A city fights for its public colleges

When the California Accreditation Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) released the results of its six-year assessment of City College San Francisco in 2012, it found the school so deficient in management that ‘she imposed a series of sanctions that, if ignored, would shut down the college or reduce it to its shadow. The assessment sent shockwaves across the city as the CCSF’s credit and non-credit programs had successfully taught English and awarded associate degrees to hundreds of thousands of newcomer immigrants and working-class city residents since its founding as San Francisco Junior College in 1935.

A five-year campaign to save the CCSF quickly developed. His tactics included everything from campus teachings to sit-ins at town hall, to lawsuits against the ACCJC, to voting measures to secure ongoing funding for the FLSAC, to research on the national effort to derail public education that have been taking place for over a decade.

Pauline Lipman, professor of educational studies at the University of Illinois-Chicago, describes these attacks in the book’s foreword, noting that by digging into what was going on at the CCSF, they discovered that “the same cabal of billionaire philanthropists and corporate foundations and public and private agencies’ were in cahoots not only to redo public education from kindergarten to grade 12, but also to shut down or downsize the CCSF and other colleges and public universities.

Their goal, she writes, is to restructure schools into “for-profit, business-oriented, workforce-training institutions.” As in K-12 public schools, imposing high-stakes assessments, disciplining teachers and their unions, and restricting the curriculum in schools serving working-class students of color are all part of their toolbox. .

The work of the Save CCSF Coalition has identified tech billionaires, student loan companies and foundations that are promoting standardized education across the country.

Free city! does not hesitate to name the culprits of this despicable stratagem. Among them is the Lumina Foundation, an entity created 20 years ago by the Student Loan Marketing Corporation, better known as Sallie Mae, to promote the standardization of classrooms based on the learning outcomes of students at cookie cutter; the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the main architects of the core curriculum and the main proponents of high-stakes testing; The Koch Foundation, created by billionaire brothers Charles and David (1940-2019) Koch, to finance libertarian conservative projects; the new American foundation; and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), created by the Kochs in 1973 to introduce model pro-business legislation in state houses across the country.

Despite these well-heeled opponents, the faculty, students, alumni, and community groups who mobilized to save the FLSAC have kept their eyes on the prize and have continually asked an important question: Does it make sense to shut down a college attended by 80,000 people, while the quality of teaching at this college is not criticized or deemed inadequate?

Since the answer to this question was a resounding ‘NO’, the diverse coalition to save City College – members included Jobs with Justice, Community Housing Partnership, Chinese Progressive Organization, Young Workers United, San Francisco Labor Council , the CCSF Black Student Union, the California Federation of Teachers, the American Federation of Teachers and MeCHA, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Azatlan – decided to organize for what they wanted rather than just fight the ACCJC.

A campaign “for the school our city deserves” led to a successful teachers’ strike in 2016. Emboldened, they finally demanded that the FLSAC be free. Finally, after five years of relentless struggle, then-mayor Ed Lee announced that with the passage of a mansion tax, San Franciscans could attend the CCSF for free starting in 2017.

It was a huge and important victory, but Rein, Ellinger and Legion note that while local politicians chanted that they had created “America’s most inclusive free college program,” the fight left gaping wounds in the world. college body politic. . “The five-year struggle cost the CCSF 23,000 students, 42% of its enrollments, almost a quarter of its credit courses and over 40% of its uncredited sections, mainly English as a second language and skills. core, ”they wrote.“ The college has lost a third of its full-time faculty, 12% of its part-time faculty and 14% of its classified staff. ”

Yet the work of the Save CCSF Coalition, like the courageous work of the Chicago Teachers Union, has identified tech billionaires, student loan companies, and foundations that promote standardized education and the establishment of schools. chartered non-union in all 50 states. They also discovered the many astro-turf groups that exist to degrade teachers as greedy and lazy, essential information for anyone working to elevate public education – from kindergarten to college – as a social good. .

So, let’s take a minute to raise a drink and savor the victory at the CCSF, even as we recognize the colossal work that lies ahead. “The Save CCSF coalition won the battle for history”, Free City! concludes. “In a hostile media environment, they mobilized the love and support that San Franciscan has for City College. They gave people something to fight for.

While other K-12 schools and public universities, including the City University of New York (CUNY) with 25 campuses, find themselves in the crosshairs of the national right, they can draw inspiration and inspiration from the CCSF and fight to win. Free city! is their roadmap.

Free city! The fight for the City College of San Francisco and education for all
Marcy Rein, Mickey Ellinger and Vicki Legion
PM Presse, June 29, 2021

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