Mahler – SF Chronicle Op Ed

Dear Colleagues,


The San Francisco Chronicle picked up my Op-Ed opposing the Governor’s new community college funding formula proposal:

Governor’s proposed community college funding plan favors Republican-led districts

By Jim Mahler

June 7, 2018 Updated: June 7, 2018 5:15pm

It’s taken for granted that in crafting the state budget, Republican legislators are bystanders while the Democratic supermajority makes the major fiscal decisions. But Republican lawmakers and their constituents will have a new reason to celebrate if the governor’s proposed community-college-funding formula becomes law.

The governor’s 2018-19 budget proposes a record-setting increase of nearly $1 billion in new resources to the California Community Colleges system. It also ensures that 67 percent of the community college districts that will benefit the most from these new riches will be districts represented by Republicans.

The new formula purportedly was devised to help districts with a higher percentage of at-risk students. But 20 percent of the new funding is based on student “performance” indicators, despite the fact that research shows that performance funding inadvertently hurts students of color and low-income students, and the colleges that serve large numbers of them.

Recognizing the negative impact the formula will have on the finances of a majority of community colleges, the governor has included a provision that guarantees no college will receive less than its 2017-18 allocation for the next two years.

But after that? As the woman said just as she fell out of the high-rise window: “I don’t see any problem yet.”

The governor wants this new funding formula so badly he has allocated 54 percent of all new community college money to fund this provision. The fact that he needs the allocation to “fix” the shortcomings should be telling in and of itself.

Several years ago, the Legislature adjusted the funding formula to ensure all districts received equal revenue per student served. This new proposal widens the gap between the richest and poorest districts by more than 25 percent after just two years, thus canceling out the previous effort to ensure all community college districts are equally, and fairly, funded.

The vast majority of students this new formula claims to help are disproportionately found in noncredit programs, yet there is no provision in the new formula to address the needs of noncredit college students.

The proposed formula also strips the Legislature of its authority to set a statewide funding formula.

Stakeholder constituent groups have criticized the formula, saying it was created with little or no input, and was hastily constructed without the benefit of simulations that would show the long-term effects.

The California Community Colleges system is the largest system of higher education in the nation, serving more than 2 million students, roughly one-quarter of the nation’s community college students. Students and community college districts would be better served by following the Assembly Budget Committee’s recommendation to study this matter in much greater detail, including input from all system stakeholders, and report back to the Legislature next year. As El Camino Community College President Dena P. Maloney recently put it, this is “the worst experiment in public higher education California has ever seen.”

The governor’s proposal is not just bad politics; it’s bad policy for our colleges and our students.

Jim Mahler is president of the Community College Council of the California Federation of Teachers.