
settings which create new opportunities for self-definition, for the development of public and leadership skills, for a new confidence in the possibilities of participation, and for wider mappings of the connections between movement members and other groups and institutions. *
These movements for social justice empowered and transformed the community into activists who had the ability and will to fight for change and win through collaboration with other individuals, groups and institutions. That is exactly what our resolution calls for. We need to transform ourselves into activists who firmly believe in our cause and have the will to succeed. We need to come together to create a unified movement. The Faculty Development Committee is convinced that solidarity and concerted action will change the course of professional development funding from perpetual decreases to what the law requires, a perpetual 2% of our budget. We already have AB1725. We just need it enforced. But we need to work together.

* Sara M. Evans and Harry C. Boyte, Free Spaces: The Sources of Democratic Change in America xix (1986)

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