Newsom vetoed a similar bill last year, citing unknown costs

For the second consecutive year, Gov. Gavin Newsom has rejected a bill that would have made more community college part-time professors eligible for health insurance by upping the number of classes they can teach in a semester, citing cost.

Read the Governor’s Veto Letter

Assembly Bill 1856, sponsored by Assemblymember Jose Medina, D-Riverside, would have allowed adjuncts to teach as much as 85% of a full-time teaching load, or roughly four classes a term, a level that would qualify them for health care coverage.

In his 2022-23 budget, Newsom included a $200 million increase to a fund from which the state’s 73 local community college districts can obtain reimbursement for adjunct health care costs. But even with that money now available, Newsom wrote in his veto message that Medina’s bill is “premature as it is unknown how many community college part-time faculty will benefit from the $200 million now available to districts, which will have a direct impact on the fiscal estimate of this proposed policy change.”

Even with the new money in the budget, Newsom’s veto message estimated the cost of making more part-timers eligible for coverage is somewhere between “$26 million to an excess of $150 million.”

Medina, through a spokesperson, declined a request for an interview on the veto or to comment on it in writing.

The Faculty Association of the California Community Colleges, an advocacy group for both full- and part-time professors, is disappointed by the veto, its executive director, Evan Hawkins, said Monday in a phone interview.

“We disagree with the governor on his cost estimates and encourage him to support additional investments for our part-time faculty so they can have the tools to implement the many policies he’s signed into law in recent years,” Hawkins added.

The part-timers make up the bulk of community college teaching positions across the state, with many working in multiple colleges or districts in order to carve out a living and to keep consistent health coverage if is offered to them at all.

As part of an investigation of adjunct working conditions published in February, EdSource reported that health coverage across the statewide community-college system is widely inconsistent, with 33 districts offering adjuncts no coverage at all.

John Martin, president of the California Part-Time Faculty Association, another advocacy group, was critical of Newsom in the veto’s wake.

Newsom’s rejection shows “that he, along with many others in Sacramento, are out of touch and, frankly, just don’t get how low impact this bill actually is,” Martin wrote in an email. “It contains absolutely no triggers for any mandatory additional costs to the state; raising the workload cap for part-time faculty is a no-cost item.”

Read John Martin’s Letter to Governor Newsom on Behalf of CPFA

The California Federation of Teachers pushed hard for the bill as part of an initiative on adjunct health care. The legislation “would have made a tremendous difference to the lives of countless part-time faculty across the state, especially ‘freeway flyers’ who have to work in multiple districts to piece together a full-time workload,” its president, Jeff Freitas said Monday, while adding the union remained grateful for the $200 million Newsom put in the budget.

Each local faculty union will have to negotiate contract terms on medical insurance before any new coverage kicks in. Most local unions have yet to open contract talks, the union’s spokesman, Matthew Hardy, said Monday. “The vast majority are going to the table this fall with a few in the spring,” he said.

Hawkins said the California Community College Chancellor’s Office is expected to soon issue formal guidance on how the increased reimbursements will work, a move that is expected to spur talks around the state.

Until then, adjuncts wait. They remain the system’s backbone, Hawkins said, and “are stretched thin and underappreciated for the critical work they do to support our students. We must prioritize equitable working conditions for the part-time faculty who represent the majority of educators in our system.”

By Thomas Peele of EdSource
Photo By Andrew Reed of EdSource
Originally published September 26, 2022
Republished with permission

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2 Replies to “Newsom rejects second effort to make more community college adjunct faculty eligible for health care”

  1. Mark Landefeld

    Maybe we need Jill Biden to lobby Newsom on our behalf. Her husband talked him into a turnaround on a farm labor bill. Let’s let the most famous PT CC instructor in the nation put the pressure on Newsom.

  2. Scott Douglas

    I am a bit unhappy with CPFA for reprinting Mr. Peeles article without carefully pointing out that the title is missleading. According the the Afordable Care Act and IRS rules, increasing adjunct workloads to 85% would not result in a mandate for health care. This is because it’s not 85% of a 40 hour work week but 85% of a full-timers 15 unit load which the IRS has deemed amounts to 33.75 hours of work per week. Of course, it’s more but this is what the IRS has deturmined it to be for the purpose of computing weather the 30 hour per week threashold has been met so that health care is required. 85% of 33.75 hours is about 28.7 hours and so there would be no requirment fo the college to provide healthcare to any adjuncts should that law have passed.

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