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Measure to Preserve College Courses Heads to Ballot


The Board of Trustees of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District has voted unanimously to place a measure on the Nov. 2 ballot that, if approved, would provide stable funding for local community college courses and programs.

Faced with state funding reductions of more than $20 million over the past two years, Foothill College and De Anza College have had to cut course offerings and eliminate hundreds of full- and part-time faculty and staff positions.

At the same time, student demand for local community college courses is increasing. With recent state budget cuts, there are not enough classes to provide local students with the job training and transfer credits they are seeking. In 2009-10, thousands of students were unable to get into a class they needed.

"Local community colleges are more important than ever," said Bruce Swenson, president of the Board of Trustees and a former Foothill College faculty member. "The University of California and California State University systems are raising tuition and turning away more students, making Foothill and De Anza the only affordable options for many local students, including workers who need retraining."

If approved by 66.7 percent of local voters, the ballot measure would provide approximately $7 million a year so that Foothill College and De Anza College can offer the courses students need to transfer to four-year universities and the job training required to meet Silicon Valley's demand for a highly skilled workforce.

"We are fortunate to have two of the very best community colleges in the nation here in our community," said Pearl Cheng, vice president of the Board of Trustees. "Local employers tell us that they rely on our graduates - whether it's the nurses, paramedics and other healthcare professionals who staff hospitals and clinics in the region, or students with strong backgrounds in math, science and engineering that local high-tech companies need."

The measure would cost property owners $69 per parcel and would expire in six years. The funding could only be extended with approval of two-thirds of local voters. By law, every dollar from this measure must stay locally to benefit Foothill and De Anza colleges.

No funds could be taken by the state or used for administrator salaries or benefits. A citizens' oversight committee and mandatory annual audits of the funding from this measure are required.

"The state budget crisis has severely limited educational opportunity for students of all ages - at Foothill and De Anza, and community colleges throughout the state,'' said Foothill-De Anza Chancellor Linda M. Thor. "This measure provides stable funding that the state can't take away. It will allow Foothill and De Anza colleges to give our students the education and job training they'll need to compete in the toughest job market we've seen in decades."

Funds from this measure would not restore all the cuts the colleges have had to make, but would protect essential instructional courses and educational programs and services, including:

• Maintaining core academic classes such as math, science, and writing• Preparing students for careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics• Restoring funding to increase the number of classes and labs• Preparing students to transfer to four-year colleges and universities in a timely manner• Improving support services for students with disabilities• Keeping libraries open and maintain critical library services and resources• Preparing students for careers in computers and emerging technology• Maintaining job retraining programs• Providing essential student and support services

The board voted to proceed with the measure after a public hearing Aug. 2. Among community members speaking in favor of the ballot measure were Ginny Lear of Los Altos, Barbara Klein of Stanford and Rob Lancefield of Palo Alto. De Anza student Cain Ramirez and Associated Students of Foothill College President Gutavo Okamura also voiced their support.

The local funding proposal will appear on the ballot as the Foothill-De Anza Educational Opportunity and Job Training Measure.

For over 50 years, Foothill College and De Anza College have provided students of all ages with affordable access to a college education. Today, more than 45,000 students attend Foothill and De Anza colleges each year.

-- Posted Aug. 3, 2010