City College Cutbacks Could Harm the Community. It Doesn’t Have to be This Way.

City College of San Francisco has already laid off 38 faculty members with more staff cutbacks to come while reducing classes and student resources. Instructors and staff have already taken a pay-cut to encourage class maintenance, while the boards have increased their personal pay. Students and staff are demanding transparent and open statements from the board: why are classes and teachers being cut during a California budget surplus?

City College is facing another round of class and service cuts under the stance of budget reform. There are 300 staff layoffs proposed in several departments including English as a Second Language (ESL), Extended Opportunity Programs and Services, and Engineering & Technology.

The elected Board of Trustees and new chancellor David Martin argue that layoffs are needed to balance the college’s budget  for the future of the college. Staff and student activists say the college has not  adequately sought available funding. Possible sources, they say, include federal COVID-19 emergency funding and California’s $29 billion budget surplus. During last year’s City budget negotiations, teachers took a pay cut to avoid further class cuts and layoffs, despite a voter-approved parcel tax aimed at maintaining staffing levels through the 2031-2032 fiscal year.

The layoffs could reduce further student enrollment and cause teachers to lose income which could result in more homeless San Franciscans. The downsizing and restructuring of the college could change its status from a community college to a junior  college focused on transferring its students to a four-year university as part of the State chancellor’s  “Vision of success” program. 

Currently, the college has programs for older adults, homeless students, ESL students and lifelong learning class options. In the 2013-2014 academic year, the college was hit with—and successfully appealed—a major public accreditation audit that delivered a blow to the college’s reputation and its enrollment figures. 

Laura Cohen, a student and campus employee, works to help the students and staff fight back against the cuts.

“[They are] taking away staff in order to maintain this budget, which, by the  way, is not the only budget. It’s just the one that they’ve (the board) convinced themselves is the only way to go,” she said. 

The college’s staff union came up with a budget proposal to minimize class cuts. I reached  out to The Homeless At-Risk Transitional Students (HARTS) Program to see how they would be affected by the cuts. They have not yet responded. 

City College currently serves a diverse population:low-income and homeless students; Black and indigenous people of color; immigrants and older adults throughout San Francisco. They also serve San Francisco’s homeless population by helping them develop skills and    keep them housed with financial aid money. 

Members of the community can support City College by learning about the current Board of Trustees, attending the trustees’ meetings in real life or virtually, and voting in board elections.