District’s continuing willful violation of the 50% law exposes unwillingness to prioritize funding for classroom instruction
By Eric Brenner, Advocate Editor
Our college district continues to brazenly violate the “50% law,” the California Education Code requirement that community college districts must spend at least 50% of their educational expenses on classroom instructors’ salaries. The purpose of the 50% law is to ensure that districts keep faculty salaries in line with the growth of district budgets, reduce class size, and rein in non-instructional costs, such as administration. SMCCD’s lack of compliance with the 50% requirement is not only completely unlawful, but it also points out the district’s failure to prioritize classroom instruction.
SMCCD first failed to comply with the law in 2015-16 when the percentage of its educational expenses spent on classroom instruction fell to 48.38%. SMCCD has been the only district in the state to not follow this law. Since 2015-16, our district has continued to fail to comply with the 50% law each year and has, in fact, significantly reduced its percentage of spending on classroom instruction each successive year, dropping to just 42.24% in 2018-19. The District then managed only a minimal increase in 2019-20 to 42.46%! (See chart below.) The state Chancellor’s Office has continually called out our district for its failure to comply with this mandate.
To put this percentage in actual dollar figures, the district spent $12.2 million less on classroom instruction salaries in 2019 than was required to just meet the bare minimum of the 50% law.
While AFT 1493 has been raising the issue of the district’s violation of the 50% law since they first failed to meet the requirement in 2015-16, members of the Board of Trustees have only more recently expressed concerns about this situation. In response, the district’s 2020-2021 Final Budget Report included a brief section titled: “Commitment to 50% Law Compliance.” This section states:
As a community-supported district experiencing declining enrollment while implementing various student-centered initiatives that fall on the non-instructional side of the equation, the District has struggled since 2015-16 to comply with spending at least 50% of its unrestricted general fund resources on the instructional side of the equation. Recognizing the Board of Trustees’ concern with the year-over-year declines and the importance of investments in full-time faculty, the 2020-21 Budget allocates $0.7 million in on-going funds to convert part-time faculty to full-time faculty as follows: four teaching faculty at Skyline College, three teaching faculty at the College of San Mateo, and three teaching faculty at Cañada College. The colleges will begin the process of prioritizing and filling these new full-time positions as soon as possible.
While AFT 1493 heartily supports the conversion of part-time faculty to full-time faculty, it is hypocritical of the district to highlight the allocation of $0.7 million to show their “commitment to 50% law compliance” when more than $12 million is required to minimally meet the standard. The district’s statement also suggests that somehow being a community-supported district is an excuse for failing to meet the requirement to spend at least 50% of their general fund resources on classroom instruction. In fact, all other community-supported districts in the state have consistently complied with the 50% law. (See list below.) Again, SMCCD is the only district in the state that has failed to comply with the 50% law requirement which equates to less money to hire full-time instructors and less money to increase all faculty salaries and achieve part-time parity!
SMCCD Past Compliance with 50% Law
Other Community-Supported (Basic Aid) Districts’ 50% Law Compliance (2019-20)