Lack of instructional supply budget affects California community colleges


(Jeniffer Torres/The Union)

California Community Colleges did not receive state funding for instructional supply equipment this year, presenting unknowns for future in-person classes, according to the El Camino College Planning and Budget Committee.

The committee members discussed this issue in their meeting on Sept. 17.

Darcie McClelland, associate professor of biology and president of the academic senate, said departments can apply for funding if there is an urgent need for instructional or technical equipment through Guided Pathways, a program that holds an approximately $300,000 budget for the 2020-2021 academic year.

“It should be enough to meet a few immediate needs that are really, really important,” McClelland said.

She added that a department’s instructional equipment may be requested, but those requests are delayed for processing.

Although many programs do not have the extra state-provided money for instructional equipment this year, other departments can find surpluses from previous budgets and funding.

McClelland noted that the nursing department will be purchasing a virtual cadaver software program. The nursing program does not translate well online, and hands-on experience is necessary.

She added that other classes with labs that do not translate well online, such as cosmetology, must adapt to the online setting without instructional equipment or a classroom.

McClelland also said many unknown factors remain for classroom technology until faculty and students can return to campus. The Guided Pathways budget will provide necessary funds for urgent instructional equipment needs.

McClelland noted that El Camino College is facing major budget cuts this year due to the coronavirus pandemic and transition to online learning.

“Our budget has been impacted profoundly in a lot of ways. We’re facing, for our college, about a $14 million deficit this year, so we’re having to cut out about 10% of the college budget,” she said.

Paul Steenhausen, principal fiscal and policy analyst for California Community Colleges, explained that the state sometimes has extra “one-time money” to provide to community colleges for instructional supply and facility maintenance.

Steenhausen added that although community colleges did not get specific money from the state this year for instructional equipment, they should still have a general budget and federal money through the CARES Act for transition to online learning and coronavirus related costs.

He clarified that the state did not cut the instructional supply budget this year, rather it did not have extra money for this budget that is usually provided to California community colleges. This lack of funding stems from the economic recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There was no money for [instructional equipment] this year, but districts have a lot of flexibility in how they use the money they do get,” Steenhausen said. “They get about 80 million dollars this year that they are gonna use primarily for salaries and benefits for faculty and staff.”

Vice President of Academic Affairs Jean Shankweiler said that ECC administration is focused on making sure faculty and staff are paid.

She also explained that there are difficulties in requesting to replace or renew instructional equipment.

“We will eventually come up with a solution, but we have actually more immediate concerns right now,” Shankweiler said.