March 25, 2005

Pilgrimage to Sacramento

By Isadora Malon

Whether it is by design or simply coincidence that Lobby Day in Sacramento fell within weeks of Cesar Chavez’s birthday, the impact of the trek to Sacramento from Logan Heights was no less providential for Octavio Presas and Angelo Montez. They are both students of the Cesar Chavez branch of San Diego Community College District’s Continuing Education program, and both are completing their high school diplomas through a Joint Diploma Program between San Diego Unified School District and the San Diego Community College District. Octavio Presas has perfect attendance in the program, and Angelo Montez is an unofficial tutor in his classes, always willing to lend a hand to other students.

Lobby Day is an annual event sponsored by the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges (FACCC) that gives voice to issues of education and advocacy at the community college level. Educators, students, and legislators met in Sacramento on March 14, for the 2005 FACCC Lobby Day.

Octavio Presas, Angelo Montez, and Frank Saiz carry letters from Cesar Chavez Continuing Education program to legislators in Sacramento.

This year reflected a special concern for community colleges since according to the FACCC, Governor Schwarzenegger’s 2004 Budget Act impacts a deal between the California Teachers Association (CTA) and K-12 educational entities to rebase Proposition 98 expenditures by $2 billion. With the release of the January budget for 2005-06, the Administration announced that it will not increase the current year Proposition 98 expenditures by $1.1 billion as originally promised, but will instead maintain the expenditure level voted in the 2004 Budget Act.

The Cesar Chavez Education site is one of six such centers within the San Diego Community College District. With over 80,000 students enrolled, the continuing education centers offer an array of courses that range from vocational classes and high school completion programs, to computer and citizenship classes. The Associated Student Body (ASB) at Cesar Chavez provided the funds for Octavio and Angelo to attend Lobby Day this year, and they were accompanied by ASB Advisor and member of the Counseling Faculty, Frank Saiz. The three carried with them more than 1000 letters from students of the continuing education program. The letters contained requests to legislators regarding budget cuts that will undoubtedly touch programs at Cesar Chavez.

In addition to budget concerns Latinos within the community college environment was a topic that California State Assembly Member, Lori Saldana, addressed as she spoke to a group of educators and students during the Monday meeting in Sacramento. According to Saiz, “There’s a strong concern among many Latino educators that while Latinos look to the community college to start their educational programs, a large proportion don’t complete sufficient college units to transfer to a four year college or university.” Saldana’s talk reinforced the need to pay attention to the Latino student population when she emphasized the fact that Latinos are the fastest growing segment of the population to represent a majority in the state of California.

Through the auspices of the FACCC, Lobby Day allowed faculty and students throughout California to speak directly to legislators on the importance of equal funding for community college programs. For Octavio and Angelo, the trip to Sacramento not only gave them the opportunity to represent the San Diego Community College District’s Continuing Education program, it also accented the need for Calfornia’s governor and the state legislators to view the community colleges as equal in importance to University of California schools as well as California State Universities.

For additional information about course offerings through the San Diego Community College District, contact the Continuing Education office at 619.388.4955.

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