Credit: Website of Assemblyman Jose Medina
Assemblymember Jose Medina, D-Riverside, author of a bill to increase community college adjunct professors' teach loads, speaking on the Assembly floor in 2017.

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Two bills designed to improve the working conditions of part-time community college professors were easily approved by the state Assembly Higher Education Committee on Tuesday, but questions remain as to whether they will become law.

Assembly Bill 1856, sponsored by Assemblymember Jose Medina, D-Riverside, the committee chair, would allow part-timers, generally called adjuncts, to teach up to 85% of a full-time teaching load in a single community college district. That would allow adjuncts more stability and could lessen the need for some to teach in multiple districts to cobble together a living. Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed similar legislation Medina sponsored last year, citing cost concerns.

Assembly Bill 1752, sponsored by Assemblymember Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, would create pay equity between part-time faculty and their full-time colleagues, who are paid at higher hourly rates and are compensated for work outside the classroom, such as class preparation and meeting with students. Adjuncts are generally paid only for time in the classroom and complain they often meet with students, grade papers and prepare lessons without pay.

“There is terrible inequity, not just on pay, but in terms of what is paid for and what is not paid for. We are asking that part-time instructors be paid at parity,” Santiago said during the hearing. “This is about equal pay for equal work.”

Santiago’s bill was opposed Tuesday by the Community College League, which represents locally elected trustees and top administrators at the state’s 72 local districts.

“We really do need to compensate our part-time faculty members better, and better working conditions,” Ryan McElhinney, the league’s policy and advocacy manager, told lawmakers. But, he added, “without a commensurate, significant budget increase, we do not think that this bill will fix the problems that face our institutions today.”

Newsom’s fiscal year 2022-23 budget proposed in January includes $200 million in new spending for improved adjunct health care. But McElhinney noted that “California community colleges receive the lowest per-pupil funding rate of any education system in this state, and that forces hard choices for our districts.” Improved adjunct pay, he said, is competing with meeting pension obligations, free tuition, and programs “to alleviate (students’) food and housing and security.”

Medina, a former adjunct and community college trustee, came out strongly for Santiago’s bill. He called part-time faculty “the backbone” of the community colleges and said he understands “the struggle they face to put food on the table” under the current system.

“Equal pay for equal work is about as simple as it gets,” Medina said. There are “other forums” to discuss how much the bill will cost districts and the state, he added. The bill was approved and will next be heard by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

The hearing came a day after two Long Beach Community College District adjuncts sued that district in state court, claiming they are routinely required to do work such as prepping for classes and grading papers for which they are not paid. They are asking a judge to certify the suit as a class action, a move that would bring in hundreds of other district adjuncts as plaintiffs. The lawyer for the plaintiffs said if that happens, the district could easily face millions of dollars in damages for lost pay. A spokesperson for the district declined to comment.

The suit could also have statewide ramifications. Adjuncts and their advocates say the practice of limiting adjunct pay to classroom time, and in some cases, office hours, is common across California’s 72 local community college districts. Adjuncts surveyed and interviewed for an EdSource three-part investigative series published in February often said they have to work for free to meet student needs.

Medina, who cited the series at a hearing in January, let the bill’s supporters, the California Federation of Teachers and the Faculty Association of the California Community Colleges, push for the committee’s support Tuesday.

Michael Young, representing the teachers federation, said, “there are too many part-time faculty who have to drive from district to district to district to piece together a full-time load … (and) spend more time on the freeway than they do providing essential services to our students.”

Newsom’s veto message last year on the similar bill Medina sponsored cited general cost concerns. Medina and others have said some of those concerns involved health care costs. Individual contracts that districts negotiate with faculty unions often use teaching load as a marker for when adjuncts become eligible for health benefits.

Raising the load makes more adjuncts eligible for coverage. State aid to districts to cover those costs has been historically inadequate. But Newsom’s $200 million proposal is designed to solve that.

“We are working with the governor’s office to provide additional funding in the budget for any health care cost that could be associated with this bill,” Young said.

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  1. Sharon R. 6 months ago6 months ago

    At our college, administration decides what classes will be taught, when they will be scheduled, and how many students are in each class. I objected to some of those decisions with regard to a class I was scheduled to teach in the fall. Our dean told me my concerns were valid, but the decision was not mine to make — as an adjunct those decisions were "above my pay grade." There are no full-time … Read More

    At our college, administration decides what classes will be taught, when they will be scheduled, and how many students are in each class. I objected to some of those decisions with regard to a class I was scheduled to teach in the fall. Our dean told me my concerns were valid, but the decision was not mine to make — as an adjunct those decisions were “above my pay grade.”

    There are no full-time faculty in my department, and that’s the new normal. This bill is not helping faculty. It’s an attempt to make faculty comfortable enough to not notice they are being adjunctified. Faculty are more than subject matter experts and hourly lecturers reporting to a dean with no teaching experience. At least they should be.

  2. Mario 6 months ago6 months ago

    I have been an adjunct cybersecurity instructor now for 12 years, and not one full-time faculty position has ever opened. We have one permanent faculty for computer science. The close of living in the bay area has made it even more difficult. No housing, no students! I agree with Jason.

  3. David T. 7 months ago7 months ago

    78% of classes in our district were taught by adjuncts this semester. Adjuncts design their own classes and provide them to whichever school they contract at for that semester. Many of our departments have no permanent faculty and those that do have no more than a rough idea of what is being taught in other classes. How is this public education? How is this different than the for-pay schools, which hire … Read More

    78% of classes in our district were taught by adjuncts this semester. Adjuncts design their own classes and provide them to whichever school they contract at for that semester. Many of our departments have no permanent faculty and those that do have no more than a rough idea of what is being taught in other classes. How is this public education? How is this different than the for-pay schools, which hire the same adjuncts to teach the same classes?

  4. Jason 7 months ago7 months ago

    This isn’t supporting part-time instructors. It’s an attempt to pull more into becoming lifetime adjuncts. This is about normalizing and expanding permanent second-class status.

  5. R. Ellison 7 months ago7 months ago

    Enrollment is dropping at alarming rates. The primary complaint among students is lack of relevance and lack of connection—that schools do not care about their mission or their students.

    How are schools supposed to turn this around? How do schools demonstrate care and commitment when up to 80% of classes are taught by instructors hired and fired every 18 weeks?

  6. Ed Loman 7 months ago7 months ago

    AB 1856 allows districts to have part-time workers shoulder effectively a full-time load without benefits. If this bill goes through it’s essential the end of tenure track.

    Want to serve the interest of faculty adjacent educators? Require districts to live up to their promises of having most of their classes taught by full-time faculty, and therefore hire more gig teachers full-time.

  7. Robert L Crawford 8 months ago8 months ago

    With the decrease in enrollment and decrease in the number of adjunct professorships, the cost should be way down.

  8. Alexis Moore 8 months ago8 months ago

    Regarding AB 1856: There should be no limitation on workloads for part-time professors.Full-Time professors should not be allowed to work overtime. AB 1856 does not in fact lift the caps on part-time faculty workload. Lifting of the cap does not guarantee more work for part-time faculty. It is the full-time faculty who largely control the workloads of part-time professors. The full-time faculty, who in effect supervise the part-timers, effectively control the unions. $200 Million in the Community College Part-time Faculty … Read More

    Regarding AB 1856:
    There should be no limitation on workloads for part-time professors.Full-Time professors should not be allowed to work overtime.

    AB 1856 does not in fact lift the caps on part-time faculty workload. Lifting of the cap does not guarantee more work for part-time faculty.

    It is the full-time faculty who largely control the workloads of part-time professors.
    The full-time faculty, who in effect supervise the part-timers, effectively control the unions.
    $200 Million in the Community College Part-time Faculty Health Insurance Plan will not guarantee health insurance for part-time faculty.

    More than a decade old, this health plan has failed, largely because it relies on collective bargaining and requires the colleges to still pay 50% of the cost.

    Regarding AB 1752:
    Pay Parity is not Equal Pay; it is Discounted Pay. Teaching is not piecemeal work.

    AB 1752 does not require equal pay. AB 1752 should require Equal Pay And Equal Work and Equal Benefits.

    Contingent Faculty for Equality (CFE) believes in a One-Tier Model of Faculty Employment. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1GfhFrMegufVZDF3LvS3w9rc_5yScQ2ASX12v_oAkh_o/edit#heading=h.4igqvxfbhsnr

  9. Terry Givens 8 months ago8 months ago

    Allowing adjuncts to be able to take on another class at the campus or get hired into a classified position would make a great difference for both the adjunct and student. We adjuncts are truly the backbone of the community college system but make significantly less than the department secretary or janitor.

  10. Gayle 8 months ago8 months ago

    I imagine many readers including me would like to know what the hourly pay rate is for the average full time instructor and the average adjunct instructor currently. FYI, pay at one of the larger nonprofit universities in California is $25/hour for adjuncts. You can make more money working at Target when the nonpaid work is factored in.