What’s up with the COA child care center?

I.

The Peralta board of trustees–the body responsible for the administration of Laney College, Berkeley City College, Merritt College and College of Alameda–has been engaged in an ugly attack on students, teachers, and workers on our campuses. They have cut over 500 classes, laid off teachers and slashed funding for programs which provide critical assistance to low-income students. Now, they plan to go forward with $8 million more in cuts (equivalent to 2500 students) and close the childcare center at College of Alameda.

We have pleaded and reasoned time and again with the board. In the March 23rd board meeting a group of 40 mothers served by the College of Alameda childcare center pleaded the board to keep the center open, all testifying to the fact that the closure of the childcare center would severely disrupt their education. How did the board respond? All nine board members voted unanimously to shut down the center. Despite our persistence, the board has refused to listen to our appeals.

Instead they continue unilaterally with the cuts, claiming the money isn’t there. We know this is not true. Just last semester district administrators received raises up to 16% (totaling over $500,000) while teachers were being laid off. Our corrupt chancellor, Elihu Harris, has given massive sums of district money to former business partners including a $940,000 no-bid contract awarded to Harris’ friend, Mark Lindquist, in a real estate deal. Several trustees have been caught using district money to pay for flight upgrades and expensive hotel stays, personal trips–even clothes shopping. Now, the board is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight a lawsuit so it does not have to release a report entailing financial corruption in the district. At any point these funds could have been used to preserve classes, to keep teachers, or to save the childcare center. Instead, this money was grossly mismanaged.

Though they are elected to represent us the board has proven it is incapable of performing its most essential function. The crisis we are experiencing at Laney is not just an economic crisis—it is a crisis of democracy. Decisions are made at our school by an outside governing body that does not represent us. We have made our case privately and publicly to the board and it has refused to meet our needs.

Though they might try to sign away our lives, it is not a politician or a bureaucrat who holds the greatest power over our schools. Students and workers have the most power over this system because we are what makes it run every day. We are Peralta. What if we refuse to allow this illegitimate board to dismantle our education? We do not need an administration once we take control of our college, our community, our future; our lives.

II.

Workers and moms at the COA childcare center have been talking about finding alternative sources of funding to keep the center open. But this is the job of the board–not the moms.

There are several sources of unrestricted funds Peralta can use to keep the center open long enough to find alternative funding:

Use the reserves.
The 09-10 proposed budget states the children’s center fund has an ending balance of $837,022. Even at the current deficit this is enough to keep the center open for more than two years.

Chop the top.
Rescind the illegal pay raises given to administrators and cut their
salaries to cover the gap.

Kick the cops off campus.
Peralta contracts the Alameda County Sheriff’s Dept. to patrol our
campuses at a cost of 2.38 million. In 2009-2010 the sheriff’s department exceeded their contract by one million dollars.

Drop the appeal.
Stop trying to hide public records, comply with the judge’s order and drop the appeal to the Bay Area News Group lawsuit that has already
cost Peralta over $100,000 in legal fees.

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