How Do We Provide Quality Education For a Modest Price?

September 2004 – Peralta is already a place where students can get a great education for a modest price. I believe that greatness at Peralta at this time can be summed up in the three following terms: ACCESS, EQUITY, AND EXCELLENCE.

By “access” I mean that we need to work to insure the ongoing availability of community college resources to students of modest means. With two consecutive years of massive fee increases, we have lost approximately 170,000 students out of the community college system statewide. This is horribly destructive to individual students’ lives, but also leads down the path to economic and civic stagnation for the whole society. We must reverse this trend.

The issues of “equity” are complex and varied. A core value for me is the notion of fairness. We have to make sure that there is a level playing field for people in our society. At Peralta, this means working to insure high success rates for students from groups not traditionally well served by society’s social and educational institutions. There are many fine faculty and staff in the District currently who are committed to equity. We need to support their work and provide even more opportunities for their success.

And, equity and fairness also mean that we must provide good pay and benefits to the teachers, support staff and maintenance workers who make educational success possible. People working in education should neither have to live on the edges of economic security nor have to fight for honor and recognition for their work.

“Excellence” to me means making sure that the quality of education we provide to Peralta students is as good as or better than they can get at ANY other educational institution in California. There is absolutely no reason that we should not be able to do this.

How do we reach these goals? Below are seven strategies specific to Peralta to build towards access, equity and excellence. They are:

  1. Fighting for better access to education through lower fees for students;
  2. Completing and furnishing the new state-of-the-art Vista College campus in downtown Berkeley;
  3. Creating the administrative and fiscal conditions for the District to focus on its primary mission of providing a great education to students;
  4. Creating an open and inclusive process of governance, especially in the areas of budget and finance;
  5. Developing strong ties to local community initiatives through student civic engagement and service learning in non-profit and educational institutions, internships, and business/campus training partnerships.
  6. Reducing administrative overhead and bringing staff compensation towards the norm for the Bay Area’s other community college districts.
  7. Showcasing the District’s best practices to replicate and build on what is already great at Peralta.

But the best ideas for reaching these goals will come from the students, faculty, staff and administrators who are on the ground doing the work. Through an enhanced process of shared governance and the creation of a culture of mutual respect, trust and mission, the best of these ideas will come to the fore. I am confident we CAN make Peralta into a premier educational institution of which the entire community will be very proud.

Finally, winning the struggle for our community colleges, will also require us to build a broader movement for social justice that can reach to Sacramento and beyond that to Washington. We must do this because access to education, fair wages and good benefits, job security, and racial equality are all issues that converge in the community college system. I strongly believe that elected officials and candidates for office have a unique opportunity to use their positions as organizing platforms to bring people together to act collectively for the common good. I hope as a candidate and then as an elected official to work towards this end.