A Win for Equality and Solidarity at Peralta!

I’ve been on the Peralta Board for over 7 years now. I’ve worked on many issues on many fronts– often successfully, and sometimes with less progress.  One issue, however, that I have always come back to is fighting to give all of the students in our District an equal chance at a good education regardless of which campus they attend.

When I was first elected in 2004, I found that the funding per student at both Laney College and Berkeley City College (BCC- but then called “Vista College”) was significantly lower than the district average. This meant much longer lines for financial and counseling, more difficulty getting classes from core faculty members, and dramatically bigger work-loads for the employees on each of these two campuses.

Despite promises, this situation persisted year after year with only minor progress. In 2008, we had some success. The Board of Trustees unanimously adopted my resolution calling for equitable funding across the District. In turn, the District Administration developed a Budget Allocation Model that promised to bring about change. Unfortunately,  it was mostly just talk with no action. The District would not actually commit to implementing it’s own allocation model by any particular time. Semester after semester, the problem persisted.

Then, last year we made a major breakthrough and BCC was able to bring on 6 new full-timers bringing their total to 42. But even with this progress, Merritt College, teaching the same number of students as BCC, still has 30 more full-time faculty members than it’s sister college. And at Laney College, while there is a higher absolute number of full-time instructors and staff, the ratio of students to full time workers remains significantly below the district average.

The students at BCC and Laney simply have been getting short-changed in both their access to student support services and to full-time faculty members (who are often more experienced, who are able to put in more time mentoring students, who can develop new curriculum, and serving on critical committees, etc).

It’s not that part-timers are not working hard or doing a good job. But, often teaching in multiple districts and making significantly less money than full-timers, these dedicated teachers simply are not able to dedicate the same level of resources to students as full timers. It’s also worth noting that even with the funding they get, the students at the College of Alameda and Merritt still do not get enough. We would love to provide even more to all students. But, when resources are scarce, students at each of our campuses should have an equal shot at whatever resources we do have.

So what has happened that I’m write about this issue now?  At last night’s Peralta Board meeting in the middle of budget deliberations for the coming year we were finally able to get a firm commitment from the Peralta administration to equalize staffing across the District by the time the Board is asked to vote on a final budget for 2012-2013 this fall. This is a major breakthrough. For the first time ever the Peralta administration has made a public commitment to bring about equitable funding by a specific date.  They also have a plan to do so by shifting the positions of those faculty and staff members who retired from the District this year– 30 positions in all.

When we fulfill this long-standing promise, then for the first time in the history of the District each college will share equally in the benefits and the burdens experienced by all. Students throughout the district will be able to expect equitable and even services regardless of campus. And, finally, after many long years we will be able to move forward as one district in solidarity with each other in service to our students and community.