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Community College Bill Sent to Governor

Times Education Writer

Long-debated changes in governing, financing and hiring at California’s 106 community colleges were approved by the Assembly and sent to Gov. George Deukmejian on Wednesday, although many of the innovations will not go into effect without increased monies for the troubled education system.

Community college leaders, however, said they are optimistic that the $140 million for the changes will be added to their budget over the next few years as called for in the legislation authored by Assemblyman John Vasconcellos (D-San Jose). Deukmejian looks favorably on the bill, according to an aide.

“It’s a hard-worked-for miracle,” Tom Nussbaum, vice chancellor and general counsel for the statewide community college system, said of the legislation that resulted from nearly four years of study and compromise. The Assembly passed the bill on a 74-1 vote on the last day of the legislative session. The bill won unanimous (38-0) Senate approval on Tuesday. The bill aims to improve instruction and provide coherence to the 71 disparate community college districts, which enroll a total of 1.2 million students. Enrollment at many of the two-year colleges dropped since the late 1970s and program cuts eroded their reputations.

Important Changes

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The legislation also attempts to make community colleges more like the four-year state universities and less like the K-12th grade systems from which the community colleges sprung.

Among the most important changes called for in the 135-page bill are:

- Formal recognition of the community colleges as a statewide system rather than just a collection of local schools. Powers to set minimum standards for hiring, curricula and degrees will be transferred from the Legislature to the California Community Colleges Board of Governors. To ease fears about centralization, any action by the state board can be stopped if two-thirds of local districts disapprove.

- Tougher requirements for teachers. New instructors in academic credit courses will need a master’s degree and those in vocational programs will need a bachelor’s plus two years of related experience or an associate degree plus six years of experience. By 1994, all teachers will need a bachelor’s degree to receive tenure.

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- More review of teachers’ performance. The probationary period before tenure will increase from two to four years. And all districts must allow other professors to participate in the tenure review of peers.

- Fewer part-time teachers. Funding will encourage an increase in classes taught by full-time teachers from 66% now to 75%.

- Loosening the link between state funding and enrollment. Other factors--such as square footage of buildings, library needs, average class sizes--will be introduced into the formula. That should help districts, such as Los Angeles, which were caught in a downward spiral when enrollment began to dip.

The bill states that community colleges have two primary missions: vocational training and liberal arts education leading to transfer to a four-year school. Remedial education and English-as-a-second-language programs are described as essential but secondary. Adult enrichment courses, criticized by some educators as basket-weaving courses, are allowed as long as they do not interfere with the other goals.

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‘Under Intense Criticism’

“For the last five or six years, the community colleges have been under intense criticism and review concerning the quality of their programs. This brings to a conclusion that review and reaffirms the strengths and importance of the community colleges,” said Brian Murphy, chief consultant to the joint legislative committee, chaired by Vasconcellos, which is reviewing the master plan for higher education in California.

The new bill calls for $7.2 million to be added to this year’s $2.2-billion budget for community colleges.

But most of the measures will not go into effect until, according to the bill, the Board of Governors certifies that funding is adequate. And that means an extra $70 million in 1989 and another $70 million the next year, administrators say.

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