The battle to stop the privatization of community colleges jumped into high gear last week when CCSF was given one year to keep its doors open and beat back a ruling that strips its accreditation. The shocking decision by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) would close one of the largest campuses in the nation effective July 31, 2014. CCSF is noted for its quality academics that serve a diverse spectrum of workingclass students, primarily students of color.
A second blow came from Brice Harris, Chancellor of California Community Colleges, who, with the blessing of San Francisco’s Mayor Ed Lee, appointed an all-powerful special trustee to supplant the elected Board of Trustees. The trustee tsar would have unlimited power to, for example, close campuses and cancel classes.
The administration plans to ask the ACCJC for a review of their decision, which will take several months. Then, CCSF can file an appeal, also ruled on by the ACCJC.
The loss of accreditation follows eight months of strife after the ACCJC put CCSF on severe sanctions. The administration, enabled by the Board of Trustees, all but gutted the school; redefining its mission, firing employees, chopping classes and student services, and threatening to consolidate women’s, labor, African American and four other divisions into one thin department.
Accreditation as tool of austerity. CCSF is the epicenter of a drive to use private resources for education as public funding dries up. Business interests have hijacked higher-ed policy, and now the Obama administration is trying to enforce the new policy using accreditation as its axe. With the Democrats leading the assault, no surprise Democrat Mayor Lee weighed in on the side of privatizers.
The ACCJC, while a private body, is granted authority by the Department of Education and is under severe federal pressure to get tough. Since CCSF’s academic record is excellent, the accreditors are focusing their fire power on CCSF’s fiscal health. After $53 million in state cuts over three years, the school is hurting.
The pattern of events at CCSF is the modus operandi of the privatizers. Withhold public funding until the institution is crumbling, then step up to offer private services.
Tax Big Business to Pay for Public Education. The profiteers act as though the pot is empty and there is no choice but to follow the course they have outlined. Opponents of this plan are labeled the problem, as expressed by Chancellor Harris: “Everyone at the college must work with us…To delay or obstruct progress will only ensure the demise of CCSF.”
But they lie—there is an alternative: fund public education by taxing the rich and corporations. Chevron oil, headquartered in California, banked $26.2 billion in 2012. Yet they pay no extraction tax to the state, a potential source of revenue estimated at $2 billion annually.
The wealth exists. It’s a question of priorities, as voiced in demands like, “No to wars and prisons! Money for education!”
Build a powerful community/labor fight back. Two days after the ACCJC shocker, an editorial by the SF Chronicle warned: “Faculty and labor groups have dug in against the changes…Continuing this rear-guard fight will only delay the necessary job of improving City College.”
Save CCSF, a coalition of outraged students, staff, faculty and the community, has fought valiantly this past year. To their credit, despite the big guns now aimed at them, they vow to fight on, not just to restore accreditation, but to keep CCSF public, multi-dimensional, accessible and affordable.
Now Save CCSF needs to expand its reach, by looking for support from others facing privatization, in K-12 schools and at other California community colleges and with striking workers from BART and the City of Oakland. They also need to bolster the unions at CCSF, currently in contract negotiations.
The profiteers intend to run schools like factories, super-sizing administration, and cutting workers’ benefits, pay and pension contributions, which reduces the quality of education. This can only be achieved by busting unions.
Unfortunately, the CCSF staff union leadership at SEIU 1021, has its head in the sand. The faculty union, AFT 2121 has taken some steps to defend its members. A few months ago, it filed a complaint against the ACCJC that outlines serious conflicts of interest, but which the accrediting commission summarily rejected. Given what is at stake, AFT 2121 needs to be bolder in its opposition and mobilize its members for an all-out battle to save the school.
Working together, Save CCSF and the unions could call for a school wide strike and community teach-in this Fall to build support for keeping the school public and open.
Demand Governor Brown intervene to stop the corporate takeover of CCSF. California’s community college system is an incredibly valuable resource that is key to a better future for poor, workingclass and immigrant residents. If the privatizers have their way those residents will be saddled with massive school loans for the rest of their lives.
CCSF belongs to the public and should be preserved, not privatized. We call on California’s governor to:
• Step in immediately to challenge the legitimacy of the ACCJC ruling as it is not based on academic standards.
• Rescind the Student Success Initiative which incorporates the privatization standards being used to attack CCSF
• Stop the coup by the Board of Governors of California Community Colleges to put CCSF into Trusteeship
• Work to fully fund public K-12 schools and colleges by taxing the state’s corporations
• Support Save CCSF’s efforts to restore CCSF to its former mission and effectiveness