Fool us once…

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing you this with a heavy heart. What I have to say here may at first seem counter-intuitive—as you know, City College faculty are champions of funding for public education. But please stick with me, because I need you to know about a serious mistake the City College of San Francisco Board of Trustees is about to make.

The trustees are in the midst of a major decision that they claim is beneficial to City College and to faculty in particular—but they are deciding this over our Union’s opposition and while taking little if any account of our concerns. Four years early, the Board wants to re-authorize and increase the Prop A Parcel Tax that was meant to help City College continue to offer the classes and programs San Francisco residents need. Voter handbook legal text of Prop A -- Purpose

Unfortunately, that is not how the college has spent this funding. Instead, administrators have slashed course offerings, cut teachers and other employees, and cut the pay of remaining faculty. All while carrying on the most difficult and drawn-out negotiations process in memory. And while spending more on administration. Incredibly, not one dollar of Prop A funding was spent on instruction in the classroom in 2014-15. In 2015-16, not one dollar was budgeted for classroom instruction. (Read more about Prop A misspending in this flyer.)

Horrifyingly, Prop A has been used in an accounting shell game to keep money from classroom instruction and further the District’s plan to downsize our college. The revenue from Prop A has not just been spent outside the classroom, but used in a shell game in their attempts to meet state requirements that a minimum of 50% of General Fund expenditures must be spent on classroom instruction. The District includes Prop A money with the Unrestricted General Fund money in its overall budget but then excludes that same money from 50% law calculations, sidestepping the requirements and effectively increasing the amount of money it can spend on non-instructional costs—like administrative salaries, for instance. By spending all parcel tax funds on noninstructionalexpenditures, it can “off load” these millions from the General Fund in its 50% law reporting. Administration hid the fact that budgeted and actual expenditures of these monies were largely unrelated: they’ve moved these funds around at the last minute. Ultimately, these accounting games have allowed the administration to keep money out of the classroom.

Got it? Basically, not only are they not spending these funds as promised: they are using parcel tax monies to cut classes and keep faculty salaries low. These actions are a deep betrayal to the faculty, students, and community who worked hard to pass Proposition A—and the many voters who said “yes.”

The Board of Trustees only recently regained its powers after a several-year state takeover; perhaps they could not have avoided some of this tragedy while the Special Trustees with Extraordinary Powers were calling all the shots. But we brought information about the misuse of parcel tax funds to their attention many months ago, as they returned to control, and they took no action to correct the issues. In fact, they did not seem to believe that the spending was of any real concern.

Voter handbook legal text of Prop A -- AccountabilitySo perhaps it’s no surprise that the legally required Citizen’s Oversight Committee has never met. Not even once. The committee should have provided the public with annual reports detailing the use of the parcel tax funds. Only when we made clear to the Board our opposition to renewal of the Parcel Tax at this time did they finally appoint a committee and call a meeting for Thursday, 6/23/16.

We support funding for our college, and we have been at the forefront of the fight to restore funding for California’s public education system. City College faculty advocated passionately and tirelessly in favor of the Parcel Tax to save our college in 2012, and voters overwhelmingly supported a tax that promised to maintain essential courses and keep teachers in the classroom.

But we cannot in good conscience be party to a lie, or allow administration and the Board of Trustees to leverage the good reputation of our college and the education it offers in such an irresponsible way. The Board and Chancellor Susan Lamb hope to use the economic hardship they have imposed on City College faculty to blackmail us into support, claiming that some new tax revenue will go toward faculty raises, despite the irresponsible and dismissive attitude they have taken toward faculty, students, community, and the voters thus far.

When our Delegate Assembly became aware of the District’s action, members voted unanimously to urge our AFT 2121 Executive Board to take action. (See this Delegate Assembly resolution.) Fortunately, the original parcel tax does not expire until 2020, so the Board of Trustees has time over the next months and years to correct the abuses of the past and regain the public trust—before going back to the voters.

So, how can you help? We need to send the message that CCSF must spend the tax dollars as voters intended. AFT 2121 does not support reauthorizing the parcel tax on the November 2016 ballot. Can you join your colleagues at the Prop A Citizens’ Oversight Committee meeting this Thursday, 6/23 at 9:30am at 33 Gough St.? (Email aft@aft2121.org.) Once the Board has taken responsible measures, San Francisco voters will be able to renew this tax with confidence that their elected board will use the funds as the voters intended and were promised.

In Unity,
Tim Killikelly
AFT 2121 President

Contact AFT 2121 at 415-585-2121 or visit us online at aft2121.org. Follow us on Facebook.
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