Mayor London Breed and several supervisors stepped in Monday to save some community classes for older and aging adults threatened by class cuts at City College of San Francisco.
When the college suddenly cut 288 spring classes in November, it wiped out nearly all the classes in its Older Adults Program serving seniors and adults with disabilities. Breed and supervisors Norman Yee, Catherine Stefani, Ahsha Safaí, Aaron Peskin and Rafael Mandelman on Monday announced a funding plan to restore some of those classes.
“City College is having to make some tough choices to address ongoing structural financial issues, and while that is happening we can lessen the impact for our seniors who visit our community centers to enrich their lives,” said Breed in a statement. “Many of our older adults rely on these classes, which keep them active and connected to the community, and I’m glad we’re able to find a way to ensure that they can continue.”
The City will use $216,000 annually from the Dignity Fund, which voters passed in 2016 to support older adults and adults with disabilities, to fund 17 of the 50 classes cut in the program. Nonprofits like the Jewish Community Center, Self-Help for the Elderly, and YMCA Stonestown will take over the administration of the classes, which are expected to serve about 1,000 people.
But it’s not clear how similar the curriculum will be to the classes CCSF developed, or if any of the laid-off community college instructors will be rehired to teach. The community groups hosting the classes will also find instructors and manage enrollment and curriculum for the next three years, according to the Mayor’s Office.
“The announcement from the mayor today is certainly concerning, because it suggests [The City will] allow the defunding of a public institution and give city funding to private institutions,” said Jenny Worley, president of the college’s faculty union AFT 2121. “We have created these programs, we have the infrastructure and the experience to run them.”
Supervisor Shamann Walton said he shares concerns that the change could take away equitable pay from instructors and that a long-term plan is needed. Before the latest round of cuts came in November, CCSF had already cut 554 credit and 309 non-credit classes and left more than 100 instructors without jobs in order to balance a $32 million budget deficit, the Examiner previously reported. The cuts occurred despite a recent city commitment to funding the Free City College, a program providing subsidized tuition for city residents that was expected to help bring back enrollment after an accreditation crisis.
“I don’t believe that this addresses what the real need is as a whole,” Walton said of the plan to divert the older adult program classes to other agencies. “These are the things where if we all work together, we could come up with a strategy.”
That strategy may be hard to come by when CCSF leaders have different ideas about where to take the college. Chancellor Mark Rocha has defended the cuts in a letter, saying they are part of a “long-planned restructuring” to prioritize graduation rates over community offerings and comply with the new school funding mechanism under state law. The Chancellor’s Office did not respond to a request for comment by press time Monday.
In December, Walton proposed a $2.7 million emergency appropriation from the city’s budget reserves to restore the 300 classes cut the previous month, while Supervisor Gordon Mar sought a set-aside from the Public Education Enrichment Fund. A hearing on the impact of the recent cuts is expected in January.