Vote yes on Measure C for community colleges

In addition to being crowded, some students in this microbiology lab due to lack of workspace, have to use standard, lower folding tables at right, in the aging Math and Science Building at Fresno City College.
In addition to being crowded, some students in this microbiology lab due to lack of workspace, have to use standard, lower folding tables at right, in the aging Math and Science Building at Fresno City College. jwalker@fresnobee.com

Community colleges in the Valley have been the “yes, you can!” resource for learning for more than 100 years. State Center Community College District says, “Yes, you can” prepare for a university degree or acquire the skills for a good job if you study hard – no matter what.

Fresno City College was the first community college in California, and its success has been relentlessly replicated statewide. Much of that is owed to this dynamic region, which has supported it constantly for a century.

The Valley is famously demanding with its tax money. We know the value of an investment in this area: Students who earn a California community college degree or certificate nearly double their earnings within three years. $1.6 million is the lifetime earnings of a graduate with an associate’s degree – $400,000 more than for a high school graduate.

Fresno City College has the largest nursing program in the western United States. The demand remains unquenchable, as 70 percent of California nurses received their education from a community college.

Politicians’ campaign promises without exception include mandates for public safety hires by the dozen. Where will those trained applicants come from? The correct answer should be “here!” Community colleges train 70 percent of first-responders and those well-paying jobs with benefits can be filled with our own children and grandchildren if we plan ahead.

Measure C will help pay for a new state-of-the-art police, fire and emergency medical technicians training academy in southeast Fresno. About 5,000 first-responders in Fresno, Madera, Merced, Kings and Tulare counties have been trained at Fresno City College.

As those visionaries who came before us have done, it is once again our region’s turn to continue our commitment to robust careers for the future by saying “yes” to Measure C, a $485 million bond measure providing infrastructure and updates that will pay off for decades. That is $18.50 per $100,000 valuation for property owners.

Here’s some of what we get for our money:

For all locations: Technology upgrades, modernization of facilities and equipment and better access for the handicapped are promised for all campuses. Upgrades are critical since toxic substances such as asbestos, mold and lead paint must be removed.

Fresno City College: We can talk high tech all day long, but in surveys, the No. 1 concern of students and neighborhood residents probably has not changed in three generations – parking. Measure C calls for a $50 million parking structure on Fresno City College’s land-locked campus, adding 1,500 parking spaces. And a new $50 million math, science and engineering building – critical to the nation’s STEM focus – is in the plans.

Reedley College: A new agriculture complex is in the plans, along with a Center for Fine and Performing Arts that will enhance not only the campus but the entire community. New standards will be met for employers to provide them with a trained workforce in agriculture, forestry, environmental sciences and aviation industries.

Clovis Community College: A new career technical education structure is on the books. Look for expanded training for environmental careers, water and wastewater sciences, food processing and electromagnetic technologies.

Madera Community College Center: The Academic Village facility will be completed, and the Center for Advanced Manufacturing expanded.

Oakhurst Community College Center: The growth of eastern Madera County means the portable classrooms are now outdated. Measure C calls for a new college with permanent buildings to be constructed.

Southeast Fresno: A career technical education facility will be built along with the public safety academy to prepare for careers in law enforcement and fire services.

West Fresno: A new facility is a priority for Measure C, which will make it more convenient for students in an underserved area to attend classes.

A few more things you might not know:

▪  No money will be used for administrators’ salaries.

▪ District officials promise that none of the construction contracts will use a controversial lease/leaseback method.

▪  Oversight is part of the deal. Regular audits are required to make sure the money goes as intended by the voters.

▪  70 percent of firefighters, law enforcement officers and emergency medical technicians get their credentials from community colleges.

▪  More than half of California veterans receiving GI educational benefits attend a community college.

▪  If the state facilities bond passes in November, SCCCD would be eligible for matching money to improve buildings. If we don’t have local funds available, you can bet that taxpayer-funded state facility measure monies will go straight to Los Angeles and the Bay Area.

This test of our commitment to the future is an easy one. The bond measure requires 55 percent approval for passage. We recommend that you vote “yes” on Measure C for SCCCD.

June 7 primary election reminders

Last day to register to vote: May 23.

Last day to file application to request vote-by-mail ballot: May 31.

The Bee’s Voter Guide can be accessed at fresnobee.com beginning Tuesday.