Rep. Speier calls for federal accreditation reform, citing CCSF debacle

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Rep. Jackie Speier and Rep. Anna Eshoo
Photo by Evan DuCharme
Rep. Jackie Speier and Rep. Anna Eshoo at a forum to investigate the ACCJC, which accredits City College of San Francisco

City College of San Francisco’s woes may be a catalyst for accreditation reform nationwide, US Rep. Jackie Speier (D-SF) said at a forum at the embattled school today. 

The college was told by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges in July that its accreditation would be revoked in one year, pending appeals. Accreditation is required for a school to have degrees worth more than the paper they’re printed on, and without accreditation the college may close. 

The ACCJC evaluates and accredits the community colleges of the western half of the US, including 112 community colleges in California, the largest such system in the nation. 

At a forum Speier and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) convened at City College today, Speier trumpeted what local advocates have said all along: The evaluation of City College was bungled, lacked transparency, and violated federal education regulations, all pointing to a desperate need for reform of ACCJC. 

Teachers, faculty, and education advocates packed the Diego Rivera Theater, all cheering at every jibe toward the group that will effectively close San Francisco’s largest higher education institution and only community college in one year. 

“I think the ACCJC has run amok, they have lost their vision -- if they ever had one,” Speier said in an interview after the forum. “They are riddled with conflicts of interest and arbitrariness.”

She went even a step further, saying that the debacle with the ACCJC signaled a need to reform accreditation on a national level, citing a lack of public accountability.

“This is a truly unaccountable agency, unaccountable to anyone,” she said. This is an institutional problem, she said, meaning “we need to look at accreditation generally.”

An audio interview with Rep. Speier, conducted by Guardian reporter Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez and KQED reporter Alex Emslie.

In the past, the ACCJC has even blocked the public from attending its meetings

College accrediting bodies are private institutions, not subject to public records requests or public vote. The system has had activists in San Francisco and California as a whole calling for the ACCJC to change or to close. Speier echoed those sentiments, saying that City College’s treatment was a prime example of how the current system is broken. 

ACCJC’s decision to close City College was especially troubling, Speier said, because current law “does not allow the US Department of Education to overturn a decision that it says is flawed.”

The Guardian contacted the US Department of Education on these fresh allegations but did not hear back from them before press time. We will update this article with any new information. We also contacted ACCJC, and were told its president, Dr. Barbara Beno, would contact us within the next few days. Beno also declined to attend the forum. 

The Department of Education issued a letter in August that found the ACCJC out of compliance with a number of federal standards. ACCJC stacked the teams sent to evaluate City College with administrators, and few teachers, and even placed the commission president’s husband on a team to evaluate City College -- a clear conflict of interest. 

It did not, however, say that the commission should not have revoked City College’s accreditation. A Department of Education representative told the Guardian at the time that it did not have the authority to change the ACCJC’s decision to close down City College.

And that’s exactly the point, Speier said.

They can do to fix ACCJC or any accrediting body anywhere beyond closing them down entirely, she explained. 

“The Department of Education only has one hammer, and that is to deny the ACCJC certification, which is up for review this year,” she told the crowd. ACCJC is slated to undergo this evaluation in December which could spell the end of the commission entirely.  

But she said that doesn’t get to the root of the problem. The accrediting system is broken, and she’ll soon sit with Education Secretary Arne Duncan to see what could be done to change the system as a whole, something that’s been hinted at on a national level before. 

As we’ve covered (Who Killed City College?, July/9), President Obama called for a change to college accreditation in the United States in his last State of the Union speech. 

Sen. Jim Beall and Assemblymember Tom Ammiano were also in attendance at the forum, and promised to continue the fight to preserve City College at the state level. The Joint Legislative Audit Committee is evaluating ACCJC at the request of those legislators and Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber). 

“We will kick a lot of butt, with class, of course,” Ammiano said. 

Earlier in the day, the Save CCSF coalition announced they were suing ACCJC to reverse its decision to close the college, calling for a writ to overturn the closure. Save CCSF is an advocacy group that’s led many of the marches against the loss of accreditation. This makes for a third lawsuit against the commission.

City College is a major economic driver in San Francisco. A report by the city’s Budget and Legislative Analyst’s Office, called for by Sup. Eric Mar, said that San Francisco stands to lose over $300 million a year if City College were to close. The school educates many of the city’s firefighters, culinary industry and is a major driver of the city’s workforce as a whole, it said.

Many students spoke at the forum, all telling tales of the college’s importance in their lives. Dong Lee, a father of three who lives in Chinatown, put a face to the economic importance of City College. 

“To support my family I have [sic] to work more hours because my English was poor,” he told the crowd from a microphone at the forum. He now works seven days a week. Now that his oldest child is in third grade, he said, he finally has time to attend school. His English was halting, but fluent. 

“I have been studying in City College for three semesters… I feel my English is improving,” he said.

Speier interrupted him, “It is!"

He said other schools were too far for him to take English courses, and without City College he would have to stop altogether. He worries for the future of his family.

“I’d have to stop my education,” he said, “my dream would be shattered.”

Now there is federal action backing up the fight to save City College, Lee’s education, and that of the college’s 85,000 students, have a stronger chance of survival. 

Comments

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Nov. 07, 2013 @ 9:16 pm

... what he was getting at, if I had to make a guess, would be that he couldn't get a higher paying job because of his English skill at the time, and had to work longer hours for lower wages to make ends meet.  

Posted by Joe Fitzgerald on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 10:16 am

task done because of the inability to communicate with his fellow workers.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 10:24 am

CCSF is well on its way to closing. All these meetings are merely grandstanding for the politicians and theatre for the public.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 07, 2013 @ 10:30 pm
Posted by Guest on Nov. 07, 2013 @ 10:50 pm

An agency run amok. No standards. No accountability to the public. No concern for students and communities. Riddled with conflicts of interest. It's whole purpose seems to be to funnel profits into the pockets of private businesses and rich individuals connected to them.

I agree. SHUT... the... clownshow... down.

Posted by Greg on Nov. 09, 2013 @ 7:21 pm

thing that is CCSF expire, as a victim of its own incompetence and as a warning about ideological extremism everywhere.

Posted by anon on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 8:20 am

The poor and the sick in general should be allowed to expire.

Posted by Chromefields on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 8:28 am

I agree! Or at least just mandate that liberals take care of them with their own money.

Posted by Chromefields on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 10:41 am

And every SFBG writer would have to take in two, naturally.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 10:51 am

How about making it a law that any conservative that demands women have a baby have to adopt those babies that these women cannot afford?
City College served me better than the State University ever did.
Rich people generally suck and are a parasite on society in general.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 11, 2013 @ 12:37 pm

Good article, but it misses a point. ACCJC President Barbara Beno cited pending lawsuits against ACCJC in declining to attend the forum (according to Speir). That, of course, didn't stop her from sending an email comment to the ACCJC-friendly Chronicle.

Also note that she skipped the summer session of the Legislative Audit Committee where the audit of ACCJC was approved.

She doesn't likes to appear in official settings where she may need to defend her actions.

Posted by jchayes on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 8:32 am

ACCJC has not only attacked CCSF. It has sanctioned more than half of the community colleges in California, despite their yeoman's job in educating poorly prepared, low income, immigrant and community members without many other options for enrichment and cultural integration.

ACCJC has done so,in part, with the assistance of private foundation money from Lumina Foundation (a conversion foundation whose BILLIONS came from student loan profiteering). Lumina granted 1.5 million to WASC in Alameda, the parent accrediting agency, and .5 million to ACCJC in order to "transform" higher education into a rapid through-put enterprise, with many functions of the public education system poised to be converted to for-profit sub-entities within the nominally public educational system.

At the same time that Lumina is funding "transformation" that has not been fully vetted by students, faculty, or even administrations, it has been trying to control the public perceptions of higher education as a "broken system". Of course it is not a broken system, it is a crippled system from funding starvation. The first stage of privatization take overs is a deliberate crippling of capacity. How does Lumina "build public will" for its higher ed give away program? It also has a "build public will" campaign that funds things like the scandalous Washington Monthly article (.45 million to Washington MOnthly) that claims bay area cc's are the "worst in the nation." Right. And the Hechinger Report, which is busy planting stories in other higher ed journalism venues. Folks. This is a Heist.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 8:51 am

ACCJC has not only attacked CCSF. It has sanctioned more than half of the community colleges in California, despite their yeoman's job in educating poorly prepared, low income, immigrant and community members without many other options for enrichment and cultural integration.

ACCJC has done so,in part, with the assistance of private money from Lumina Foundation (a conversion foundation whose BILLIONS came from student loan profiteering). Lumina granted 1.5 million to WASC in Alameda, the parent accrediting agency, and .5 million to ACCJC in order to "transform" higher education into a rapid through-put enterprise, with many functions of the public education system poised to be converted to for-profit sub-entities within the nominally public educational system.

At the same time that Lumina is funding "transformation" that has not been fully vetted by students, faculty, or even administrations, it has been trying to control the public perceptions of higher education as a "broken system". Of course it is not a broken system, it is a crippled system from funding starvation. The first stage of privatization take overs is a deliberate crippling of capacity. How does Lumina "build public will" for its higher ed give away program? It also has a "build public will" campaign that funds things like the scandalous Washington Monthly article (.45 million to Washington MOnthly) that claims bay area cc's are the "worst in the nation." Right. And the Hechinger Report, which is busy planting stories in other higher ed journalism venues. Folks. This is a Heist.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 8:56 am

Not to be forgotten is the rapid, complete approval that " ACE" ( The American Council on Education ) issued for the ACCJC's actions toward CCSF. Some of us
( students included ) have tried to get a response from ACE regarding president Molly Corbett Broad's irresponsible public statements regarding WASC/CCSF and the ACCJC.
Of course, no replay has been issued. ACE is another would-be educational organization whose operations and fiscal practices should be thoroughly reviewed
and evaluated.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 9:14 am

So they are doing what they are supposed to do.

Posted by anon on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 9:49 am

That is the huge problem with ACCJC - they do not have clear standards and changing them any time they want, therefore it is hard to follow. No transparency in the evaluation process and no constructive feedback, they just impose sanctions, especially on those who dare to question the fairness of the process. Who is policing ACCJC standards? Perhaps the DOE will do the job.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 7:28 pm
Posted by Guest on Nov. 09, 2013 @ 7:18 am

Who votes for ACCJC?

Posted by marcos on Nov. 09, 2013 @ 7:51 am

Just like the police chef or a SCOTUS justice. We don't elect them directly but they are selected by those we do elect.

That's the point of elections - so that we don't have to make micro decisions.

I'm happy with ACCJC - they picked up here on a flawed college, which is their job.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 09, 2013 @ 8:22 am

Since we elect the folks who decide whether the government will delegate to the ACCJC or another entity the task of accrediting institutions of higher education, it makes perfect sense for those elected officials to periodically reevaluate whether their delegation of authority to the ACCJC still makes sense.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 09, 2013 @ 9:11 am

The entire range of accrediting agencies associated with WASC need complete review and overhaul. The group that goes under the acronym "WASC" accredits 4 year colleges / universities. Often, WASC's college accrediting " team visits'
turn out to be fairly opulent travel junkets ( read expenses and expense accounts) that somehow escape the IRS. Some colleges and universities have gone to
hiring administrators and promoting faculty because of a candidate's "good ole boy/girl" relationship with WASC. Its really deplorable. A third tier of WASC accredits
K - 12, and no one needs to be reminded of what dedicated teachers think of
the organization's bungling of curriculum, governmental test requirements,
etc.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 9:06 am

WASC/ACCJC/ACE/DOE are simply variants of the same drumbeat: monetize education whichever way it can be done. Even if this is currently a largely California issue, with dubious federal passivity or even outright federal complicity in accrediting processes, the use of accreditation in general to "guide" transformation of higher education into a monetizeable megachurch is the full objective--

The assault on CCSF actually has very little to do with CCSF, per se. CCSF has just become a testing ground for the next wave of totall onslaught on public, education, with financiers circling the crippled institutions. The crippling was deliberate.

here's a map:
1. Devastate the budget supporting ccs for three years running, under cries of state poverty (don't raise taxes on the rich, whatever you do)
2. Seed doubt about the viability of the institution via accreditation, which also
--siphons off 11 million dollars and countless human resources battling a sham closure
--harms enrollment, which further affects apportionment.
3. Turn students away from the deliberately dwarfed institution (dwarfed by efforts 1, 2a and 2b)
4. Develop alternative, more costly, educational programs run by private entities (or beef up existing ones), driving the student aid dollars, private savings of the poor, and any resources devoted to education into private hands, for a second round of bubble-fueled profit taking (after the Lumina parent corp. and other student loan profiteers, engineered the first education related skim action).
All goes together folks: the semi-failed takeover of K-12 by for-profits octopus has shifted its tentacles to community colleges.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 10:31 am

And nothing to do with poor management, greedy workers, intransigent unions, unsustainable pay and benefits, mediocer academic quality and low ambitions?

Just tax the rich and everything will be wonderful!

Except of course that it won't. The extra revenue would disappear down the city family black hole, and CCSF would still be a heap of steaming shit.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 10:39 am
Posted by AnotherGuest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 11:38 am

just business and profit seeking.

I'll say it again. Watch for Richard Blum to somehow profit from this CCSF issue, either through his for-profit educational holdings or his real estate businesses.

He's making money as the USPS is forced to sell its real estate holdings brought about by a manufactured financial crisis.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 12:24 pm
Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 12:30 pm

Yes, there are so many rumors about real estate/developers salivating regarding CCSF properties. What is it all about? If that is true, that it all makes sense why somebody is interested to downsize the college.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 7:35 pm

Any redevelopment of their property is a separate issue.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 09, 2013 @ 7:17 am

It's a total coincidence that all the "solutions" peddled by the rich, always seems to benefit... the rich!!! Wow, what a coincidence!

Gotta love these right-wing coincidence theorists.

Posted by Greg on Nov. 09, 2013 @ 10:39 am

A city of 800,000 residents has a Community College with 80,000 students. About half of the students are taking enrichment courses. Why can't these students take these "fun" courses in their hometown ? Why should the people of SF subsidize the people of neighboring towns ?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 09, 2013 @ 11:19 am

make sure that our workforce is well educated

Posted by lkjsfl on Nov. 09, 2013 @ 8:38 pm

privatization = domination

Posted by nfjkhd on Nov. 11, 2013 @ 12:01 pm

This pretty much captures it. And for anyone with doubts, note the surge in television, print, and mail advertising by private colleges since CCSF fell under ACCJC sanction.

I would disagree with just one point. It is about CCSF to the extent that the ACCJC wants to stifle dissent, and resents that CCSF was able to water down ACCJC-backed legislation in the California Legislature.

I wish Speier and Eshoo luck in getting through to Ed Sec. Arne Duncan, who seems to have bought into the neoliberal education agenda described above.

Posted by jchayes on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 12:43 pm

CCSF?

Is that it?

How convenient for those who suck at the teat of CCSF, which I'd assume includes you.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 1:36 pm

$1000/day for special trustee sure is a good suck. Does anyone know how much funds-stranded CCSF had to pay for "required" by the accreditation committee consultants?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 7:48 pm

and folks are surprised that there are no eggs?

Posted by njhdg on Nov. 11, 2013 @ 11:58 am

$1000/day for special trustee sure is a good suck. Does anyone know how much funds-stranded CCSF had to pay for "required" by the accreditation committee consultants?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 7:50 pm

Let me guess. You think CCSF should self-regulate?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 09, 2013 @ 7:16 am

not privatizer bought manipulation....

Posted by njhdgf on Nov. 11, 2013 @ 11:55 am
Posted by njhdg on Nov. 11, 2013 @ 11:57 am

instead of driving out the fox!

Posted by njhd on Nov. 11, 2013 @ 12:00 pm

It cracks me up that the right wing kooks described in "the Parnoid Style of American Politics" now includes the left wing kooks.

Posted by Matlock on Nov. 09, 2013 @ 2:06 pm

We have only one single party -the party of capitalism and privatization. The left doesn't want the agenda of austerity and privatization, but how many leftists are there in government?

Posted by Greg on Nov. 09, 2013 @ 7:14 pm

than there was in the soviet union!

Posted by nldk on Nov. 11, 2013 @ 11:53 am

needs proportional representation

Posted by nld on Nov. 11, 2013 @ 11:54 am

So many Guest posters !!!

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 11:32 am

And most people are lazy.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 11:46 am

Don't people desire to make a name for themselves ? If people have such good arguments, don't they want to take credit for them ?

Posted by AnotherGuest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 12:56 pm

should show the guts to reveal themselves when they boast opinions

Posted by nldkj on Nov. 11, 2013 @ 11:50 am

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