Chronicle: Don't question the City College takeover, just submit to the flawed ACCJC

So do we.
Joe Fitzgerald

I have very low expectations from editorials in the San Francisco Chronicle, which generally share a worldview with the Chamber of Commerce and carry water for some powerful Establishment figure or another. But today’s editorial on City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s lawsuit defending City College is so bad and illogical that it reads like an Onion parody of a Chronicle editorial.

Clearly put up to it by some of the most reactionary figures in the Mayor’s Office, Chronicle Editorial Page Editor John Diaz or one his lackeys parrot the submissive stance that Mayor Ed Lee has taken toward outsiders with corporatist agenda that have seized control of City College and sought to make a high-profile example of it.

“The city's leaders should be calling for tough love, not coddling dysfunction. Fortunately, Mayor Ed Lee has done just that - but, regrettably, the city attorney is going in the opposite direct [sic],” the Chronicle wrote.

And by “tough love,” they apparently mean obedient and unquestioning compliance with an obscure accrediting agency’s demand that City College slash community-based curriculum; close facilities relied on by both students and local nonprofit groups; rip up contracts with faculty and force instructors to live on part-time wages; distill course offerings down to just what serve corporations, universities, and banking interests; and other aspects of an educational agenda that hasn't been properly vetted in public hearings or approved by any elected body.

Herrera is to be applauded for pointing out the overreach and conflicts-of-interest on the Accrediting Commission of Community and Junior Colleges, which were also recently criticized by the US Department of Education. And we’re excited to see what Herrera uncovers during the discovery process in his lawsuit against a secretive, corporate-connected, document-shredding agency that broke its own internal rules in its treatment of City College.

The Chronicle graciously refers to these unavoidable facts in a brief paragraph, writing that the ACCJC “is not without flaws. It's secretive, and its internal policies drew a rebuke from the U.S. Department of Education after City College faculty filed complaints about its conduct.”

But then it dimisses that and shows a suspicious incuriosity about why the ACCJC is being so secretive and what its agenda might be, instead doubling down on criticizing City College in a way that is so over-the-top that this fine institution is unrecognizable to anyone who is actually familiar with it, which Diaz and company clearly aren’t.   

“The needed changes include hiring a comptroller to organize financial controls, making sure students pay for classes, and overhauling a loose-fit governance system that puts faculty, students and staff in charge of operations with inadequate administrative controls. Lee has strongly endorsed an overhaul of City College's ramshackle operations,” the Chronicle writes.

Unlike us here at the Guardian, where I’ve written two recent editorials in support of democracy and local control and critical of Lee and others who have been too quick to cooperate with the toppling of the locally elected Board of Trustees, the Chronicle apparently believe in more authoritarian methods of governance.

“The first repairs are now under way. The powers of the elected community college board are on hold, and a special trustee dispatched by state Community College Chancellor Brice Harris is in charge,” the Chronicle writes.

And as we report in our upcoming issue, that special trustee also has no interest in questioning the ACCJC’s process or methods or even allowing the public to review internal communications. It’s a shame that bootlickers like Lee and the Chronicle have sold out such an important local institution to their corporate masters, but luckily for San Francisco, Herrera, the California Federation of Teachers, the Guardian, other progressive media voices, and hundreds of our community partners aren’t giving up so easily, instead pushing for an open, truthful, democratic, and transparent discussion about City College’s mission and its future.


excused the dire, lamentable state of CCSF which would probably fail the tests of any accreditation board that wasn't ideologically loaded.

The reasons why CCSF must close remain sound and if Ed Lee really was as biased in favour of it's closure, then he surely would not have authorized Herrera's action.

Spending our taxes to prop up another part of the city that has been squandering our taxes for decades is not progressive. It's regressive.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 12:07 pm

City College is in dire financial straits, partially because of bizarre financial management, and partially because it does not have adequate tax funding. CCSF must be accredited to continue to take some of the student cost and institutional resource pressure off the University of California through the Transfer Admission Guarantee and Transfer Alliance Project programs.

In order for credits or certificates earned at a college to carry any weight or be transferable, the college must be accredited. The ACCJC is authorized to accredit community colleges by the U.S. Department of Education. Accreditation is a voluntary system of self regulation developed to ensure that the education earned at the institutions is of value to the student who earned it; and employers, trade or profession-related licensing agencies, and other colleges and universities can accept a student’s credential as legitimate. There are about ACCJC acredited community colleges in 200 districts in the western US, including Oakland and Berkeley. There is no reason CCSF should not be held to the same standards.

To best maintain public education quality and availability in San Francisco, increase educational funding by changing the property tax laws and the percentage of votes required to pass state legislation. Refusing to be part of the accreditation process simply invalidates the mission of community colleges.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 5:15 pm

insisting on unsustainable pay and benefits packages to the point where staff costs are 90% of total costs.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 5:49 pm

Sorry, Guest, you've got it all wrong. The fact is, faculty at CCSF, who haven't had a raise in eight years and are working at 2007 salaries, minus a 5% unilateral cut, are second to the lowest paid of all the Bay Area community colleges. Exacerbating CCSF's salary problems is our truly unique situation in that the clerks and staff at CCSF are City workers and we have no control over who they are or how much they're paid.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 06, 2013 @ 7:19 pm

Refusing to submit to illegal business practices and violation of State and Federal law is not equivalent to refusing to be part of the accreditation process. Contrary to what is being purported by the Chronicle, CCSF was given clear accreditation in 2006, and the college was never been sanctioned in its 77 year history until 2012. That is not how the process works. The budget is balanced, but the new administration that has been put in place as a result of this process has altered the budget to create a false deficit.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 26, 2013 @ 6:04 am

Refusing to submit to illegal business practices and violation of State and Federal law is not equivalent to refusing to be part of the accreditation process. Contrary to what is being purported by the Chronicle, CCSF was given clear accreditation in 2006, and the college was never been sanctioned in its 77 year history until 2012. That is not how the process works. The budget is balanced, but the new administration that has been put in place as a result of this process has altered the budget to create a false deficit.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 26, 2013 @ 6:06 am

I fail to see any reason to make a special effort to save a failed institution. Private colleges can step in to fill any genuine and sustainable educational need, and I doubt that anyone will miss CCSF in a few years as other colleges expand to meet any unsatisfied demand.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 26, 2013 @ 8:04 am

Private colleges don't have a great track record for delivering cheap education.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 26, 2013 @ 9:20 am

I believe that for the future prosperity of the Bay area, we need to be investing in our best colleges and not our worst. Good education cannot be cheap but right now the taxpayer is throwing away a lot of money on pay and benefit packages that are worthy of a good college while in fact we get a average to poor college.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 26, 2013 @ 9:43 am

Good education can be cheap. Unfortunately, it is made expensive by bloated administration, prestige projects, and unnecessary services.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 26, 2013 @ 12:33 pm

inadequate to cover their bloated costs tructure.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 26, 2013 @ 1:01 pm
Posted by Guest on Aug. 26, 2013 @ 1:07 pm
Posted by Guest on Aug. 26, 2013 @ 1:34 pm

yet I'm going to respond to them anyway."

Funny - the SF Chronicle rarely responds to your editorials.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 12:16 pm

That's because the Hearst-owned Chronicle is not as engaged with the city of San Francisco as we are, nor do they do media criticism.

Posted by steven on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 12:34 pm

every article in the Chron that irritates you. The Chron probably has a thousand readers to every one of yours, so you have to ask yourself whether the Chron might not be more in tune and sync with the average SF resident as you are?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 12:41 pm

By that logic, Fox News & MSNBC are pillars of objective journalism and lack of bias, while PBS & C-SPAN are pure partisan infotainment. Specious.

Posted by saintlennybruce on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 2:30 am

In a nominal democracy, ad populum counts. It is not like the left or radicals have any special knowledge that everyone lacks and, once beneficially informed by the left radical, will see a light bulb go off.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 4:52 am

Ed lee 59.64%
Avalos 40.36%

Posted by Matlock on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 5:35 pm

People like him even more than they did when he whupped Avalos in the lection.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 5:50 pm

Ed Lee has forgotten that 100,000 CCSF students are local voters; so as are hundreds of thousands of CCSF alumni. These numbers do not include faculty and staff, nor do they include friends and family of staff and students.

The people will remember that Ed Lee was busy trying to sell radioactive land in the HP shipyard to investors in China. They will also remember that he failed miserably. They will remember the Bay Bridge boondoggle and the money he wasted on the subway to nowhere. More importantly, they will remember that he didn't stand up for City College.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 26, 2013 @ 6:27 am

With on conceivable challengers on the horizon, he looks a shoo-in for re-election and a destiny as one of the most popular and effective mayors ever.

CCSF is just a blip and most SF'ers believe that we should be investing in excellence, and not in the bottom rung of the educational ladder.

In fact, there has been very little outcry about the imminent closure of CCSF, outside of the usual activist and self-serving circles. SF'ers want jobs and not a third-rate college with overpaid staff.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 26, 2013 @ 7:17 am

Herrera's lawsuit and all the attacks on this accrediting commission seem like a big diversion from the core issue: the college has problems. If the referee says you swung on strike 3, and everyone in the stadium can see that you swung on strike 3, then how does suing the referee accomplish anything?

Does anyone really dispute the institution has deep-rooted flaws? The Exam ran an article yesterday saying 90% of its budget goes to employee compensation and benefits. It was giving full benefits to part time employees.

And I can't believe our tax dollars are being wasted on Herrera's lawsuit.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 12:20 pm

Here's the brutal truth about education. Its greatest asset is its teachers so they receive the bulk of the funding.

They don't produce profits for the capitalist economy so uncritical non-thinkers like you demonize them.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 12:27 pm

almost any type of enterprise. And much of that is in over-the-top benefits.

It's possible that a core of CCSF could be saved, but an opportunity would be lost if that meant retaining the current bloated cost structure. That's why the best solution would be a clean break, closing the whole thing, and then selectively re-hiring some of the staff on new non-union contracts for a much smaller, more-focused, and probably private college.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 12:43 pm

We need more people like you. Then we will have a decent and functioning college for SF. People need to realize it is impossible to ask the unions to agree to lay off at least 25% of the faculty and staff and/or cut pay and/or benefits by 25%. The only choice left is to shutter it and build it up again.

A high percentage of current employees are near retirement age. They will do anything to delay the inevitable. The longer they can hang on to their high pay and benefits position, the more they will collect for retirement. Of course, they will fight any agency/messenger and appear to improve to keep the status quo.

Posted by AnotherGuest on Aug. 24, 2013 @ 9:00 am

desperately seek to preserve their generous pay and benefit packages against the onslaught of common sense and fiscal prudence that has invigorated so much of our economy, and yet strangely left these islands of privilege and entitlement standing.

If the vested interests will not accept reform, then they will perish. The people are no longer interested in subsidizing those who take more than they give. CCSF is dying proof of that.

Posted by anon on Aug. 24, 2013 @ 9:27 am

Declining real wages, high persistent unemployment, rapidly increasing wage and wealth disparities ...

Of course, your philosophy is succinct: "Fuck you, I got mine."

Posted by Guest on Aug. 24, 2013 @ 10:36 am

tech, finance and property.

Good news for ex-CCSF staff that need to be retrained.

Posted by anon on Aug. 24, 2013 @ 11:06 am

Look up the term referee. An umpire is a referee.

Teachers are not the greatest asset of education. Students are. Your post shows what's wrong with California's education system. It favors teacher privileges (tenure, impossible to dismiss, pensions, etc) over quality education for students.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 5:50 pm

teachers are great assets for education.

Your blame on teachers is entirely misplaced. California went from the top funded public school systems to one of the lowest. There is your problem.

But I wouldn't expect a good argument from someone who would rather finesse their error than admit it. Hey batter, batter. Swing batter.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 6:04 pm

School funding is not correlated with student performance.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 24, 2013 @ 12:57 pm

USDOE is ACCJC's referee, and after reading CFT's complaint on CCSF's improper review & the 900 pages of additional supporting documentation, USDOE put the Commission on 12 months notice to achieve full compliance in 4 areas of violation of federal regulations in review of CCSF. Additionally, systemic violations which were uncovered, and are currently being investigated, need to also be brought into compliance, or be decertified as an accreditor by August 2014.

In other words, the umpire fixed the game, and will either be punished or fired. Not only that, but this is CCSF's first "swing" at being put on sanctions, and working to get them lifted in its entire 77 year history.

CCSF has never had its academic quality questioned by any relevant party, including ACCJC which praised academics in the accreditation report, and it has higher than state average graduation/transfer rates. In 2006, ACCJC itself gave it a full pass on accreditation review last cycle. Part of the reason such a high % of the budget is related to personnel includes the decision to not compromise course offerings during the economic downturn, which was essential to retaining state-funding levels and meeting student demand, which proved better advised than the now-debunked austerity approach to course offerings at other CCDs.

Much of the rest of it has to do with retiree pensions & benefits negotiated in good faith, under legally binding contracts. To its credit, AFT2121 deferred contractually-entitled raises 5 years in a row from 2007-2012, agreed to a voluntary temporary decrease of 2.85% for 2012-2013, campaigned for Prop 30 & Measure A (latter passed with 73.9% of SF vote) which will bring in tens of millions in revenue over the coming years, and were subjected to an additional, retroactive 5% pay-cut in Spring 2013.

This means that faculty are now paid 7.85% less than in 2007, with 0% raises for 5 years voluntary, -2.85% for 2012-today voluntary, and -5% since 2012-2013 imposed by interim administrators during negotiations.

The budget, planning, and financial problems were entirely within the purview of the Chancellor & Board's decision-making authority & implementation, and primarily within their purview in their formulation. None of those financial problems have anything to do with public sector unions. They have everything to do with upper management's misconduct, inefficiency, and/or lack of planning.

Anyone who has read the relevant documents knows all this, but those that only read The Chronicle/Examiner's coverage are both ignorant and disinformed on the facts of this matter.

Posted by saintlennybruce on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 3:04 am

for his own political gain/trying to flex his solidarity with the teacher's union for future labor fundraising. He won't impact results here one way or the other. CCSF needs fixing. This is just a lot of hot air.

This is a guy who called a press conference to sue Monster cola.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 1:04 pm

He gets to gain some points with the unions and the elft by engaging in a pointless gesture.

While Lee is the one who carries the most weight here anyway, and he has a solid grasp of reality.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 1:11 pm

so he's looking at something else. Much like David Campos, Jane Kim and almost every other politician his every action is designed to curry favor with a powerful political constituency (in this case educational unions) which can help him as he seeks to scamper up the ladder to the next elected office. In Herrera's case it'll prolly be state AG after Kamala runs for Boxer's seat in 2016 or is appointed by Obama to the Supreme Court when Ginsburg resigns after the next term.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 1:48 pm

First, a full disclosure... I've been a CCSF IT admin for the last 8 years.

I agree 100% with the comments posted here and disagree 100%.

Yes, there are many problems that have, over the years, crept into the structure of CCSF. However, its financial situation is one of its lesser problems. As the ACCJC pointed out, any institution, regardless of its mission, must maintain the integrity of it’s' infrastructure and have a viable plan to do so for the foreseeable future.

The institution must also have a functioning management team which insures the plan is created, modified to meet changing demands and executed in a manner which clearly communicates the goals of the plan to the entire institution.

Everyone, including the ACCJC and politicians and most importantly the staff, students and faculty of CCSF are now working towards this plan which is completely doable in the time given.

So lets' just throw the dirty bathwater out and the baby will grow up stronger, smarter and cleaner

Posted by Lee on Aug. 24, 2013 @ 9:47 am

What's new? The Comical was just salivating over the prospect of privatizing CCSF, and now they're afraid that it'll be a "lost opportunity" to make money for the rich... which is what they always stand for. Does anyone actually read that rag any more?

Posted by Greg on Aug. 24, 2013 @ 10:14 pm

Lots of comments here, more than the Chronicle ever gets with its articles or editorials on CCSF. Unfortunately, most of them are unsigned and a big chunk of them are ill-informed. I detect three distinct threads.

1. Anti union;
2. Pro ACCJC;
3. Pro Ed Lee.

My view:

Dennis Herrera has done us a service by pointing out that the ACCJC is fundamentally arbitrary, biased and unaccountable. If you have any doubts about this you should read the complaint. Also note that the U.S. Department of Education said that the sanction against CCSF violated federal and ACCJC procedures. Was this carelessness or malice?

There is a growing consensus in the statewide community college community that the ACCJC's secretive practices need to be exposed. This was revealed last week in a bipartisan 10-1 vote of the Legislature's joint audit committee to audit the ACCJC. A video of this meeting is available at the audit committee site. It starts shortly after the 2 hour 30 minute point and is worth reviewing.

Posted by jchayes on Aug. 26, 2013 @ 8:39 am

Is one of the top commenters on this article. He doesn't have to use his name. He is easily recognized by the ill-informed comments he reiterates on every article.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 26, 2013 @ 10:00 am

Citing public records of a public session of a committee of the California State Legislature is pretty credible, as is the USDOE.

So... you're implying the Audit Committee video is an elaborate hoax?

You have a right to your opinion, but not to your own facts. These events actually happened, with both Democrat & Republican lawmakers being quoted about Dr. Beno's testimony in the press.

You're welcome to keep hitting the "greedy public sector union" talking points in unsigned non-sequitor posts, though. Everyone knows how much Republican State Senators love them.

Posted by saintlennybruce on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 3:12 am

"Most students don't graduate, the schools are really expensive, and you're paying for it. He should have added that many in this "business" are getting fabulously wealthy soaking in taxpayer dollars. The average CEO of the publicly traded for-profits made $7.3 million in 2009…$7.3 million! If they were delivering a serious and worthwhile product and their compensation was tied to student success, that would be one thing, but far from it.

The report showed that 63 percent of students who enrolled in an associate degree program left and the median student lasted only four months. Of those seeking a bachelor's degree, 54 percent left, and 38.5 percent left certificate programs.

And how are they paying for it? Loans, grants, Department of Defense dollars—86 percent of all the money these for-profits take in comes from taxpayer dollars. The cost to all of us last year was $32 billion and rising"

Posted by Guest on Aug. 26, 2013 @ 9:10 am

"The federal government has made it easier than ever to borrow money for higher education - saddling a generation with crushing debts and inflating a bubble that could bring down the economy"

Posted by Guest on Aug. 26, 2013 @ 9:12 am

"The for-profit educational sector is an industry almost entirely subsidized by the federal government. Around 70-80 percent of for-profit revenues are generated by federal student loans. At the same time, judging by sky-high dropout rates, the for-profit schools do a terrible job of educating students. The Obama administration’s efforts to define a credit hour and require state accreditation were motivated by a very understandable desire: to ensure that taxpayers are getting their money’s worth when federal cash pays for a student’s education. In contrast, Foxx’s legislation is designed to remove that taxpayer protection. So here’s a more accurate title for her bill: “The Protecting the Freedom of For-Profit Schools to Suck off the Government Teat Without Any Accountability Whatsoever Act.”

That means the public is funding private interests which only aim to profit from students. Wake up, people.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 26, 2013 @ 9:20 am

* "The for-profit educational sector is an industry almost entirely subsidized by the federal government

Posted by Guest on Aug. 26, 2013 @ 9:22 am

no problem with them making a profit at the same time.

I much prefer that to pumping taxpayer money into a bad school like CCSf and getting third-rate graduates.

Stanford, which makes a decent profit, has produced far more business leaders, entrepreneurs and wealth than CCSF, which makes a loss and which we have to bail out with bond issues, even while it is failing baseline State standards.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 26, 2013 @ 10:10 am

If a privately funded college cannot deliver a product people wants (e.g. good education with good job prospects), it will not last very long. Have you seen a lot of private colleges come and gone ? People who bought an expensive and worthless product once will not go near the same manufacturer or retailer again and will tell everybody he knows about that.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 26, 2013 @ 11:45 am

would have closed long ago anyway. But it is kept on life support out of ideology despite it's lack of competitiveness.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 26, 2013 @ 12:03 pm

That's how things work in this country. The failures in the financial sector did, with individual CEOs that tanked Lehman Bros. getting $50 million "performance" bonuses.

As most major corporations pay no tax, as well as getting subsidies, tax refunds, or both, the super-majority of Americans working for a living pay more in taxes than the multi-billion dollar annual businesses of the telecoms, oil, pharmaceutical, defense, agrobusiness, and financial industries.

Posted by saintlennybruce on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 3:20 am

CCSF is not a bad school and you haven't presented any facts to back your statement. You're comparing apples and bananas. Stanford is an ivy league school and it is not a community college.

The "business" is going to take taxpayer money and keep it for itself, that is not the way public education works. WAKE UP, people!! Private interests want to take your money, give your kids a lousy education and make them pay for it the rest of their lives. There is no forgiveness for student loan debt!

Posted by Guest on Aug. 26, 2013 @ 11:57 am

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