Soapbox

The wrong fix for community college funding

Then-Sacramento City College President Kathryn Jeffery listens to staff and students during a town hall meeting at the college in September 2015.
Then-Sacramento City College President Kathryn Jeffery listens to staff and students during a town hall meeting at the college in September 2015. Sacramento Bee file

Fear is a powerful motivator but it’s no way to make policy.

Two community college presidents, Kathy Hart and Keith Curry, explained their fear of retaining an outmoded funding formula for the California Community Colleges (“A smarter way to fund California community colleges,” Viewpoints, May 28).

While they are correct in wanting a change, their suggested remedy has been rejected by the Assembly and Senate education budget subcommittees because it will harm the students of Los Rios and other districts.

Dean Murakami

Hart and Curry are promoting a radical concept, one that has been considered many times but always discarded. They support basing 20 percent of statewide community college funding on how students complete certain benchmarks.

What they’re saying is if students who enroll from 2020 to 2023 do really well in attaining degrees and certificates, the next group to enroll will benefit from more money. Conversely, if the first group of students has to step out due to family or other life circumstances, the next group suffers the consequences. How does that make sense?

If the goal is student success, this is not the way. As noted in the Assembly budget subcommittee analysis, there is “little evidence that performance funding has been effective in improving outcomes in other states. It is unclear how punishing colleges with poor performance by reducing funding will lead to better performance.”

Our Los Rios colleges are committed to educating and improving the lives of all students; we cannot afford such a punitive approach to funding.

Thankfully, Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, has recommended a framework to address the fears of Hart and Curry while still protecting students. McCarty is not interested in the status quo, but in developing a formula that genuinely helps students.

Let’s not be clouded by the fear of standing still. The right change, that supports all students, is what’s needed for Sacramento and across California.

Dean Murakami is president of the Los Rios College Federation of Teachers. He can be contacted at murakad@arc.losrios.edu.

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