Cover IllustrationPrinter-friendly PDF file

January 2020

Restoring Older Adult Classes Cut at City College
Pickpocketing the Dignity Fund’s Wallet

by Patrick Monette-Shaw


San Franciscans should rally in support of a $2.7 million budget supplemental appropriation proposal by the Board of Supervisors to restore all of the 345 classes recently cut at City College. 

At the same time, San Franciscans should roundly reject and not accept a pathetic $216,000 Band-Aid foisted on the Dignity Fund to save only 17 of the classes CCSF’s cut.

Using the Dignity Fund to replace course cancellations at City College is a rotten Band-Aid that should be roundly rejected and condemned.  It amounts to pickpocketing from Peter — the Dignity Fund — to pay Paul (CCSF).

After all, Band-Aids are meant for skin abrasions and minor wounds as a temporary remedy or solution for a short period of time, not to stop long-term hemorrhaging from gaping wounds caused by amputating entire course offerings from departments in a Community College.  Band-Aids do not cure the underlying causes from major wounds.

Pull Quote 1City College Decimates Older Adult Programming

Readers should strongly object to Mayor Breed’s and Board of Supervisors president Norman Yee’s plan to pickpocket the City’s Dignity Fund to pick up the tab for just 17 of the 52 classes for older adults shamelessly cut by City College of San Francisco (CCSF).  Nearly all of the College’s approximate 50 classes serving seniors and adults with disabilities faced the proposed cuts.

Cuts included virtually all of the classes in the Older Adult Program (OLAD), which provides seniors vital help in overcoming isolation and maintaining interests and acuity.  City College administrators claim a newly-discovered budget deficit, but Chancellor Mark Rocha had secretly tried to double some administrators’ salaries.  He now says the cuts are part of a planned restructuring of City College.

Pull Quote 2The Dignity Fund should not be forced into donating $216,000 annually in each of the next three years to fund classes historically funded by CCSF.  That’s not what the Dignity Fund was created for.

Restoring only 17 of the up to 52 classes cut is less than one third of the 58 classes CCSF offered through its Older Adult Programs Department (OLAD).  Shame on Breed and Yee for presuming older adults can be placated by throwing them breadcrumbs to restore only one-third of the OLAD programs cut, essentially outsourcing CCSF classes to non-profit service providers receiving Dignity Fund subsidies.

Back on November 20 City College announced the sudden cancellation of 288 to 345 classes from its Spring 2020 course offerings with no notice, ostensibly to help balance the school’s $13 million budget shortfall, a shortfall caused, “primarily” on planned massive pay raises for top administrators at City College.  The course cancellations weren’t discussed beforehand with the chairs of each of the College’s academic departments, who are typically consulted before cuts are made.

Pull Quote 3While Breed’s proposal seeks to restore just 17 OLAD courses, she and Yee aren’t lifting a finger to restore any of the other 345 courses CCSF eliminated.  Restoring only 17 of all 345 classes cut represents just 5% of the courses CCSSF eliminated.  That’s pathetic, at best.

CCSF’s Chancellor, Mark Rocha, noted the College’s $13 million budget deficit but he failed to note that the types of courses cut represents a major policy change to convert CCSF from its community college mission in the hopes of returning it to the California Junior College System run by the State.

The proposed restructuring of City College portends eliminating community service courses and only keeping courses for students completing Associate degrees who want to transfer to a four-year college to pursue a bachelor’s degree, or are seeking a vocational certificate.

Many state level policy-makers want to see community colleges shift from being community colleges to good-old-fashioned junior colleges for the purpose of helping younger students earn the credits they need to transfer to a four-year institution, ignoring the needs of older students seeking life-long learning courses. 

Pull Quote 4Degree-oriented courses have been a key part of City College’s mission for the past 50 years, but CCSF’s mission also included a key focus on offering life-long learning courses of interest to the community, not just courses for students on a path seeking four-year degrees.

Shouldn’t any changes to both of the College’s missions have a detailed, robust, lengthy public conversation before making such mission changes?  It appears that Rocha doesn’t seem interested in conducting, or even having, that public discussion.

On December 30, the San Francisco Examiner reported: 

The City will use $216,000 annually from the Dignity Fund, which voters passed in 2016 to support older adults and adults with disabilities, to fund 17 of the 50 classes cut in the program for the next three years. Nonprofits like the Jewish Community Center, Self-Help for the Elderly, and YMCA Stonestown will take over the administration of the classes, which are expected to serve about 1,000 people.” 

Pull Quote 5The Examiner didn’t report that the Dignity Fund receives the entirety of its annual budget directly from appropriations from the General City’s Fund, nor did the Examiner report that those appropriations are obviously contingent on the very politicians controlling City Budget appropriations:  The Mayor (who appoints three of the Dignity Fund’s Oversight and Advisory Committee [OAC] members subject to approval by the Board of Supervisors), and the Board of Supervisors themselves (who simultaneously influence appointments to the OAC via other agencies eligible to appoint OAC members).

One astute observer noted:  “The idea of using [the Dignity Fund] that was created to help destitute seniors live safely in their homes, in order to provide non-medical essentials is too much for me.”

I agree:  This is clearly and completely an inappropriate use of the Dignity Fund.

Supervisor Walton’s Budget Supplemental Request

Pull Quote 6On December 10, Supervisor Shamann Walton introduced legislation proposing to allocate $2.7 million in emergency City funding from the General Fund’s reserve to reinstate the dropped 345 City College classes that CCSF administrators canceled on November 20, the night before Spring 2020 registration began.  The legislation was assigned under the Board’s 30-day Rule to its Budget and Finance Committee, where it may be heard during a hearing shortly after January 9, 2020.

Supervisor Walton’s $2.7 million emergency City funding proposal has public support and is cosponsored by Supervisors Gordon Mar, Matt Haney, Sandra Lee Fewer, and Dean Preston.  His proposal requires an additional Supervisor vote to approve it and three Supervisors to override a potential mayoral veto.

Supervisors who have not yet committed to supporting Supervisor Walton’s legislation include Catherine Stefani (D-2), Aaron Peskin (D-3), Norman Yee (D-7), Rafael Mandelman (D-8), Hillary Ronen (D-9), and Ahsha Safai (D-11).  What are Peskin, Yee, and Ronen thinking?

Please quickly contact uncommitted Supervisors and urge them to support Walton’s emergency City College funding and oppose restructuring of City College.  Pull Quote 7You can contact them at:

While you’re at it, remind these Supervisors that the Dignity Fund should not be raided in the process.

Pull QUote 8Governance Issues

There are a number of governance issues that Mayor Breed and Supervisor Yee appear too myopic to see, or are unwilling to consider and fully understand.

CCSF Governance Issues

Dignity Fund Governance Issues

Pull QUote 9Then there’s the interference of governance of the Dignity Fund by Breed and Yee:

Pull QUote 10Act now.  Write to the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor today and tell them no pickpocketing from the Dignity Fund’s wallet.  Also today, e-mail the Board of Supervisors urging them to support Supervisor Walton’s budget supplemental to restore all of CCSF’s course offerings, not just the OLAD classes CCSF cut.


Monette-Shaw is a columnist for San Francisco’s Westside Observer newspaper, and a member of the California First Amendment Coalition (FAC) and the ACLU.  He operates  Contact him at