California faces steep cuts amid pandemic

By Sonny Tapia

Los Angeles Community College District discussed economic and student issues in a virtual town hall meeting held on Thursday.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, California’s government is facing a projected $54.3 billion dollar deficit at the end of the current budget year on July 1.

This means there will have to be $54.3 billion worth of cuts within the state of California at the start of the 2020/2021 budget year.

The debate over what should be cut is underway in state offices of assembly members and other government officials within the state.

“We have to be honest about what we are facing. We are looking at a $54 billion deficit, which means there is slim to little chance of any growth in programs,” California District 53 assembly member Miguel Santiago said.

No growth means that students struggling with internet connection issues will have to wait for the help that they need to perform correctly in their classes.

Currently 11,000 laptops have been distributed to students to keep because of LACCD foundations, making the college district different from the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Board of Trustees member Mike Fong stated that there has already been $1.7 million raised to provide community college students with laptops and basic needs throughout the pandemic.

Internet connection problems are something the Chancellor of LACCD Francisco Rodriguez and President of LACCD Board of Trustees Andra Hoffman are completely aware of.

Rodriguez and Hoffman are currently looking into programs to confront the issue for students that are in need of extra help and care.

“The nature of learning and teaching will change forever due to the unprecedented events across the globe. Get used to this hybrid learning environment because this is the new normal,” Rodriguez said.

When Rodriguez discussed how things will operate in LACCD he said that there will be more online class options because of everything going on.

He also talked about the incoming freshmen and students coming into LACCD and how they are dealing with acceptance letters and admissions.

“Every admitted student is being sent a virtual package with a virtual orientation, registration and any other forms of admittance that would be needed,” Rodriguez said.

The high school outreach program is still in effect and accepting high school graduates and other students alike with LACCD’s close ties with high school programs.

Complications with Zoom meetings and Canvas are continuing and professors are still not receiving enough help from upper administration. 

“My professor is great in person, but it is not translated onto Canvas. The professor is on the older side and continues to struggle using Canvas and Zoom. We the students have to explain everything to the professor who is supposed to be instructing us and not messing with technical difficulties,” ELAC student Coraima Martinez said.

Some students depend on the college food pantries at all LACCD campuses but LACCD does not have the resources or funding to provide three meals a day to those in need.

“We are not like LAUSD and K through 12, because we have less funding than they do,” Rodriguez said.

40% of California’s budget goes to funding school systems and 11% goes to community colleges requiring more money for them to provide this type of help.

Santiago said that this is why it is difficult to see community colleges putting money into homeless funds and rainy day funds.

In addition to feeding students LACCD has been working with private sector allies and grocery stores to provide aid to students in need.

LACCD and Kroger have joined forces to provide a $50 grocery gift card to those that need extra help.

“How are students supposed to focus on their schooling and grades when they are hungry? I personally have used the pantry at ELAC and it has helped greatly, but our students are still in dire need,” ELAC student Leonardo Gonzalez said.

Board of Trustees 2nd Vice President Gabriel Buelna discussed what should be happening with funding and how students need to be treated.

He stated that any student that goes to a participating restaurant affiliated with the LACCD with a current LACCD ID should receive 80% off of their purchase.

In order for this to happen the LACCD needs to push foundations to push businesses to participate in the programs that are offered.

Along with the issues in food and finances students are facing mental issues and therapy session problems.

“The mental health resources that were once available to us are no longer there. In a Latina and latino household, it is frowned upon to receive mental help and it is now even more difficult with online therapy sessions,” Coraima Martinez said.

Even with paid health fees the resources are unavailable to students leaving them to make the decision on what to do up to them.

67% of students  are experiencing high levels of anxiety, stress and depression according to a survey conducted by the student senate of community colleges.

LACCD is working towards more flexible hours for students that require scheduled therapy sessions in order to fit the student’s needs.

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