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Calbright funds would be better spent on health benefits for part-time community college faculty

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Abstract

Just as the coronavirus crisis magnifies systemic inequities in societies across the globe, it also magnifies systemic absurdities. Now the absurdity of pouring taxpayer dollars into Calbright, a project that is fiscally wasteful, is impossible to ignore. As taxpayers who love and benefit from the community colleges, we have an opportunity to address such absurd spending. When people’s lives are in jeopardy, this kind of spending should be called out and redirected into educationally and ethically sound investments.
Calbright funds would be better spent on health
benefits for part-time community college faculty
APRIL 24, 2020 | DEBBIE KLEIN
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This commentary was updated on April 28, 2020 to more accurately reflect Calbright College enrollment.
albright College
albright College
albright College
albright College, a fully online institution serving a tiny student body, is the
California community colleges’ newest entity.
The Faculty Association of California Community Colleges (FACCC), a statewide
professional association representing 9,000 faculty members at 114 colleges, has long
contended that Calbright violates state law by
duplicating programs
duplicating programs
duplicating programs
duplicating programs already offered by
PHOTO: JULIE LEOPO/EDSOURCE
HIGHLIGHTING STRATEGIES FOR STUDENT SUCCESS
other community colleges and therefore has neither added to nor enhanced the services
provided by the community college system.
Now that the 114 accredited community colleges have gone fully online, I believe the state
has no need for Calbright.
The community college system should divert the remainder of Calbright’s $100 million
startup funding, in addition to the $20 million ongoing monies, into health benefits for
part-time faculty. During this public health crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic,
the colleges must prioritize health benefits for the faculty upon whom the system relies. By
diverting the funding, the system would be making a fiscally smart and ethical investment
in the 2.1 million students attending the other 114 community colleges.
Calbright has enrolled around 40 students in one of its three programs, while a few
hundred students are enrolled in what are called “essential courses. Of those, 35 percent
have a bachelor’s or associate degree, which
is not Calbright’s intended targeted
is not Calbright’s intended targeted
is not Calbright’s intended targeted
is not Calbright’s intended targeted
population
population
population
population. Calbright was intended to reach a population of workers with a high school
diploma in need of courses that would help them advance in their careers; this is the
population served by all 114 community colleges.
Not only has Calbright not fulfilled its purpose, but it is the only community college
without its own academic senate, which by state law is responsible for consulting with the
administration on all
academic and professional matters
academic and professional matters
academic and professional matters
academic and professional matters. Its faculty are not represented by
a union. (Faculty members at the other colleges are represented by one of three unions.)
Calbright’s board of trustees is the only governing board not elected by the community it
serves. Instead, its board is the community college systems
Board of Governors, whose
members are appointed by the governor. Finally, Calbright is not accredited and still has
a long way to go to fully get off the ground. Calbright is an experiment that has
unfortunately gone awry and is now obsolete.
Continuing to invest taxpayer dollars in Calbright is unconscionable. Investing in faculty
health benefits will ensure that the faculty remain healthy and able to continue teaching
the courses students need to meet their educational goals.
Although the California Education Code deems part-time faculty to be temporary
employees, part-time faculty are not only permanent but have comprised 70% of all
community college faculty for well over two decades. The pandemic illuminates the
inequities suffered by these part-time faculty members who are essential for keeping the
college doors open. Most part-time faculty do not have access to health benefits; those
who do are now in the position of losing their benefits because of the changing work
environment caused by the pandemic.
Just as the coronavirus crisis magnifies systemic inequities in societies across the globe, it
also magnifies systemic absurdities. Now the absurdity of pouring taxpayer dollars into
Calbright, a project that is fiscally wasteful, is impossible to ignore. As taxpayers who love
and benefit from the community colleges, we have an opportunity to address such absurd
spending. When people’s lives are in jeopardy, this kind of spending should be called out
and redirected into educationally and ethically sound investments.
The time is now for the community colleges to lead the way in implementing best
practices for part-time faculty health care. As the community colleges re-envision
education through the lens of equity and social justice during and after this public health
crisis, the system should implement best practices for faculty support, which will ensure
student learning, engagement, growth and success.
•••
Debbie Klein is the 2019-2021 president of the Faculty Association of California Community
Colleges and a professor of anthropology at
Gavilan College
Gavilan College
Gavilan College
Gavilan College in Gilroy.
FACCC
FACCC
FACCC
FACCC is a
professional membership association that advocates for California Community College faculty.
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