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State senator pushes to allow Armenian Genocide recognition at GCC without cost

Glendale Community College’s Superintendent/President David Viar, left, spoke in Sacramento this wee
Glendale Community College’s Supt./President David Viar, left, spoke in Sacramento in support of SB 568. The bill, by State Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge), right, allows GCC to observe Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day without a cost for closing the school.
(Courtesy of Anthony Portantino)

Commemorating Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day isn’t a priceless event, at least not yet for Glendale Community College.

State Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) is trying to change that, however.

Portantino authored Senate Bill 568, which would allow Glendale Community College to observe April 24 without costing the institution in state funding.

The day is annually dedicated in Glendale and elsewhere to memorialize the 1.5 million Armenians exterminated by the Ottoman Turks from 1915 to 1923.

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Approximately 39% of Glendale residents and 36% of Glendale Unified School District students are of Armenian descent, according to city and district staff, respectively.

Those numbers are even higher at the local college, where roughly 37% of credit students, the bulk of undergraduates, and 49% of noncredit students also are of Armenian heritage, according to a college staff report.

Despite those figures, Glendale Community College has never closed for Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day because the date is not an official holiday.

Recognizing the day by not holding classes would cost the school approximately $500,000, according to a figure from Portantino’s office.

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“When I was first approached by several GCC board members with this unfair situation, I promised that I would do my best to correct it,” Portantino said in a statement. “GCC should not be penalized by California for closing on April 24.”

SB 568 grants Glendale Community College permission to approve April 24 as a holiday as long as the school meets the minimum instructional-service-days requirement of 175 days.

Currently, the local college is over that number with 178 days.

Glendale Community College is looking for the same flexibility afforded the Glendale Unified School District, which observes Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day and is not financially dinged.

The California Education Code allows the district to close schools on April 24 as long as Glendale Unified maintains a minimum of 180 days of instruction.

“It is my hope that SB 568 will pass the legislature, garner the governor’s signature and change state law to allow GCC the same flexibility that education code gives to the GUSD,” Portantino said.

SB 568, which was introduced on Feb. 22, cleared a sizable hurdle to becoming law on Wednesday when the California Assembly Higher Education Committee voted 12-0 for its approval.

David Viar, the college’s superintendent/president, was in Sacramento for the vote and spoke about the symbolism behind the bill.

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“As educators, we teach history to ensure tragedies like the Armenian Genocide never happen again,” Viar said. “The value of our college being able to declare a Day of Remembrance is an important part of that education beyond the classroom.”

What remains now is for the Assembly Appropriations Committee and the Assembly to vote.

If both vote in favor, then a signature from Gov. Gavin Newsom will complete the process for the measure to become a law.

Sept. 13 will be the last day this year for any bill to be passed, while Newsom has until Oct. 13 to sign or veto the bill.

“We appreciate Sen. Portantino’s leadership in designing a solution that allows our students to participate in remembering the past without loss of state funding to the college as our students pursue their educational goals,” Viar said.

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