In the wake of a potential Community College of Philadelphia (CCP) faculty and support staff strike, several city officials are assessing how Philadelphia City Council supports the community college and whether it should do more.
Currently, the city council funds approximately 20 percent of the community college’s $130.6 million operating budget. City councilman David Oh said the city should provide a third of the budget’s funds, as stated when the state law that established community colleges was passed in 1963.
“We fund lots and lots of things, but we are not funding what I think is one of the most important things we can do for the citizens of Philadelphia,” Oh said. “We have this wonderful asset, but it’s woefully under-resourced.”
It is not known as to where the city would come up with an addition $16 million. Mayor Jim Kenney proposed a $1.3 million increase in funds for the community college for next year, which would amount to $33.8 million, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
“The mayor’s budget proposal for the coming year doesn’t mean he’s not sympathetic to their needs,” said Mike Dunn, the mayor’s spokesperson. “But this is a city of very limited resources, so it’s a question of trying to make sure a great number of priorities are met.”
CCP students, faculty and staff recently addressed the city council at a public hearing where they advocated for the college’s importance and the need for additional funds.
“The future of CCP seems personal to me, because it helped solidify my own future,” said Justin Keller, an alumnus who was the college’s male athlete of the year in 2013. It’s imperative, Keller added, “for those like me who need a second chance, and especially for those who never got the first chance they deserve.”
“The School District of Philadelphia has failed so many students, and I don’t think the city can afford to fail them again,” said CCP English professor Marissa Johnson-Valenzuela.
The testimonies will be used to urge the mayor to continue increasing funding for the college in his budget, Oh said. If that doesn’t work, the council can advocate for more funding during the budget process, he added.
Dr. Donald “Guy” Generals, president of the community college, said he understands there are a lot of challenges existing in the city.
“To the extent the city can increase its contributions to the college and continue to move closer to the one-third contribution, it will alleviate the financial burden on our current and prospective students,” he said.