Monday, March 4, 2013

Defining Advocacy -- A message from Chancellor Cindy L. Miles

The following message was sent to Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District employees by Chancellor Cindy L. Miles

Advocacy, n.: The act of pleading or arguing in favor of something, such as a cause, idea, or policy; active support

Last month, several members of our Board of Trustees joined me and other district leaders in traveling to Sacramento and Washington, D.C., to advocate on behalf of our District with our state and federal legislators. Our goal was to discuss some of the most pressing concerns facing community colleges with our elected representatives, and to urge their support for the key issues facing our District and others.

In Sacramento, our delegation was made up of Governing Board President Bill Garrett and Trustees Greg Barr, Edwin Hiel and Debbie Justeson, along with Student Trustee Samantha Elliot, Grossmont College President Sunny Cooke and Communications and Public Information Director Anne Krueger. We joined delegations from other San Diego and Imperial County community colleges to provide a stronger and more unified voice when we met with state legislators from our region. We had productive discussions with several San Diego County legislators, including Sen. Marty Block, Sen. Joel Anderson, and Assemblywoman Shirley Weber.

Sen. Joel Anderson meets with GCCCD leaders
The mood during the meetings with legislators was palpably more positive than previous years as the result of the passage of Proposition 30 last November and a more optimistic overall state fiscal outlook. Instead of simply begging for an end to massive budget cuts, we were able to talk about what our colleges saw as the priorities affecting community colleges in the governor’s budget. We reminded legislators that while Proposition 30 ended further cuts, our colleges still have a long way to go to recover from the devastating budget losses we’ve all suffered. 

As part of my advocacy work in Sacramento, I serve on the boards of the Chief Executive Officers of the California Community College (CEOCCC), the
Community College League of California (CCLC), as well as on the state Chancellor’s Consultation Council. In all these, we focus on key issues, budgets, legislation, and policies affecting our students and institutions. Last month, I was appointed to the state Chancellor’s 10-member Accreditation Task Force, charged with exploring causes and seeking collaborative solutions regarding the significant number of colleges that have been sanctioned by our accrediting commission.

During our visit to Congress in Washington, D.C., the mood was much grimmer just a few weeks before sequestration’s massive federal funding cuts were set to take place. Our representatives, Duncan Hunter and Susan Davis, sit on opposite sides of the political aisle, but both agreed that sequestration was imminent. Although our District would have little direct effect from the cuts, we could feel the ripple effect of military and other spending cuts in our region.

GCCCD's advocacy group outside the Capitol
While meeting with Hunter and Davis, and staffers for Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Scott Peters, Trustees Garrett and Barr urged for continued federal funding for Pell Grants. More than 5,600 Grossmont and Cuyamaca College students received grants this school year, and we want to ensure that funding continues for this program that helps enhance the prospect of completion for thousands of college students.

We also urged reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), the job training program that our District has used for initiatives such as the San Diego Green Building Training Collaborative, which trains students for jobs in the emerging green economy.  Our delegation discussed the importance of providing counseling and resources for veteran students, noting that our colleges served more than 2,000 veterans and dependents last year.

I was part of a team led by California Chancellor Brice Harris that presented similar arguments to additional legislators and government officials, including Sen. Barbara Boxer, Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod, Rep. Julia Brownley, Department of Education Undersecretary Martha Kanter, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Although these meetings in Sacramento and Washington may not bring immediate results, they are vital to maintain good relationships with our elected officials and to remind them of the critical role that our colleges play in educating half of all U.S. undergraduates and strengthening the nation’s economy.

It’s always a pleasure for me to advocate on behalf of our District because I know how many students’ lives have been transformed by what they’ve learned here.

Whether your work is preparing the campus, answering the phones, running some aspect of our daily business, or directly counseling or teaching students – what you do matters. That’s the definition of a cause I can believe in!