By Andrew J. Campa
Glendale Community College is inching closer to joining the Glendale Unified School District in fully observing Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day. If Senate Bill 568 becomes law, it would allow the college to observe the commemoration every April 24 without losing approximately $500,000 in state funding for closing that day.
The measure, authored by state Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge), passed the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday morning via a 7-0 vote and is now closer to possibly becoming law.
The bill will head next to the Senate floor and is expected to be voted on sometime in the next two weeks. If the senate votes in favor of SB 568, then all that would remain is a signature by Gov. Gavin Newsom before the Oct. 13 deadline for new laws to be signed .
“I am very proud to have helped move one step closer to rectifying this situation,” Portantino said in a statement.
“The Armenian-American community, greater Glendale community, faculty, administrators and students of GCC solemnly and appropriately want to commemorate the Armenian Genocide without unnecessary financial pressure and the state should help them,” he added.
Portantino, along with Anthony Culpepper, the college’s executive vice president of administrative services, spoke in support of the bill Wednesday in Sacramento.
“The passage of this bill will benefit not only the present constituency of Glendale’s community, but generations to come,” Culpepper said in a statement.
Drew Sugars, the college’s director of communications and community relations, said during a phone interview on Wednesday that the proposed measure is significant .
“This is huge for our students,” Sugars said. “We’ve been fighting for them for years to have this day recognized and for us to be this close is exciting.”
Glendale Community College has never closed on Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day because the school lacks flexibility.
Portantino’s office earlier estimated that should the college observe the commemoration, as Glendale Unified does, it would lose approximately $500,000 in state funding.
Remembrance Day is especially important in Glendale because approximately 39% of residents and 36% of Glendale Unified students are of Armenian descent, according to district and city staff data.
Those percentages are even higher at the roughly 27,000-student community college, where 37% of credit students and 49% of non-credit students are of Armenian heritage, according to staff reports.
April 24 is annually dedicated in Glendale and elsewhere to memorialize the 1.5 million Armenians murdered by the Ottoman Turks from 1915 to 1923.
SB 568 would allow Glendale College to declare April 24 as a holiday as long as the institution meets the California Community College requirement of a minimum of 175 instructional service days.
Glendale Community College completed the 2018-19 school year with 178 days.
The wording of Portantino’s bill closely resembles the California Education Code, which has allowed Glendale Unified’s campuses to close for Armenian Remembrance Day as long as the district has maintained a minimum of 180 instructional days.
“It is also important to remember that the benefits of SB 568 go beyond financial,” Portantino said. “When GCC closes on April 24, it educates many people about the historical significance of the day and the horror of the first genocide of the 20th century.”
The Glendale Unified board voted 5-0 during a special meeting Tuesday to send a letter to state Sen. Connie Leyva (D-Chino), chair of the senate education committee, in favor of SB 568.
Glendale Unified has recognized Remembrance Day since the 2013-14 school year.
New district Supt. Vivian Ekchian said Glendale is a prekindergarten-through-community-college “educational environment.”
“It is only appropriate that our families with multiple kids and community members have the opportunity to take the time to remember the Armenian Genocide and participate in activities that mean a tremendous amount to them,” Ekchian said.