Magazine Article

Bills aim to protect access, reform Board of Trustees

Assemblymember Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) and Sacramento CFA Chapter President Kevin Wehr
at CSU East Bay when faculty held a one-day strike on November 17.

By Peter Kreysa, Long Beach
Chair, CFA Political Action & Legislative Committee

During the 2011/12 session, CFA took on an ambitious legislative program to democratize the California State University Board of Trustees, protect access to underserved students and increase transparency within the CSU.

In an era of reduced state funding for public higher education, mounting student debt and questionable executive compensation packages, CFA strives to preserve the ‘public’ in our public universities and ensure faculty, students, and all Californians have a voice in determining the future of the CSU. CFA introduced five common sense bills to increase transparency, accountability, and oversight of the decision-making process in the California State University system.

These include two bills that would have reformed the composition of the CSU Board of Trustees to yield a more representative governing body and give students and exofficio Trustees a greater voice. Although every bill did not make it through the entire legislative process, this year’s legislative
package gave CFA numerous opportunities to educate lawmakers about the
issues important to our members, especially the status of our contract negotiations.

Several true champions of public higher education tackled these issues too, including: Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, Senators Ted Lieu, Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Leland Yee and Assemblymembers Felipe Fuentes, Richard Pan, Betsy Butler and Jose Solorio.

In addition to CFA’s aggressive legislative package, the union’s governmental relations team played a pivotal role in eliminating roadblocks put up by the Chancellor in contract talks and won the approval of a state audit to examine the controversial two-tier fee structure.

Success on Health Care Key to Contract Settlement

A key component in CFA’s efforts to secure a fair contract this summer was the union’s ability to fight the Chancellor’s attempt to increase faculty health care costs through the state budget process.

At the Chancellor’s request, the Governor’s May Revise (the revision of his January budget proposal) included language that would have made increased employee contributions for health benefits a near certainty.

In effect, Chancellor Reed sought a legislative end-around to collectively bargaining employee healthcare costs directly with CFA.

The faculty would have faced an increased cost equivalent to as much as a 10% pay cut for some of our colleagues. For employees enrolled in the most popular plans, the increase would have been more than $2000 per year to cover the employee plus one dependent.

After weeks of intensive lobbying, CFA was able to convince the Legislature to reject this proposal in the final budget bill adopted in July.

With this bargaining impediment cleared off the table, CFA’s Bargaining Team was able to reach a tentative contract agreement just a few short weeks later.

Joint Legislative Audit Committee to examine CSU Extended Ed

After a year of demonstrations and controversy over two-tiered fees, the Joint Legislative Audit Committee (JLAC) approved an audit of the CSU Extended Education program by a bipartisan vote on August 8.

The audit comes at the request of Assemblymember Betsy Butler, who authored CFA-sponsored Assembly Bill 2427 to increase oversight of CSU Extended Education.

Under the CSU’s two-tier plan, students are being forced to pay on average 50% more in Extended Education to take courses required for undergraduate degrees. Furthermore, the tuition freeze that was approved in the budget this year is not applicable to the CSU Extended Education program, which can continue to charge higher fees.

These fees are set by local campus administrators with little statewide oversight.

This audit request asks for an examination of the policies, procedures, fee structures, revenues and reserve balances within the CSU Extended Education program and its adherence to existing system-wide policies and applicable state laws. The audit will also compare the policies and practices for the CSU state-support programs with those for the Extended Education programs, including student fees, enrollment, curriculum and revenue and assess the fiscal impact on students.

The state auditor will begin to conduct the audit soon; the results are expected sometime next year.