On 8/31/17, Sunita Cooke, President of MiraCosta, stated she wanted "everyone to report any ... discrimination, which she said would not be tolerated," "MiraCosta leader affirms college's values, free speech rights," by L. Sherman, 8/31/17, San Diego Tribune. But what happens when reports are made by adults with intellectual disabilities?
Since 2017, students and other community members have raised concerns that MiraCosta discriminates against students with intellectual disabilities, but to date, no administrators have met with the students or followed-up with them in any manner to try to explore their concerns. Is Dr. Cooke going to tolerate practices that may have a discriminatory impact against adults with intellectual disabilities, or is she going to take action to better welcome these community members to MiraCosta and ensure that the measures in the Adult Education Block Grant 3-year plan are implemented?
Per the professional research reflected in the March 1, 2015 Adult Ed Block Implementation Grant:
the "potential AwD student population is woefully underserved in our consortium area,"
AwD "are placed at the bottom of prioritization list for access" (pp. 89 and 137),
MiraCosta does not provide meaningful employment related education or training for AwD (p. 137),
There are no DSPS services available to AwD other than intake services (p. 57),
For years, AwD had only a single course that students had to repeat year after year if they wanted to be a part of MiraCosta's student community (it still has the fewest courses of any noncredit group despite having an approximately 12,000 strong community),
AwD have the lowest percentage of need met by MiraCosta of any block grant community group (p. 70),
The AwD program has "no partnerships within the college,"
It is "clear that there is a great need for increased courses and programs" (p. 71).
Despite these findings, little has been done since 2015 to correct these practices. Given the findings above, data that shows how day programs are not addressing the workforce gaps, and the Employment First Act makes employment of persons with intellectual disabilities one of the state's highest priorities, why isn't MiraCosta makings its students with intellectual disabilities a priority like other postsecondary institutions?
Will Sunita Cooke make changes or does she think day programs should be the only option for our local community members who happen to have intellectual disabilities? There's funding available to make changes. There are excellent teachers available. Studies show that postsecondary education for AwD significantly improves their access to employment. The Employment First Act specifically recognizes that postsecondary is a tool for helping AwD gain better access to the workforce. Per the AB86 plan, AwD who have attended a postsecondary program are twice as likely to be employed (p. 158). Another study showed that AwD not only had a 50% increase in employment, but up to a 57% increase in earnings. Other community colleges recognize the value of postsecondary programming and have created programs. So what's stopping MiraCosta from doing what other community colleges are doing?
(AwD = Adult students with intellectual disabilities)
"Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance,"
-- Verna Meyers, Nationally recognized expert on diversity and inclusion.
What is the ethnicity of students in the Adults with Disabilities Program?
Per the faculty request submitted on behalf of the AwD program:
Black/African American (8.2%)
Pacific Islander (1%)
Students have appeared before the MiraCosta board raising concerns about discrimination against students with intellectual disabilities in an effort to have their concerns addressed. Unfortunately, administration has omitted from the meeting minutes the substance of the public comments made at the December and January Board meetings.
In January 2018, a student presented public comment to the Board asking that the December minutes be corrected to reflect that he was a student and asked that his public comment sharing concerns about discrimination be reflected in the minutes. Per the January meetings, administration chose to once again omit his claims of discrimination. The minutes from the December and January meetings also fail to reflect the substance of the public comments by other students and members of the public raising concerns about the lack of consortium meetings and funding allocations..
Will MiraCosta use any of its federal WIOA funding to support AwD?
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act is a federally funded program that allocates funds through the States to eligible providers to provide adults access to “high quality” pre-employment training and workforce services in an integrated environment to the extent possible, “with a particular focus on those individuals with disabilities and other barriers,” 20 CFR 675.100(a) (disabilities is defined as those with physical or mental impairments). Students in MiraCosta's AwD program have not received any “high quality” training or workforce services through WIOA. Students in the AwD program have also not received any support or services through the MOU between the WIOA partners and the San Diego Workforce Partnership executed on 7/12/16. (see MOU set forth in the Board Packet for 7/13/16). The WIOA grant supervisor's job posting did not even include support of AwD in the description of job duties. And per the block grant consortium's state filings, zero WIOA funding went to support the AwD program. The Employment First Act makes employment of AwD one of California's highest priorities yet MiraCosta has declined to make AwD a priority or use its federal funding to support the AwD program. Will Sunita Cooke change this or allow this practice to continue? Back to top
Does MiraCosta's administration gives AwD the lowest prioritization when scheduling access to campus space and computer labs?
Between 2013 and 2015, an outside research was hired by the Adult Ed Block Grant Consortium to research MiraCosta's practices to help create the consortium's "AB86 Plan" to better serve adults with disabilities and other groups targeted by the state's adult ed block grant funding. The research found that it was "imperative that future AwD education programs in our region emphasize current and changing technology," that AwD are "capable of acquiring (digital literacy) to meet workforce demands if given the opportunity to participate in extensive postsecondary curriculum," and that there is a "great need for increased courses and programs" (AB86 pp. 71, 90). However, a review of MiraCosta's practices revealed that:
the program for adults with disabilities "are placed at the bottom of prioritization list for access" (AB86 Plan p. 59) and are the "lowest on the prioritization list for computer facility" (p. 137),
The "AwD program does not have any partnerships within the college" (p. 59),
AwD have the lowest percentage of needs met (p. 70),
"No training or education strategies were utilized by an consortium members to connect AwD to specific employment opportunities" (p. 89),
AwD being served by MiraCosta College has significantly declined (p. 90),
Only recently, an overflowing AwD computer class had to be scheduled off campus despite there being campus space available. Only after students complained to the Board did administration allow a last minute to a classroom on San Elijo campus. Overcrowded classrooms for AwD has been an issue for almost a decade, yet as noted above, these highly attended classes are given the lowest prioritization when it comes to getting on campus. See "Some not so lucky at MiraCosta," Letter to the Editor by advocate Tracey Flourie, San Diego Tribune (8/29/10). Back to top
Will MiraCosta's Equity Planning focus on the needs of its students with intellectual disabilities?
MiraCosta is required to create an "Equity Plan" under the Student Success Act of 2012 which requires “all levels of public education to provide educational equity ‘through environments in which each person … has a reasonable chance to full develop his or her potential.” (CCCCO “Fact Sheet,” dated March 2017, citing Ed Code § 66010.2). Equity Plans are required to develop specific goals/outcomes and actions to address certain disparities that may exist for students with disabilities and other student groups in certain ethnic and racial categories, foster youth, low-income students and others). MiraCosta has even hired a student equity specialist to assist in the implementation of “access and inclusion” events.
Even though the Equity Plan was supposed to address the needs of those with disabilities per the language of the Student Success Act, MiraCosta neglected to identify students with any disabilities as a targeted population per the Equity Plan itself and other documents produced. As a result, there are no goals, outcomes or actions in the Equity Plan to address any disparities possibly impacting this student minority at MiraCosta, or goals to improve the learning environments, success or needs of students with intellectual disabilities. Students in the AwD program have reported that they do not receive SSSP services. The proposed 2017-2019 Integrated plan, similarly fails to identify goals or needs of AwD.
The Consortium has used funding to celebrate Black History Month, the Chinese New Year and activities celebrating other important communities but has yet to hold or sponsor activities to celebrate AwD. MiraCosta itself has used other funding to host workshops and other activities to support certain communities. Yet, even though student Trustee Isiah Titus noted at a 2016 board meeting how October was Disability Awareness month (see Board Minutes for October 2017, “College Related Reports”), not one campus activity was noted in the “Student Equity” report shared with the Board. The AwD program is actually almost never mentioned in updates describing student successes or activities to ensure accountability. Back to top
Will MiraCosta ever hire full time faculty for its AwD program given the availability of funding under the block grant (and of course MiraCosta's general funding)?
The AwD program has never had full time faculty. Under MiraCosta's policies, only full-time faculty can write curriculum to provide fresh and new courses. MiraCosta's Academic Affairs Committee has never ranked the requests high enough for a hiring to occur. In 2017, the request for full-time faculty request for the AwD program pointed out the following:
i. “The Adults with Disabilities program does not have full time faculty to lead the program, coordinate course and program outcomes or facilitate robust dialogue about student success.”
ii. “[T]he program is unable to make the necessary improvements and develop partnerships that will ensure MiraCosta’s success;”
iii. “The district is out of compliance with existing Board Policies, Administrative Procedures and Collective Bargaining Agreements … since these regulations are predicated on having at least one full time faculty member in an academic department” (listing around 12 areas in which MiraCosta was out of compliance on pp. 2 and 4 of the faculty request);
iv. these regulations require a department chair to address student grievances and evaluate associate faculty.
Instead of approving faculty for the AwD's overextended program (often faced with waitlists for enrollment requiring families to seek enrollment at midnight or early morning hours), AND THE AVAILABILITY OF ADULT ED BLOCK GRANT FUNDING, the Academic Affairs Committee approved a 5th full time faculty for ESL on the basis of growth. Members of the public contended that the growth needs of ESL and other programs seeking faculty primarily due to growth could be met by associate faculty but that the needs for curriculum, block grant reporting and other needs of the AwD program could not be met by part-time or associate faculty.
What was of particular interest to the public is that MiraCosta's VP of Instruction Diane Dieckmeyer stated to the public that the position recommendation for faculty for the AWD program had been cut by the Adult Ed Block Grant consortium so that funding under that program was not available to support full-time faculty for the AwD program. But MiraCosta produced the agenda and minutes for the Consortium there is no evidence this recommendation was cut. Documents released from MiraCosta show that instead of the funds being allocated to fund faculty for the AwD program as recommended in the block grant plan, at least $71,000 of the state block grant funds were used to pay for an employee/administrator for a separate federal grant program, a position that was not adopted or approved in the Block Grant AB86 plan and which violates the 5% administrative costs caps imposed on both the use of public funds under both the federal program and the adult block grant program.
Upon learning of this and other issues, MiraCosta's Academic Senate stated it would create a resolution to urge more support of AwD. Back to top