My AB 1690 Advocacy Letter to the California Senate Education Committee Members

Good Adjuncts:

For those of you outside the state of California, a big adjunct issue playing itself out in the chambers of the California Legislature is the push for adjunct job security via AB 1690.  The bill made it past the Senate Education Committee, and now awaits a more uncertain battle in the great legislative graveyard–the Senate Appropriations Committee, where its forerunner AB 1010, died last year. I choose to be optimistic.  if it makes it out of appropriations, it is almost certain to get approved by the floor of the senate, then sit before Governor Jerry Brown.  What will he do? No one is certain, but I’d like to think he’ll sign it,and I’m doing everything I can, along with so many others, to see he has that chance.

This the letter I wrote to the legislative aides of particular senators on the Ed. Committee.  They are often the better people to contact than the senators themselves because they actually have the time to read and process what you say, and communicate this to the senators, who do listen to them.

I put this letter out here to show you good adjuncts what constructive steps you can truly take to get the change we all need.  See the letter below the sign out

Geoff Johnson

A “Good” Adjunct

 

To Whom it May Concern:

My name is Geoffery Johnson, and I am writing to you in support of AB 1690, which addresses job security for part-time, temporary instructors (adjuncts) at California Community Colleges.

I am a member of the California Federation of Teachers Part-Time Committee. In addition, I am the direct representative for adjunct instructors at San Diego Mesa College and Southwestern College in Chula Vista, directly representing some 1300, adjuncts, and, as a part of the San Diego Community College District’s AFT Guild, involved in representing some 2,800 to 3,000 adjuncts.  I also sit on the evaluations Committee at Southwestern College and have been a five-time academic senator at San Diego Mesa College, having sat briefly on its Student learning outcomes Committee.

I emphasize this only to make it clear that beyond simply being an adjunct, I have a larger awareness of the impact of working conditions on adjuncts, and its impact on student learning and success.

As you may be aware, 70% of California Community College instructors are classified as “temporary” employees, or more commonly known as “adjuncts” who are employed from term-to-term on a contingency basis, or simply as need demands.   The term “adjunct” itself implies that such instructors are “ancillary,” or “non-essential,” when in truth these instructors are often responsible for the majority of instruction at given community college.  They may be “adjunct” in name, but clearly essential to the community college system.

One of the greatest challenges to such instructors is that most of these instructors, even when classes are available, have no sense that, even if they do exemplary work in the classroom, they can reasonably expect to be rehired.  At many colleges, instructor can simply be fired without cause, or as it is politely put, not offered a class assignment for the following term.

On a personal level, for these instructors, many of whom teach at multiple campuses working as self-called “full-time part-timers,” it means a life lived where one can rarely plan out beyond six months in advance.  With regard to the California community college system, it has meant high faculty turnover, stressed faculty, and significantly impacted instruction, particularly as the system aspires to the notion of ‘student equity.”  In some colleges, the annual turnover rate for adjuncts is over 25% of the entire adjunct faculty.  With such turnover, such colleges lose the long term institutional knowledge and the value of veteran teaching needed to provide educational integrity.

AB 1690, if passed, will provide adjuncts who have taught successfully for six semesters with rehire rights.  Moreover, it will establish rehire priority on a seniority basis, consistent with how full-time public educators are treated.  Furthermore, it will provide those instructors who might stumble in their work a one-semester improvement plan of great benefit to incoming instructors who might struggle to find their footing initially, but who then become great adjuncts and sometime, even better full-time instructors.

Some argue against such a bill, claiming that it takes away an administrator’s flexibility to schedule classes, but in a number of colleges have negotiated similar rehire policies and administrators were still able to schedule classes. I point to the present rehire policy in the San Diego Community College District, which has been working successfully for close to ten years.

Another argument made is that AB1690 would prevent local unions from negotiating better rehire rights, but AB1690 only sets a minimum base, and one far better than what many districts have been able to negotiate.

One might also note that in terms of student success, the San Diego Community College District has a higher Student Completion/Success rate than Southwestern, and a number of studies have linked greater access to instructors with institutional knowledge to higher student Completion/success rates.

In truth, what a lack of rehire rights creates, beyond the afore-mentioned problems, is the potential for nepotism and unchecked discrimination, which is not what California aspires to. In fact, just in terms of union grievances submitted by adjuncts over rehire-related issues in the San Diego District is relatively small, and much smaller for the 2100+ adjuncts in the district, compared with the 760 adjuncts in the Southwestern district where the rehire policy has no seniority clause and only a vague statement on “consistency of assignment.”

A final argument made against AB 1690 is that it will cost money in order for lists to be made for scheduling.  This is in fact untrue. The San Diego Community College District accrued no additional costs as a result of having a similar rehire rights policy.  Rehire lists are kept by Deans and schedulers, like Department Chairs, who in many cases already have this data.  The reporting of this data would be no different than the district reporting when adjuncts have reached certain steps or columns when their pay is determined.

The passage of AB1690 will not end adjunct instructors being hired on an “as needed” basis, but it will provide adjuncts with the notion that under reasonable conditions, they can expect to keep teaching when they do a good job, and that these good adjuncts will be available to help students achieve their goals.

Sincerely,

Geoffery Johnson

Adjunct Rep San Diego Mesa College, (AFT 1931)

Executive Adjunct Rep Southwestern College (SCEA/CTA/NEA)

Member, California Federation of Teachers Part-Time Committee

Member, AFT National Part-Time Caucus

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