By Ann Nye —
Andra Hoffman, incumbent candidate for the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees, Seat 1, is the current President of the LACCD Board and runs the Glendale Community College Career Center and Job Placement Program and is a Professor of American and CA government. Andra is endorsed by the LACDP, State Senator Ben Allen, Mayor Garcetti, many trade unions, the Sierra Club, LA Times, and State Controller Betty Yee, among many others. You can visit Andra’s website at http://andrahoffman4laccd.com/.
After watching the Suppressed 2020 Brave New Film (BNF) documentary during our meeting, Andra hopes to get students exposed to the BNF film before election day. The LACCD is the largest district in the nation and serves nine campuses. She said, it’s been estimated that “56% of our students are food or housing insecure or both … and 35% are parents.” With the pandemic, they found many of their students only had their phones to join remote online classes. Andra is proud that she and her colleagues in the district stepped up and provided 30,000 laptops to students who didn’t have the technology. But, they also found, the students don’t have access to reliable broadband. They’ve been working with government officials at all levels, saying, the internet flows like water or electricity, and “we need to consider the internet like a public utility and make it affordable or free for those who cannot afford to pay for it.” Andra is the only woman on a seven member board. She was the first to call an emergency board meeting on March 13 for the following day to discuss shutting down the campuses as they were learning about the COVID-19 pandemic. At this time, LA Unified had just begun to move students off their campuses. This was even before the Mayor’s stay at home orders. Andra said they were able to transition over 8000 classes to online in record time. “In the middle of all this [COVID] we had civil unrest,” continued Andra, and the board is looking at our curriculum, our hiring practices to make sure students feel more included. Andra and the chancellor wrote a framework on racial equity and social justice and started a Black and African American student affairs outreach program to bring faculty and students together to talk about how we can do better for the Black community.
Andra also provided a plug for Proposition 16, which overturns the ban on affirmative action and makes it permissible for us to consider race, ethnicity and gender when we hire. She said, “It’s not so important for community colleges for the admissions process since we take 100% of the students who apply, but 57% of our students are Latino and only 18% of our faculty are Latino; 12% of our students are African American and only 9% of tenured faculty are African American. So we need to do better with our hiring and Proposition 16 will help us do a better job serving our students.”
The LACCD elections previously were conducted in March of odd-numbered years and thus not coordinated with national elections, with the result that the turnouts were dismal. This was changed so LACCD elections are now conducted in even numbered years, along with most other elections. “The good thing,” Andra said, “is at least we’re at the top of the ballot and not on the last page.” Now all the down ballot races are at the top of the ballot.
When asked about the cost of attending Community College, Andra said, “What’s not well known, is if you are a first time, full-time college student, tuition is FREE.” Community College has always been free for low-income students and you don’t have to be a full-time student to be on a fee waiver. “But, for kids coming out of high school,” says Andra, “this free tuition has saved families lots of money, because their first two years are free and they can save their money for when the student transfers to a four-year college.”
How much do LACCD board members make? Andra replied, LACCD board members only get a stipend (according to a formula) of about $2000 per month and thus, “I have to keep my day job.”
Connie Sullivan asked, “Your elections are all at-large, but you all have different seat numbers. It seems it would be easier if you all ran in districts rather than at-large.” Andra said that many years ago, when the district broke away from LA Unified, it was at-large. “Many school districts sued for this, including the LACCD which has been threatened with lawsuits in the past to say they need to go to district-based elections. They are looking at that since running at-large is impossible, but it’s also hard to get people south of the 10 freeway on this board. We want to make sure we have representation throughout this very large district. If we went to district-based elections we wouldn’t want to represent a certain school, but we want to make sure it’s inclusive and we are all working towards the same goal.” After this election and after the census, Andra said they’ll be getting a presentation on whether this is the direction they should go towards in the future. Andra believes this direction would increase diversity on the board (which currently includes 4 Latinos, 1 Asian and 1 woman). And, she concluded, “It would definitely make it easier to run for a board position.”
In closing, Andra put in a plug for her slate of colleagues that she is running with (and who are all endorsed by the LACDP) – Nichelle Henderson (faculty member at CSULA), and incumbents David Vela and Mike Fong. Andra is anxious to get another woman on the board. Connie pointed out that Nichelle also resides in our Assembly District 66.