California requires all 112 community colleges in the state to submit annual financial reports to the State Chancellor’s Office for review and verification to ensure that federal, state and local money is legally approved and well spent, and that operation and maintenance costs are built in.
The State Chancellor approved and verified City College’s annual financial and budget reports from 2004-05 through 2011-12, the most recently verified report. According to Sacramento, CCSF was not in serious financial difficulty from 2004-05 through 2011-12 and was not on state watch. In other words, CCSF was in good shape with strong financial ending balances that exceeded state standards.
So what’s the problem now?
Sacramento clearly wants to change the school into a traditional junior college. And now, despite the good news out of the courts and the City Attorney’s Office, there are serious threats that remain, eight danger traps that could cause serious damage to CCSF and San Francisco’s educational and economic opportunities.
1. CCSF goes on probation: CCSF could be placed on probation. In that scenario, Sacramento would have total control. The elected Community College Board will not be reinstated. The special trustee would remain in power. Sacramento would call the shots until CCSF is downsized and made into the more-limited institution that state wants. Forget access, adult education, job training and diversity. Look for more evaluations, reports, paper work, and Sacramento changes.
2. March 15 letters: Except for a chosen few, everyone at City College will get the infamous March 15 letters to notify them that they may not be employed or coming back in Fall, 2014–due to lack of funds and/or needs of the college. Beware the Ides of March and terminations.
3. No one is safe: Look for more CCSF downsizing with administrators, managers, deans, department chairs, faculty and staff terminations, layoffs and cut backs. Under probation, the unions have little power left to stop cutbacks and terminations.
4. New outside hires: Sacramento may hire more administrators, faculty and staff to run the college Sacramento’s way, once the current layoffs and terminations are completed.
5. San Francisco bonds for Sacramento plans: Sacramento could put a SF General Obligation Bond on the 2014 SF ballot to raise money for Sacramento — and to hide the financial disasters caused by 1997, 2001, and 2005 bond overspending that caused the subsequent defunding of facility improvements and three major construction projects (for example, the Performing Arts Center) approved by SF voters. All of those misspending and take-away actions were approved by Sacramento.
6. SF holds the bag: San Francisco voters and residents will be stuck with paying off approximately $395 million in current bond debts while Sacramento goes after more bond money to cover up the overspending and siphoning of previous bond money that the state mishandled and ignored.
7. Additional financing and money problems: Look for more reorganization and threats to neighborhood programs and educational campuses and the Ocean campus.
8. Probation forever: Closure is not an option for politicians and bureaucrats. Closure would cause serious political problems for Sacramento, the governor, accreditation commissions, national accreditation organizations, the Department of Education and the State chancellor. But using probation politics, the California Community College’s State Chancellor’s Office and Board of Directors and the governor could control City College for years to come.
BACK TO LOCAL CONTROL
More than 80,000 students attend City College each year. San Francisco residents and voters support the college. They don’t want a water-downed junior college in their back yard.
There is a financial reality. Everyone agrees with a central finding of the accreditation commission. City College was horribly financially mismanaged for many years and no one stopped it. A few tried. They did not last. The unions, the faculty, the judge, the City Attorney’s office, the mayor, the SF Chronicle, Examiner and Bay Guardian all acknowledge that terrible damage and danger was caused in the past by City College management’s financial and real estate malfeasance.
San Francisco voters and residents have a right to a detailed analysis to find out where the money went, who got it — and how we can build strong local controls for City College’s financial and bond management in the future.
In this case, the bottom line is in Sacramento’s pockets: If the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office had done its legal, fiduciary job, there would be no reason for any community college to be forced to close and no reason to appoint a Special Trustee with unlimited powers to take-over a college. How many of the remaining 111 community colleges will be next in line for Sacramento control?
Ann Clark, Ph.D. is an educator and graduate of CCSF. She was the recipient of the prestigious state-wide community college faculty John Vasconcellos Advocate of the Year Award.