Previous recommendations to eliminate the district-level, elected boards have met with strong local resistance, particularly from faculty. The findings in this report do little to strengthen the case for locally elected, community college boards, however. The highlights of our findings are as follows: (1) a very high proportion of trustees seem to choose not to run for re-election and, overall, relatively few individuals choose to compete for trustee positions; (2) nearly half of the races involve just two individuals competing for a trustee seat; (3) there are some districts where three or four election periods pass without any trustee election in the district; (4) there is evidence that public interest in community college board elections is, at best, tepid, with a general tendency for participation to decline as the voter works their way “down ballot” to the trustee contests; (5) the overall cost of community college board elections is comparatively low, but not negligible; (6) although there are individuals who contribute to community college campaigns, it is unlikely that the amounts are anything like those involved in, say, county supervisors’ elections, much less those for state assembly or senate; and (7) the data on the campaign spending side reinforce the notion that there are often cases when there are no elections or no challengers to incumbents in college trustee elections and therefore little at stake. If there is a “representational” role for the community college position, then it is unclear who is being represented on these boards or what difference eliminating them would make to “democracy.” These elected boards might not constitute a major fiscal burden, but there is little evidence to suggest that an accidental system of district-level, elected boards represent a significant example of representative democracy at work. Such a situation would be relatively benign, but it is far from clear that this system provides the decision-making framework necessary to move the CCC system forward to fill an important role in ensuring quality access to higher education and align the colleges with important statewide objectives.
October 1, 2012
Research and Occasional Papers Series (ROPS)
EXPLORING CANDIDATES, ELECTIONS, CAMPAIGNS, AND EXPENDITURES IN CALIFORNIA COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICTS, 2004-2010 by Patrick Murphy, Max Neiman, and Jelena Hasbrouck. CSHE 11.12 (October 2012)