The Honorable Senator Anthony Portantino, Chair
Senate Committee on Appropriations
State Capitol, Room 2141
P.O. Box 942849
Sacramento, CA 94249-0061
August 9, 2022
Re: SUPPORT for AB 1856 (Medina) – Community Colleges: Part-time Employees
Honorable Senator Anthony Portantino,
I am writing in my capacity as Chair of the California Part Time Faculty Association (CPFA) to convey our resounding support for AB 1856 and the move to bring it out of the “Suspense file.” We believe this bill will have little to no fiscal impact, and will more likely save the state money. Moreover, it is a critical element to student success, and it will bring about vital improvements to the poor working conditions of tens of thousands of part-time faculty in the California Community Colleges System.
When it comes to fiscal impact, the $2 to $4 hundred million, projected by the Chancellor’s Office and stated by the Senate Committee on Appropriations, is a totally moot point. According to IRS guidelines, districts are not required to offer health benefits to employees teaching less than 88.89% of a full-time workload. Fifteen (15) hours per week in the classroom is considered a full-time teaching workload, and a part-timer working up to 85% of a full-time load is only able to accrue 12.75 classroom hours per week. As per IRS guidelines, “in addition to crediting an hour of service for each hour [of] teaching in the classroom…” districts are allowed to “credit an additional 1 1⁄4 [1.25] hours for activities such as class preparation and grading,” which means that when adding the stipulated 1.25 hours for each of those 12.75 classroom hours per week, total working hours for a part-time faculty member at an 85% workload only amounts to 28.7 hours per week. Yet, the affordable health care mandate clearly does not take effect until an employee exceeds 30 working hours per week [See article at Insidehighered.com]. If districts are not required to provide health coverage to faculty working less than 88.89% of a full-time load, then there can be no projected additional costs to the state for health coverage that districts are not mandated to offer.
Furthermore, AB 1856 does not say anything about “office hours and other workload requirements.” [See AB 1856 – Bill analysis] Districts already have in place policies and signed agreements with each and every part-time faculty member clearly excluding office hours from counting towards his or her total workload, which is also set out in the CA Ed Code. This means that any extra duties, beyond classroom contact hours and the 1.25 hours stipulated by the IRS guidelines, are not included in the current 67% or potential 85% workload.
The lack of a health care mandate for faculty teaching under 88.89% of a full-time load, means that any measurable budget impact depends on at least two essential assumptions: 1) That all, or at least a majority of districts across the state would suddenly decide to offer health coverage (an option already available to districts), and 2) that all, or at least a majority of part-time faculty at those districts would suddenly seek to apply for the health benefits being offered. Such assumptions are overstated and, ultimately, misleading. Even if, and only after negotiations with local bargaining units, a single district did decide to offer health coverage to its part-time faculty teaching up to 85% of a full-time load (a slim possibility for an even slimmer number of districts), not all part-time faculty teaching at that district would apply for the health benefits being offered. In truth, a good number of part-time faculty either already receive superior benefits from other employment or through spousal health care policies and other coverage options. Thus, the total number of part-time faculty across the state that would both be offered and apply for any health coverage is significantly less than projected estimates from the Chancellor’s Office.
Instead, AB 1856 offers obvious advantages to the state and the CCC districts. Most significantly, this bill will save the state money wasted every term on an excess of new-hire orientations and evaluations. Turnover of faculty who teach over 50% of a full-time course load is staggeringly high given the current 67% limit to the number of units or hours that part-time faculty can teach; mainly, because most of these instructors struggle and often fail to supplement their “capped” earnings as a teacher with second jobs or additional teaching positions in neighboring districts. The result is that districts must continuously sink valuable resources into hiring, training and monitoring new faculty. Raising the cap to 80-85% would help to keep well-qualified faculty on campus at a time when districts are in dire need of greater flexibility in offering more high-demand classes.
Without a doubt, AB 1856 will do more good than harm. It has the potential to bring about only positive statewide outcomes for districts, students and part-time faculty, as it will go a long way towards creating the continuity and stability desperately needed by a precarious workforce and ultimately translate into greater student success. Thank you for your dedicated service and attention to this important matter.