Although there are a number of recent, positive signs regarding the future of California’s Community Colleges, there are also a number of concerns being expressed by faculty leaders from around the state.
A contingent of MiraCosta FA members attended the Fall, San Diego meeting of the California Community College Independents (CCCI) in October. Advocates for Community College faculty, including the new director of the Faculty Association for California Community College (FACCC), Evan Hawkins, reported that while there is some good reason for optimism, many developments are troubling. On the positive side, recent contract negotiations have helped many faculty to see an upward trend in their income, and an increasing amount of state funding for higher education is being directed to the community colleges.
Longer term trends, however, have concerned many faculty who are involved with statewide leadership. These include deep concerns about the increasing level of control the state legislature is exerting over local Community Colleges (CC’s). More and more of the money received by CC’s is taking the form of earmarked funding in support of statewide mandates ranging from Pathways to the creation of an online community college. While the additional funds appear to be a positive development, many feel the result has been less local control over the direction of community college curriculum and spending priorities. As the state legislature, governor’s office, and CCC Chancellor’s office exert more and more control over our colleges, the influence of faculty discipline experts, local Academic Senates, and unions has declined.
Many community colleges that operate as independent unions (like the MiraCosta FA) are seeing improvements in working conditions. This is particularly the case when it comes to salaries, with independents like Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, and Allen Hancock experiencing significant salary increases. However, other forces threaten to limit or even reverse such improvement. Historically, local community colleges chose how to spend tax dollars. Assuming that those operating at the local level have the best insight into where funds are most needed (especially when faculty play a major role in budgeting), the funds are spent efficiently. However, recently the state government has issued what amounts to spending mandates on pet projects stemming from the governor’s office, the CCC Chancellor’s office, and the state legislature. Many argue that this is not only impacting the efficient use of resources, but it’s also negatively impacting faculty workloads, limiting resources available for compensation, and distracting from the traditional CC values.
There is particular concern regarding the creation of a statewide online community college, which some feel threatens existing online programs and shrinks the amount of state funding available for established community colleges. For more on that subject, follow the link below to an article in the North Coast Current.
While MiraCosta is fortunate to be somewhat insulated from most severe problems related to state budget decisions (thanks to our community-support/basic-aid status), we are impacted by these factors. With that in mind, please consider supporting those who most effectively advocate at the state and federal level on our behalf by joining FACCC. Even if you are not a member, check out the various articles on the FACCC website which help better explain the statewide issues that impact your job.