Thursday, July 13, 2017

The origins of our college district, Part 3: turns out, we're an unruly county and an unruly part of that unruly county

     IN THIS POST: to understand the curious actions and initiatives by school districts in Orange County in the early 60s, one needs to go back to 1959, and the origins of what came to be known as the "Allen-Briscoe report." In that year, the OCCSDO became concerned over the lack of foresight and planning for education in Orange County, and so that agency secured Hollis Allen of Claremont Graduate School and William Briscoe of UCLA to "prepare a master plan for 20 years of development" of junior colleges. Aware that the state, and Orange County in particular, was facing exploding school enrollments, it was clear that the County had better plan ahead, which it had not done, especially in a coordinated fashion. A further problem was the unavailability of junior colleges for half of the population. Historically, political entities tended not to coordinate and cooperate in OC and so there was concern that fragmentation, disorder, and inefficiency would characterize the introduction of new colleges. Hence the need for a "master plan."
     Allen & Briscoe eventually revealed their plan in December of 1960, and it had a great impact. AB sought to determine the likely number of JCs that would have to be built in the coming two decades (10), and roughly where they should be located. AB emphasized the need for "regional coordination." The report recommended "that consolidation or restructuring of district boundaries be seriously considered as a permanent arrangement…." 
     Others have noted  that a "militant localism has divided the county into educational districts that have developed a resolute self-consciousness. Over the years, this fragmentation has hindered county-wide or regional responses to the challenge of growth...." Further, in OC, where endless growth was naively embraced, "no strong intergovernmental organization [exists] through which local governments can consider county-wide issues and arrive at general agreements." "Needless, self-defeating competition [prevails] among local authorities." 
     A&B's recommendation? "Considering all factors," they wrote, "the Study Committee recommends that serious consideration be given to one junior college district for the entire County." (My emphasis.)
     A&B knew that such advice would be poorly received. And so they suggested a second plan—Plan II—which was to divide OC into three JC districts, namely, a "north OC" district, a "central OC" district, and an oddly-shaped "coast" district that would include the  existing "Orange Coast" district and the rest of OC's coastal areas all the way down to San Clemente.
     OC officials embraced A&B's master plan for the County's approach to JC build-out. But, as we've already seen, the plan to overcome fragmentation just couldn't be implemented by OC's unruly entities. Further fragmentation has essentially prevailed. 
     And the "most flagrant breach" of A&B's guidelines was the attempt by El Toro/Mission Viejo, Laguna Beach, and Capistrano school districts to form a fourth junior college district, the South County district. —RB

Tustin, 1960s
     It’s time we had a look at what is often referred to as the “Allen-Briscoe report” of 1960.
     I’ve not been able to secure a copy of the report, but I did run across an apparently reliable 1977 document that is loaded with valuable info about Allen and Briscoe’s work and much else. It is entitled
Community College Education in Orange County, California: The Challenge of Growth in an Era of Limits
I’ll call it “CC in OC,” for short. It was produced in March of 1977 by the California State Postsecondary Education Commission, Sacramento. I’ll call that agency “the Commission.”
     The 1977 document, itself a report, was a response, from the state, to a request for funding for new JCs in Orange County. It explains itself as follows:
This report presents the findings and conclusions of the Commission's review of proposals for new campuses brought by four community college districts in Orange County, California. … The four community college districts are described, and their proposals for new campuses are analyzed.
     I won’t go into the Commission's conclusions (which were positive). (Click on the link above to read the details.) I should mention, however, that, upon noting their conclusions near the beginning of their report, the Commission ads:
[I]t is recommended that consolidation or restructuring of district boundaries be seriously considered as a permanent arrangement….
     More about that in a moment.

THE ALLEN-BRISCOE "REPORT" OF 1960

     According to the Commission, which wishes to put its analysis and conclusions in historical context,
Hollis Allen wrote this important work
in the early 1950s
In 1959, the Orange County Committee on School District Organization [OCCSDO] became concerned over the lack of a systematic plan for education. The Committee retained Hollis P. Allen [of Claremont Graduate School] and William Briscoe [of UCLA], two prominent educators, to study the needs of the junior colleges and to prepare a master plan for 20 years of development.
     So, the first thing to notice about the Allen-Briscoe “report” is that it was supposed to be, and was accepted as, the County’s 20-year “master plan” for development of JCs (CCs). The "report" was in fact a guide to planning and action.

     The Commission explains that
[Various] realities faced Allen and Briscoe from the outset. They were certain, as were the members of the California Master Plan Study team, which met at this same time, that the entire State stood on the threshold of surging enrollments in higher education. Only comprehensive planning could provide quality education during the expansion without bankrupting the public by proliferating colleges. ... Finally, less than half of Orange County's population lived within existing junior college districts. Given the proclivities of Orange County's residents, it appeared likely that the nondistrict territories would insist on their own districts and fragment the county into inefficient and expensive educational units. These realities made the master plan all the more important to Allen, Briscoe, and the school committee.
     Yep, proclivities. Organizing the County behind some coherent and efficient plan is like herding cats. It's like planning an outing with the Bickersons.
     Allen and Briscoe presented their work in December of 1960. It was pretty impressive and pretty striking. People endlessly referred to it.
     As the Commission explains, the plan attempted to determine the likely number of JCs that would have to be built in the coming twenty years, the optimal approximate locations of these JCs, the optimal JC district organization/configuration, and the likely cost of all this.
     The Commission, writing in 1977, praises Allen and Briscoe’s work. It was, they write, “a careful and balanced appraisal of Orange County's educational situation….” “Much of their work,” they add, “was based on projections, which have proven remarkably accurate…,” which they demonstrate with graphs and charts. Their work “reflects a tough-mindedness about resources and costs, which was rare in 1960. It also included concerns about regional coordination, administrative efficiency, and tax equity, which have only recently entered the debate over school finance.”

TURNS OUT, WE'RE AN UNRULY COUNTY, and AN UNRULY PART OF THAT UNRULY COUNTY

     Allen and Briscoe’s key recommendation focused on overcoming Orange County’s unfortunate proclivities, i.e., its fragmentation, its "balkanization." It was a county that, for historical reasons, had no center. They noted that, in Orange County, “no strong intergovernmental organization [exists] through which local governments can consider county-wide issues and arrive at general agreements”; “few official mechanisms [exist] to make visible the long-term implications of local decisions”; and “needless, self-defeating competition [prevails] among local authorities.”
     (In a section of their report entitled, “Postsecondary education in Orange County,” the Commission, in attempting to explain the forces that have shaped OC education, note that
[A] militant localism has divided the county into educational districts that have developed a resolute self-consciousness. Over the years, this fragmentation has hindered county-wide or regional responses to the challenges of growth….
     (OK, so we don't get along. The farmers and ranchers resent the city-folk; the city-folk don't understand the rural crowd. Nobody can make sense of the weirdos on the coast.
     (To make things worse, Orange County had embraced and internalized an “unrestrained growth ethic,” something that never really died away, despite the increasing chaos and crowding. The Commission suggests that A&B, too, uncritically embraced "naive" values about the intrinsic goodness of growth.)
     A&B's recommendation? "Considering all factors," they wrote, "the Study Committee recommends that serious consideration be given to one junior college district for the entire County." (My emphasis.)
     One organizing and deciding entity for the whole County? That went over like a lead balloon.

     A&B knew their advice would be hard to take. According to the Commission,
Allen and Briscoe anticipated the potential resistance to this single district recommendation [Plan I], so they suggested a second plan [Plan II], which would divide Orange County into the three new districts,”
—namely, a “north OC” district, a “central OC” district, and an oddly-shaped “coast” district that would include the existing Orange Coast district and the rest of OC’s coastal areas all the way down to San Juan Capistrano. (See graphic above.) In Allen and Briscoe’s judgment,
…either plan will permit a much more orderly development to meet the junior college needs of the County than would the creation of new junior college districts in areas not now having such districts (p. 40).
And so part of the reason for those peculiar plans to combine districts and to annex unattached high school districts to which I have referred in these posts was, well, the MASTER PLAN.
     But, really, there can be no master plan for the doings of cats. Just lots of incompatible minor ones.

Tustin News editorial, April 6, 1961
THE DEMISE OF THE ALLEN-BRISCOE MASTER PLAN

     OC officials did embrace A&B's master plan for the County's approach to JC build-out. But, as we've already seen, the plan to overcome fragmentation just couldn't be implemented. Fragmentation has essentially prevailed.
     Could be worse.
     The Commission describes some of the unity-defying problems that arose in the years after 1960. And that's where WE come in:
     The Orange County Committee on School District Organization [OCCSDO] accepted the Allen-Briscoe report and set out to implement the three-district concept. In 1964, the residents of the Anaheim Union District, the Brea-Olinda Unified District and the Placentia Unified District voted to join the Fullerton Junior College District, which then became North Orange Community College District. Two years later, Cypress College opened as the second campus in the District and immediately enrolled 1,966 students. Both of these developments followed the general outline of the Allen-Briscoe report. The areas remaining outside junior college districts—Garden Grove, the Orange Unified District, and most of southern Orange County—posed major problems in conforming to the Plan. In 1966, voters in Orange and Garden Grove voted overwhelmingly to join the Santa Ana District, but the necessary bond initiative failed to achieve the required two-thirds approval. One year later, Garden Grove again approved annexation but defeated the bonds.
1967

     Although these votes undermined the Allen-Briscoe plan, the most flagrant breach of the report's guidelines was the effort of the San Joaquin [El Toro and Mission Viejo], Laguna Beach, and Capistrano School Districts to form a fourth junior college district in Orange County. The separation movement began in 1965 and drew on the resentments of semi-rural residents in southern Orange toward the urban residents to the north.
     By a four to three vote, the School District Organization Committee adopted a resolution in 1966 which contained the classic arguments for district decentralization: the southern committees wanted a junior college and could finance it; the curriculum would suit the unique needs of the students there; colleges should not exceed 5,000 enrollment; community pride would be increased by a separate district; the faculty would be drawn from local residents….
     Several voices were raised against the new district and in support of the master plan. "There is considerable evidence indicating that another method of meeting southern Orange County's junior college needs would be more economical," stated an editorial in the local Daily Pilot. "Highly respected authorities on junior college education … lean heavily in favor of large multi-campus junior college districts. Their reasons, based largely on economic factors, make sense." The junior college staff of the State Board of Education reviewed the proposal and recommended against the separate district. The staff's memorandum agreed that the proposed district met the legislative requirement for size, that it satisfied the requirement of $150,000 assessed valuation per ADA, and that the area was growing and justified the establishment of a separate campus. Nevertheless, the staff concluded that "the formation of a new administrative unit [i.e., a separate district] does not seem to be necessary.” Despite the master plan and these doubts, the voters in southern Orange County approved the new district in 1967, and the State Board of Education approved the proposal shortly thereafter.
     Sheesh. But wait a minute! Where was the City of Tustin in all this?
     More, later. Especially about Tustin.

LA Times, January 21, 1961
Tustin

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Sir Roy, for bringing this together. Need to recommend faculty and others review this set of backgrounders so they have a sense of the colleges' and district's history. Informative and gives a political set of values that developed over time.

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