Assembly Bill 2277 (Wallis), our bill to raise the part-time teaching cap from 67% to 85% of a full-time course load, is now going through the political process in Sacramento. (For more on this bill, see Scott Douglas’ article, as well as the Asm Wallis Fact Sheet in this Journal.) 

The first Hearing took place in mid-April with the Assembly’s Higher Education (HE) Committee. I, and a few others, went to witness this historical moment, one which is going to have a positive impact on thousands of California Community College (CCC) part-time faculty and our students. After this has passed through the Committee, it will probably be heard by the Assembly’s Appropriations Committee sometime after the mid-May revision. If all goes well, this bill will sail through the assembly and the senate unanimously – again. This happened in the last two legislative sessions with only the Governor vetoing them in the end.

Considering that there’s now over 2,000 bills in Sacramento, and over 1,500 bills in the Assembly alone, we are very fortunate to have found a legislator to pick this up for us. While we have finally got the ball rolling again, this bill didn’t just appear in February when legislator Greg Wallis submitted it! 

The real work began some 18 months ago when CPFA formed its Legislative Committee. Our Committee consists of several part-time activists and those who have both experience and expertise on how Sacramento works, particularly on how legislators think and operate. The members of this Committee include: myself, Raymond Brennen (Foothill-DeAnza and San Jose City College), Stacey Burks (Butte College), Deborah Dahl-Shanks (retired, Diablo Valley College), Scott Douglass (Mira Costa, Palomar, etc.), and finally, Daniel R. Thompson (also of Butte College). Our dedicated group met regularly to work out all the minutiae of the bill’s language so that we could ensure that it would achieve desirable outcomes. 

Our short list of Ed Code changes included, not only our proposal to raise the cap, but other priority items as well, such as, strengthening the seniority system (still abused by numerous districts), and adding specific language for “due process.”  However, top of mind for our Committee was the political reality in Sacramento  – in particular, the state’s $73 billion deficit, which had been getting attention in the news. We knew that in order to get a legislator to consider authoring one of our proposed Ed Code changes we had to shoot for items that had no cost association. As a group, the committee decided this approach was necessary in the short-term and most practical in the long-term to ensure that it would get other legislators and the Governor on board. 

Now, I want to assure you that none of us on the Legislative Committee are fooling ourselves: while a 85% cap is better than a 67% cap, the ideal situation would be no cap at all! That’s right, we’d much prefer NO CAP on part-time faculty teaching, which would be the logical outcome of transitioning to a one-tier system (a.k.a., the Vancouver Model) for all faculty in the CCC System. However, an “incremental approach” to tackling part-time issues has so far proven to be the most effective way to make tangible gains as we work toward our vision of the one-tier system. While we have seen articles, policy statements and resolutions to get this initiative off the ground (see last fall’s CPFA Journal, which was entirely dedicated to this topic), there is still a lack of resources and strategic planning for how to practically go about getting this achieved in Sacramento. Until we have carefully crafted language to take to legislators, and a clear strategy for how to get legislators (and the Governor!) to support such a large-scale and potentially costly bill, it’s clear that we will see greater success if we use our limited resources to pursue part-time faculty priorities one step at a time. 

Before I wrap up, I have to point out two things: 1) Despite our geographically scattered team, Stacey, Daniel, and I have each logged over 60 hours since January to travel and meet with legislators (and staff) in person; our actual meeting time totaled just 6 hours, but our dedication is unwavering! 2) CPFA is the only organization in the state to put forth a bill specifically for community college part-time faculty. Both of these say a lot about who CPFA is. We are proud of what we’ve accomplished thus far, and continue to be optimistic about our path to achieving both our short and long-term goals for improving the working conditions of part-time faculty in the CCC System.  

John Martin has been teaching in the CCC system for almost 30 years and currently teaches African-American History and U.S. History at Butte and Shasta Colleges. He’s been a member of CPFA’s EC since 2002 and its Chair since 2009.

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