Reject the California Community College Chancellor’s Numbers on AB 1856

Presently before the California Senate Appropriations committee is AB 1856, a bill which would, if passed, enable part-time faculty to negotiate with their districts to teach up to 85% of a full-time equivalent load.  Presently, the per district teaching cap is 67%. In that part-time faculty are already paid a fraction of what their full-time colleagues make for the same teaching load, many have to teach in two or more districts, often traveling over hundreds of miles each week, the merits of the bill are clear. It would . . .

  • Reduce part-time faculty travel time to various assignments

  • Additionally allow these faculty to better connect with their respective institutions and students

  • Reduce California’s carbon footprint

Sadly, this bill is presently being challenged in appropriations by the California Community College Chancellor’s Office using the following rationale:

  • This bill could result in $200 million to $403.5 million in ongoing Proposition 98 General Fund costs each year for community college districts to offer health insurance benefits to part-time faculty, depending on the exact number of faculty who qualify. This estimate assumes that the bill would trigger Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirements due to the additional unit load and potential increase in office hours and other workload requirements. This estimate also assumes an annual employer contribution of $11,000 for 18,384 to 36,768 part-time faculty employed by community college districts throughout the state.

  • This bill could also result in one-time Proposition 98 General Fund costs of between $360,000 and $720,000 for community college districts to update or create collective bargaining agreements with part-time faculty. This estimate assumes a cost of about $5,000 to $10,000 for each of the state’s 72 districts.

The assertions made by the Chancellor’s office are not simply wrong, but specious.

First, it is unlikely that there are in fact 36,768 adjuncts in the CCC.  Many adjuncts are double or even triple-reported in that districts report part-time hires individually rather than collectively, and the CCCCO is fully aware of this.

Second, the current number of part-time faculty at any given district who teach at 67% of an FTE (Full-time Equivalent Load) are in the minority, and with shrinking enrollment, the number of sections and adjunct faculty are decreasing. The number of faculty who would be able to teach at an 85% load, even if AB1856 is enacted, would not even come close to reaching the 18,384 number suggested by the CCCCO, and again, the CCCCO knows this.

Third, many part-time faculty even, when offered coverage by their respective districts, choose not to take it because they 1) are covered by another employer or through their spouses, 2) are retirees who receive coverage through Medicare, 3) seek coverage through Covered California because even when they qualify for benefits, they find Covered California a cheaper option to cover their dependents. Former CCC Chancellor, Eloy Oakley, who was in fact the Chancellor of the Long Beach City College System, certainly was aware of this, and it stands to reason that the present interim Chancellor, Daisy Gonzalez, is as well.

Fourth, passage of AB1856 would not guarantee any part-time faculty member in any district the right to teach an 85%, unless it were locally negotiated.  Some districts may in fact choose to forgo raising the cap. This is directly in the bill language.

Fifth, the notion that it would create any added negotiation costs is also false in that districts, with but rare exception by way of a mutual agreement by faculty and admin, already annually negotiate on health and welfare.  These districts are already engaged in bargaining–where’s the added cost?

Sixth, and most significantly, AB 1856 purposefully refers to an 80-85% FTE per district teaching cap in order to fall below the 86% FTE teaching threshold which would trigger the ACA regulations requiring the districts to provide insurance benefits.

Beyond this, it is also worth mentioning, as the CA Senate Appropriations Committee itself noted, the CA budget is calling for 200 million dollars in ongoing funding for PT healthcare, which would approximately match the cost of 18,384 new adjuncts suddenly being covered to the tune of $11,000/part-time faculty member. Ironically, in hearings on the PT healthcare proposal, the CA legislative budget office questioned whether this much money was in fact needed to cover PT faculty health benefits.

The disingenuous arguments made by the CCCCO regarding AB 1856’s impact on the leads one to wonder if the larger agenda of the CCCCO is simply to keep part time faculty working under precarious conditions because it makes it harder for them to negotiate for better pay and working conditions, which quite frankly, is a slap in the face to the notion of equity the CCCCO purports to promote.

It’s not simply that many of these faculty struggle with basic equity issues themselves due to the low pay and poor working conditions, but their children are also California Community College students. Are they not deserving of equity too?