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Academic Senate Newsletter

Monday March 23, 2009

The On-Going Budget Crisis - Stay Alert

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The student rally on March 16th to “Rescue Education” was well timed and well attended. Nearly five thousand people participated in the march from Raley Field to the Capitol, and in spite of the relatively good budget news for the community colleges a few weeks ago, the fact is that the state’s budget remains in crisis. The leaders of the Student Senate are to be commended for organizing the event, from the permits and line-up of speakers to the legislative visits and press packets.

The 2009-2010 budget was founded on quite a few assumptions that have failed to hold up - including increased tax receipts. The day of the rally, the Legislative Analyst’s Office reported an anticipated additional $8 billion shortfall in revenues that would have to be filled. The budget was also crafted on the assumption that voters would pass a series of revenue-related propositions on May 19th. Early word is that organized opposition to the propositions is growing. Proposition 1A focuses on stabilizing state funding through restrictions on using single-year revenue spikes on on-going expenditures and setting up a rainy-day fund. 1A also determines how long the tax package approved as part of the budget will last. Without 1A the taxes will continue for two years. Under 1A, the taxes will continue for four years. Proposition 1B, which essentially increases funding by $9.3 billion for K-14, is dependent on the passage of 1A. Propositions 1C, 1D, and 1E redirect funds from the lottery, child development, and mental health to help with the budget. For those looking to the federal stimulus package, aka the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), to help bail us out, it is clear from Chancellor Scott’s recent update that the these monies will do little to address the fundamental funding issues facing the community colleges.

With the special election scheduled for May 19th, the Governor’s May Revise to the 2009-2010 budget, normally scheduled for the middle of the month, is forecast to come out around June 8. Most of us will be well into the summer break by then. I think it is a virtual certainty that the “May Revise” will present additional challenges to our already cash-strapped colleges. Vital decisions about local budgets will thus be decided over the summer. I cannot stress enough the importance of local senates staying alert and planning for how they will remain meaningfully engaged in budgeting and planning over the coming summer.

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The accreditation cycle churns on, and many of our colleges are undergoing their site visits this month. The Accrediting Commission will meet in early June, and their next report is expected at the end of that month. Frustration over the lack of technical assistance from the Commission for addressing the standards and the concomitant rise in the number of colleges being sanctioned is growing among all constituencies. In order to address this, the president of the CEO Board and I jointly brought forward the topic for discussion at the most recent Consultation Council meeting. Two things emerged from this initial discussion. The Commission has stated that the number of sanctions we are experiencing is not out of line with that experienced by the other regions. The Commission says that each region has experienced such an increase after adopting standards more rigorously tied to data, accountability, and program review; however, other regions adopted these standards many years before our region. Therefore, one of the first tasks will be for a Consultation workgroup to collect this historical data for the regions to see if this interpretation holds up. Second, one of our state vice-chancellors recently participated in national discussions on accreditation, and what she learned is that each region has implemented these standards differently. Many regions have provided a much stronger technical assistance approach to helping colleges rise to the standards. Our region is characterized by a much stronger use of sanctions to bring colleges into compliance.

The Consultation Council will have a facilitated discussion of accreditation issues at its May meeting, and the hope is to come up with actions that we can jointly take - faculty, staff, students, and administrators - to respond to our common concerns over accreditation of our colleges.

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Other Consultation Council News

The Consultation Council has been quite active, and many issues of especial concern to faculty have been brought to Consultation. Consultation is moving forward with a task force to look at the issues confronting faculty who are considering moving into administration. With governance issues high on the list of recommendations leading to accreditation sanctions, it is more important than ever that our administrators are well-grounded in the principles of participatory governance. Having faculty move into administration is one way to address this long-standing problem. The task force hopes to identify impediments and come up with approaches to remove or overcome those disincentives.

At the request of the Board of Governors, Consultation will revisit the question of why the system is not making any progress on the 75:25 Full-time: Part-time instructor ratio, beginning with a review of the Workgroup on 75/25 Issues Report and Recommendations, which was brought forward by a Consultation task force in June 2005. Upon completion of the report, then Chancellor Drummond decided not to move on the report’s recommendations.

Several changes to Title 5 have moved through Consultation and now are on their way to the Board of Governors for approval. You should recognize several of them as concepts that originated in resolutions of the Academic Senate. The changes include adding a third list to the disciplines list to allow for specific BA/BS and AA/AS degrees, defining the associate in science as distinct from the associate in arts, and provisions related to withdrawal, repetition, and supervision of clinical settings for early childhood education students.

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Spring Plenary Session

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Our Spring Plenary Session is just a few weeks away, and you should all have received the packet of pre-session resolutions and supporting materials, which will be discussed at our Area meetings at the end of the month. We have received very positive responses to putting the supporting materials on a CD, thereby saving reams of paper and also postage. There are over thirty pre-session resolutions, and they include changes to the disciplines list, proposals regarding equivalency to the minimum qualifications, and approval of four position papers. Given the large number of resolutions and the extensive supporting materials, I encourage you to delegate some of the work to the members of your local senate. It is one way to effectively prepare for the Area meeting, and it is also a way to further involve the members of your local senate in the larger work of the Academic Senate as a whole.

In addition to our breakouts and resolutions voting, elections will comprise a significant part of this plenary session. You will be voting for a new president and vice-president, and early signs are that there is great interest in all officer positions. While you may consider it premature to put yourself forward for an officer position, you should consider whether or not you would like to run for one of the other slots on the Executive Committee. In addition to the officers, there are five other races for representatives from Area A, Area D, North, South, and At-Large. More information about what service on the Executive Committee entails and how to be nominated to run is included in your pre-session packet. 

For more information about the Spring Plenary Session.

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In Closing

I look forward to seeing you at the SFO Westin in mid-April.

Mark Wade Lieu
President, Academic Senate for California Community Colleges

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