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Proposed law would reform community college accreditation

A Bay Area lawmaker introduced legislation Wednesday to reform accreditation for California community colleges, following criticism that the process has become costly and unfair.

The Fair Accreditation for California Community Colleges Act (AB 1942), would restore "transparency, accountability and due process" by establishing new standards for accrediting the state's 112 community colleges, said Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), who introduced the legislation at a Sacramento news conference.

The reforms are aimed at the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, the private Novato-based agency whose move to revoke accreditation from the financially troubled City College of San Francisco created a storm of controversy and backlash.

San Francisco's city attorney and teachers' unions filed lawsuits, alleging the ACCJC's decision was politicized and did not follow proper procedures. 

"We haven't had a smoothly operating accrediting system with the ACCJC, as exemplified by what's happened with City College," Bonta said. "There are a lot of things that we've become accustomed from our public agencies with respect to open access, transparency and openness and the law is silent on these issues with regard to the ACCJC."

A representative of ACCJC did not return calls seeking comment. Its decision to revoke City College's accreditation as of July is on hold, pending the outcome of the lawsuits.

Bonta's legislation would allow community college districts to choose an accrediting agency. Currently, the ACCJC is solely responsible for accrediting community colleges in California and the Pacific, but it is a part of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, which accredits four-year systems. There are also a number of other regional agencies across the country recognized by the federal Department of Education.

The legislation would require an accreditor to make decisions at a public hearing, maintain documents for at least 10 years and disclose income and expenditures of its employees and contractors, as well as fees charged to member institutions for services.

Representatives of the California Federation of Teachers, the San Francisco city attorney's office, students and community advocates attended the news conference in support of the legislation.

"It's about more than City College," said faculty union President Alisa Messer. "We need fair accreditation so that our colleges and accreditors can get back to ensuring a quality education for California's students."


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