The Alamo Colleges Board of Trustees should be wary about the divide they are creating with their appointed 2017 Bond Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC).
The last time the board deviated from the community, voters said “no” to their bond, leaving the trustees looking out of touch. It appears, given the trustees’ recent posturing, delay, and hyperbole on the heels of the CAC’s budget recommendations, that the Alamo Colleges 2017 Bond is headed in the same disastrous direction.
Indeed, the CAC returned a more equitable and balanced bond program than what was presented to them. Surely, the trustees and college presidents recall that the 2005 Alamo Colleges Bond saw a whopping $246 million – more than half of the available $450 million bond dollars – go to Alamo Colleges’ two newest campuses, Northeast Lakeview and Northwest Vista colleges. In fact, between the 2017 Bond as presented to the CAC and the 2005 bond projects, these same two colleges would have gobbled up almost 50% of capital improvement dollars that are meant to impact all areas of San Antonio.
Gloria Ray, the 2017 CAC Chair, was 100% correct when she told the board that growth in the outer areas of Bexar County must not be pursued at the expense of the obligations Alamo Colleges has within the city’s core. Per a recent education study, college completion for San Antonio students from wealthy families has nearly doubled, from 44 to 77% since 1970, while completion for students from low-income families has risen only three percentage points to 9%. The message the CAC delivered to the Alamo Colleges board could not be more loud, apparent, and spot-on in its focus on community core investment.
The CAC returned a revised budget to the board with increased infrastructure investment within the city’s core and more focus on workforce development. They recommended budget increases at the Westside Education and Training Center (WETC) and the Southside Education and Training Center (SETC) to match the $23 million investment being made at a brand new facility in Boerne. Prior to the CAC input, the Southside and Westside were slated for less than half – $11 million each – of what is proposed for the Boerne campus in a very affluent area. Further, the CAC saw fit to ensure that Alamo Colleges’ flagship campuses – San Antonio College and St. Philip’s College especially – are not left behind again as they were in the 2005 bond program.
As it stands, the CAC recommendations give San Antonians throughout all parts of the City reason to support the 2017 Alamo Colleges Bond. The CAC dutifully and responsibly reduced new construction at all the colleges to bring more equality and parity to areas Alamo Colleges has been ignoring for decades despite the apparent and dire need. Without eliminating any of the capital improvement projects, the minor budget adjustments made by the CAC favor a new and expanded WETC campus, a new SETC campus, expanded workforce training facilities at the Southwest Campus, and more capital improvement dollars for St. Philip’s College.
For the first time in more than decade, the Eastside, Westside, and Southside have an Alamo Colleges bond program worth supporting. Anything less than immediate adoption and approval of the CAC recommendations by the Board of Trustees is an insult and slap in the face to the very community from which the Board is seeking $450 million. Rest assured the community will return the gesture if this bond seeks to withdraw funding from the inner-city for outer loop and out of town investment into Boerne.
Hopefully, the Alamo Colleges board and its chancellor are a bit wiser today than the last time they squared off against the community.