Students enrolled in the English as a Second Language department at City College of San Francisco — one of several departments facing massive cuts this fall — are getting support from a San Francisco supervisor.
On Thursday, Supervisor Gordon Mar acknowledged the planned cuts would have devastating impacts on the city’s low-income and immigrant communities.
In February, the the college’s Board of Trustees approved eliminating 60 percent of the college’s faculty, citing low enrollment and the need to balance the budget and maintain accreditation amid a budget shortfall projected at $33 million.
The layoffs would affect instructors, counselors and librarians, putting departments like Nursing, English, English as a Second Language, Computer Science, Biology and Automotive, among others, at risk of losing faculty.
So far, 163 tenured and tenured-track faculty and 425 part time faculty have been notified of potential layoffs. Final layoff notices could come in May, according to the American Federation of Teachers Local 2121 labor union, which represents City College faculty.
The union has been calling on city leaders to provide emergency funding to help avoid the cuts. And, despite support from several San Francisco supervisors, no emergency funding has been announced.
ESL already cut 20 percent of its non-credit classes at the start of the current semester, according to ESL Department Chair Gregory Keech. For the upcoming fall semester, 25 percent or more of classes face further cuts.
Keech said during a virtual news conference Thursday:
“This is a crisis. This is an emergency. … There’s a lot of money in San Francisco. The city has money, how can we use that money right now to get through the emergency? How will we work together to grow the college and make sure we serve everyone in San Francisco, not just some students, all students. It’s possible but we’re going to have to work together.”
Mar said many low-income and immigrant students rely on classes like ESL to get ahead, but he said the college’s problems are deep-rooted:
“Further cuts to ESL classes and other City College educational programs will really close a door to opportunity for limited English speakers, at a time when they need it the most to recover from the economic impact of the health pandemic.”
“Unfortunately, these threats to essential City College programs and classes like ESL are not new and the financial challenges facing the college are longstanding and structural. … They’re due in part to chronic underfunding of public education, as well as changes to the community college funding formula from the state government. I know City College leadership is working to address the longstanding structural budget deficit, but in this urgent moment of need, our city government can and should play a role to support our City College community.”
Mar said he and other supervisors are currently working with other city officials and City College leaders on a plan for emergency funding.