Budget cuts at CCSF leave some students in the lurch 

click to enlarge Many students bought textbooks only to have the class cancelled. - SF EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • SF Examiner file photo
  • Many students bought textbooks only to have the class cancelled.

The surprise loss of $3.6 million in funding has forced City College of San Francisco officials to cancel nearly 100 classes mid-semester and furlough some employees for up to 15 days.

Jeffrey Fang, who represents the college’s 90,000 students on the board of trustees, said his classmates were upset that so many courses were cancelled after they had already bought books and attended class for weeks. Some would miss out on the credits they need to transfer to a four-year-school, he said.

“We’re angry,” he said. “This is extremely short-sighted. It’s stupid. And we’re tired of it.”

California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott said in February that the 112-college system was facing an unexpected $149 million shortfall, attributed to higher demand for need-based student fee waivers and lower-than-expected property tax revenues. That is the equivalent of 2.75 percent of the system’s annual budget, but with only four months remaining in the fiscal year, the pain will be more than doubled.

“We consider it a crisis,” said John Rizzo, president of the college’s Board of Trustees, which voted for the furloughs at its monthly meeting last week.
“It’s one thing to do it at the beginning of the budget year, when you can spread it out, but this really is unreasonable.”

In addition to cancelling classes and furloughing administrators and nonunionized employees for 15 furlough days this spring, Rizzo said college officials were discussing concessions with the unions that represent faculty and staff.

Alisa Messer, president of American Federation of Teachers 2121, which represents faculty, said that union leaders were discussing the request with members.
“The faculty feel like it’s been really relentless, and it’s demoralizing,” said Messer, who teaches English. “We’ve already had a lot of faculty lose their classes — that’s students without classes and faculty without assignments.”

Second-year student Giovanne Valdez, 20, was a three weeks into a class on alternative energy when the instructor told the 15 students that their course might be cut.

“Then, the fourth week he told us that it had been cut,” Valdez said. “It’s unfortunate that my classes have to be cut, but you gotta do what you gotta do.”

While he was able to take the course online instead, Valdez said that the college’s lost funding made him question the government’s priorities.

Fang said the students’ anger was directed at the state, which cut the college’s $190 million budget by a total of $17 million this year.

“The state is balancing its budget on the backs of students,” said Fang, who planned to join fellow students in Sacramento on March 5 to protest budget cuts to education.

The board of trustees voted last week to support the protest, which is being organized by students and teachers unions across the state, along with the Occupy movement.

The board also voted last week to begin the processes of putting a $74-per-parcel tax on November’s ballot, to offset an expected 8.5 percent budget cut for 2012-13. The tax was expected to raise $14 million per year for the college over the next seven years.


Budget cuts at CCSF

$149 million Total recent cuts to state community college system

$3.6 million Latest funding cut at CCSF

$17 million Total CCSF cuts this year

$809 million Total statewide cuts since 2008-09 school year

CCSF chancellor to step down

City College of San Francisco Chancellor Don Griffin will step down some time this year, college officials said Thursday.

Griffin, who was appointed chancellor in 2008, is planning to retire this summer, said John Rizzo, president of the San Francisco Community College District’s board of trustees.

Rizzo praised Griffin, who was hired in the wake of a corruption scandal involving the previous chancellor and top administrators.

“I think he’s going to be greatly missed,” Rizzo said. “He really goes down as one of the best chancellors we’ve had.”

Rizzo said the trustees would hire an executive search firm to find Griffin’s successor. He said it would be a nationwide hunt.

Griffin’s tenure has been marked by several rounds of budget cuts, as the cash-strapped state has sent less funding to public colleges.

“It’s been constant crisis management,” Rizzo said. “His last big challenge is next year’s budget.”


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