State bill could reintroduce two-tiered education

California Community College constituents are balking at an impending state bill that could create a two-tiered pilot program at select colleges across the state, reminiscent of the prospect of contract education rejected by protesters met with pepper spray at Santa Monica College last year. Assembly Bill 955 approves an extension program during a college’s winter and summer sessions. Once the trial period ends on Jan. 1, 2018, colleges across the state could choose to implement the program or not.

From the colleges to the chancellor’s office, the resistance to AB 955 has been felt statewide.

“I don’t know that it really does anything for students,” said Vincent Stewart, vice-chancellor of government relations for the CCC Chancellor’s Office.

Stewart said that the CCC Board of Governors was consulted in the early stages of the bill, but as the board expressed opposition to the program, they were no longer considered.

The bill states that the extension program would be maintained without the approval of the CCC BOG.

The bill lists six colleges eligible to participate in the new program if they choose to do so from 2014 to 2018. After the four-year trial period, the rest of the California community colleges can decide whether or not to implement the extension program.

But two of the colleges listed did not end up meeting eligibility requirements, and two other colleges have said they are not interested.

Long Beach City College, one of the six eligible colleges, is the only one who has expressed interest in bringing the program to their school. However, just last week, students of the college protested in opposition of AB 955.

None of the eligible colleges have yet confirmed implementing of the extension program.

The SMC Faculty Association showed their disapproval of AB 955 when earlier this year, they gave money to the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges to hire a lobbyist to fight the bill.

AB 955 would not influence SMC immediately until after four-year trial period.

“Our biggest fear right now is in the future,” said Associated Students President Ty Moura.

At a recent AS board meeting, directors voted against supporting the bill. A letter was sent to the Capitol by Moura on behalf of the AS, urging Gov. Jerry Brown to veto the bill.

Student Trustee Jesse Ramirez also sent a letter on behalf of the AS.

“We are opposed because this legislation goes against the philosophy of the community college mission of open, equal access for all,” wrote Ramirez in the letter.

“This is a community college,” Moura said. “This is the place for those who cannot afford. Those who can afford have so many opportunities.”

Similar thoughts guided protesters at SMC last year, when the SMC Board of Trustees proposed contract education, and protesters were pepper sprayed by police outside the doors of a BOT meeting.

“The administration in general, they learned with what happened, and they just don’t want that same confusion happening on campus again,” Moura said, referring to the pepper-spray incident.

However, it does not look like talk of two-tiered education is coming back to SMC anytime soon.

“It is not necessarily beneficial because students are getting classes now,” said Bob Isomoto, vice president of business and administration at SMC. “We’re providing enough classes to students.”

Isomoto said the cost of these classes would equal that of international student fees, which is $315 per unit.

“It is a massive fee hike for students,” said Stewart.

A BOG fee waiver would not exempt students from payment, but money made from the extension classes would help reduce costs for students with the waiver.

“This is just a bad, bad policy,” said Moura.