San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera talks about Judge Curtis Karnow's ruling to block the revocation of City College's accreditation at a press conference. The case will go to trial at a later date. (Sara Bloomberg / KQED)
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera talks about Judge Curtis Karnow’s ruling to block the revocation of City College’s accreditation at a press conference. The case will go to trial at a later date. (Sara Bloomberg / KQED)

Supporters of City College of San Francisco won a victory on Thursday after a Superior Court judge ruled that CCSF accreditation cannot be revoked until a trial is held. The trial will determine whether the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) acted lawfully in ordering that the school be closed by July 31, 2014, over poor governance and finance issues.

The ruling by San Francisco Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow partially grants an injunction sought by City Attorney Dennis Herrera, and covers only City College rather than the statewide prohibition the city had sought. The lawsuit alleges the ACCJC let political bias and improper procedures influence its decision to revoke the school’s accreditation.

“We feel great,” said Deputy City Attorney Sara Eisenberg, who argued the case. “We asked him to hit the pause button, and he reached the right result.”

“Our intention in filing this case has always been to enjoin private accreditors from effectively closing a cherished public institution which has been a cornerstone of economic opportunity and education promise for generations of San Franciscans,” said Herrera at a press conference following Karnow’s ruling. “This ruling does that temporarily.”

Herrera also added, “I believe the state has to have some level of oversight. … There’s been over decades an improper delegation of authority that has gone without any level of oversight. … Right now the ACCJC is judge and jury and there’s no right of appeal.”

Karnow denied a similar motion by the American Federation of Teachers, and denied motions by the accrediting commission to dismiss both cases.

The trial date is expected to be set this month.

Eisenberg had argued last week that the Department of Education found problems with the ACCJC’s accrediting process for City College, including that commission president Barbara Beno appointed her husband to the team evaluating the school, creating an alleged conflict of interest.

“If the ACCJC goes back and does a review under the guidelines of the law … we have no problem with that,” Eisenberg said at the hearing.

KQED’s Alex Emslie contributed to this report.

 

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