Two California Propositions Will Advance Community Colleges

By Pamela Luster, President of the Chief Executives Officers of California Community Colleges (CEOCCC) Board, and Joshua Elizondo, Student Trustee of the California Community College Trustees (CCCT) Board

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

By now many Californians have likely received, filled out and either mailed or dropped off their 2020 election ballot to an official ballot drop box or voting location. It is critical that we all vote in this upcoming election, not only for the United States President, but for state and local ballot measures. This November, Californians will determine the fate of 12 state propositions, two of which could have a substantial impact on California Community Colleges: propositions 15 and 16.

Passage of both propositions will advance the critical mission of our colleges by not only strengthening the economic and social mobility for individuals and families across the state, but also by educating and training many of the professionals identified as essential workers encountering COVID-19 on the frontlines of this pandemic. Nurses, respiratory therapists, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), firefighters and police officers are among the more than 20,000 first responders and essential healthcare professionals that will enter the workforce annually having graduated from one of our 116 community colleges.

California Community Colleges receive approximately $8,300 per full-time equivalent student compared to the more than $33,500 the University of California receives from state, local and student fees. In addition to this substantial funding gap, the present pandemic-induced economic recession means: considerable budget cuts are forthcoming in the 2021-22 academic year and beyond. While the length and scope of the pandemic remains unknown, we do know that to successfully confront the effects of COVID-19 California families will require the care of the healthcare and public safety professionals that graduate from our colleges. With 70 percent of nurses, and 80 percent of California firefighters, EMTs, and law enforcement officers credentialed at California Community Colleges, looming budget cuts for these vital public safety and healthcare programs jeopardize their capacity as well as their sustainability when we need them the most.

Proposition 15 and Proposition 16 offer California's community colleges increased flexibility to further the mission of economic and social mobility for Californians regardless of socioeconomic status.

Proposition 15 will not likely completely offset the budget cuts our colleges may endure; however, the measure would raise an estimated $200 to $500 million for community colleges by closing 42-year-old corporate property tax loopholes while protecting homeowners, renters, small businesses and agriculture. It would also prevent devastating cuts to health and safety programs essential to communities, neighborhoods, and families. This would go a long way in alleviating the serious budget shortfalls caused by the pandemic and allow colleges to continue to serve their communities. This investment recognizes that community colleges are critical to California’s future and necessitate proper funding.

Proposition 16 asks voters to repeal Proposition 209 and the state’s ban on affirmative action. The passage of Proposition 209 in 1996 prohibited public institutions, including California Community Colleges, from making race and gender-informed decisions in their hiring practices. This has since made it more difficult for community colleges to hire a diverse pool of faculty and staff that are representative of the students and communities we serve. By permitting our colleges to proactively recruit and work to retain educational professionals, staff, and administrators of color this supports our ongoing efforts to increase the academic and career success of the most diverse student body in California higher education. Several peer-reviewed articles and research reveal compelling evidence that faculty of color improve the academic outcomes of students of color and diverse student bodies. Passage of Proposition 16 will permit community colleges to act on evidence-based information to improve equity and student success, sending a clear signal to higher education professionals throughout the U.S. that California Community Colleges embrace diversity, equity, and research in our pursuit of educating and training the 21st Century workforce.

Voting YES on Propositions 15 and 16 are votes for the essential mission of the California Community Colleges. More importantly, the act of voting itself, is essential to the well-being of our state and nation.


Pam Luster is the President of San Diego Mesa College and serves as President on the Chief Executives Officers of California Community Colleges (CEOCCC) Board.


Joshua Elizondo is the Student Trustee at Santa Monica CCD and serves on the California Community College Trustees (CCCT) Board.