California Community Colleges’ Win Against Corporate Reformers


Opponents of corporate education reform chalked up a victory in the blue-state of California recently. The American Federation of Teachers, Local 2121, and California Federation of Teachers signed a settlement agreement with the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, a private entity, on August 7.

That 11-page agreement amends, deletes and formalizes the ACCJC’s accreditation policies at 112 public community colleges in the Golden State. On July 2, 2012, the agency had begun a process to remove the accreditation of the City College of San Francisco. Accreditation is essential to public higher education receiving federal and state government funding.

Consider this: The Aug. 7 agreement formalizes a policy that bans the ACCJC from interfering in the collective bargaining process, which it had done, according to Tim Killikelly, AFT Local 2121 president at CCSF. The ACCJC had criticized CCSF for having too few administrators and excess faculty and staff salaries.

In this way, the ACCJC attempted to shape the wages and work hours for the union members of AFT/CFT. However, collective bargaining agreements, not the ACCJC, cover union members’ wages and work conditions.

Further, the agreement ends the ACCJC’s use of student learning outcomes to evaluate faculty and students. SLOs are part of the corporate education reform agenda, e.g., management metrics to discipline public education institutions.

Author Diane Ravitch writes about the use of metrics in K-12 corporate education reform. Her blog and books are essential sources of fact-based arguments against this trend.

The agreement also compels the ACCJC “to ensure at least three members of any evaluation team are currently employed as active duty faculty members.” This policy did not exist before the agreement.

Previously, the ACCJC favored increasing non-faculty as faculty evaluators. Corporate education reformers consistently uphold the classroom expertise of people with teaching experience. Go figure. .

The agreement also ends any ACCJC conflict of interest from the community college evaluation process. An example is Peter Crabtree, the husband of former ACCJC President Barbara Beno, who evaluated CCSF.

Under the agreement, the California Community Colleges Consultation Council becomes a new reviewer of ACCJC accreditation policy proposals. In this way, the policy formation process aims to deliver more ACCJC accountability and transparency.

Another of the agreement’s main issues is how fairly the ACCJC financially evaluates California community colleges. Henceforth, the ACCJC must apply consistency “in the review of all institutions,” the settlement reads.

In sum, the ACCJC admits in the agreement that it had practiced an inconsistent policy in its past financial evaluation of community colleges. For example, according to the AFT Local 2121’s Killikelly, the ACCJC had criticized CCSF for receiving a grant from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, while praising other community colleges that got such federal money.

Further, the agreement lengthens the ACCJC’s reaffirmation of accreditation from 18 months to seven years. This policy change will provide community colleges with more time to address “remaining compliance issues” to maintain accreditation requirements that ensure vital government funding, according to the agreement.

Finally, the agreement contains a dispute resolution process over the ACCJC’s performance as the sole accrediting agency for California’s community colleges. A jointly funded professional mediator will be available if the ACCJC and the AFT/CFT are unable to reach a resolution.

Seth Sandronsky lives and works in Sacramento. He is a journalist and member of the Pacific Media Workers Guild. Email

From The Progressive Populist, October 15, 2017

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