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Resisting Decades of "Reform" Movement Disruption in the California Community Colleges


Abstract and Figures

Why have so many advocacy organizations whose decision makers have little, if any, direct experience within the California Community Colleges, successfully determined the policy and funding direction of the system over the past few decades? In 2020, I began researching a range of California-based advocacy organizations which have redefined the mission for the California Community Colleges to meet the goals of the so-called education “reform” agenda. As education historian and former US Assistant Secretary of Education, Diane Ravitch has revealed through her body of work, the unhidden intention of these policies has been to defund, disrupt, and dismantle public education. Compelled by Ravitch’s argument in Slaying Goliath: The Passionate Resistance to Privatization and the Fight to Save America’s Public Schools that “The Resistance” has successfully defeated the reform agenda in K-12, I believe it is time for a successful resistance movement within the California Community Colleges. The purpose of this article is to call out the educational “reform” movement’s agenda and plant the seed for an organized resistance to the policies that have been defunding, disrupting, and dismantling the California Community Colleges for the past two decades.
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In this virtual presentation, Debbie Klein discusses the impact philanthrocapitalist foundations have had on California Community Colleges over the past 20 years. Philanthrocapitalist-funded nonprofits have claimed to promote equity but have implemented policies that apply corporate efficiency models to public education, resulting in a disconnect between their goals and the outcomes of their policies. As a result, their policies have created more barriers to enrollment and success, leading to a loss of over one million students in the system over a decade. Philanthrocapitalists and the nonprofits they fund have intentionally shrunk and defunded the California Community Colleges over the past two decades. This presentation argues for the need to build a campaign to reclaim and reinvent life-affirming education for the largest and most diverse student body in higher education in the United States.
Over the last two decades, federal and state policy makers have launched a number of ambitious, large-scale education reform initiatives —No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, the Common Core State Standards, and others — only to see them sputter and fail. In 2017, the authors convened a number of leading scholars to explore why those initiatives failed and what can be learned from them. Participants agreed that to be more successful in the future, reformers will need to balance ambition and urgency with humility, political acumen, and the ability to recognize when it’s time to slow down or scale things back.
Education isn't enough. The Atlantic
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Hanauer, N. (2019). Education isn't enough. The Atlantic. Retrieved February 17, 2021, from
Slaying Goliath: The passionate resistance to privatization and the fight to save America's public schools
  • Diane Ravitch
Ravitch, Diane. (2020). Slaying Goliath: The passionate resistance to privatization and the fight to save America's public schools. New York: Penguin Random House LLC.
Free City!: The fight for San Francisco's City College and education for all
  • M Rein
  • M Ellinger
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Rein, M., Ellinger, M. & Legion, V. (2021). Free City!: The fight for San Francisco's City College and education for all. Oakland: PM Press.