Monthly Archives: July 2011

A friendly reminder about PASSHE tuition

I’m reposting this morning’s new post on the state APSCUF blog for a few reasons:

1. So that you’ll click on the link to it and subscribe to the state APSCUF blog yourself.

2. So it’ll go out to Facebook readers who wouldn’t otherwise see it.

3. So I (Seth) can assert the privilege of being the person who does most of the writing for this blog and editorialize a little about the issue in a way that is NOT NECESSARILY the official APSCUF stance.

The short version of the message is that even accounting for the coming increase, PASSHE’s tuition is below the national average for public universities, and significantly below the PA state-related universities.

I (personally) believe strongly that if you’re paying tuition (for yourself or for anybody else), it’s appropriate to be upset at the increase. Just keep in mind where the target of your animus ought to be. Our schools aren’t getting less expensive to run (and they can’t get less expensive than they are right now if we’re going to protect the quality of what we do), and you’re not paying less to go to them.

I’ll leave the rest of the math up to you.

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Filed under Access, APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, PASSHE, Penn State University, Tuition increase, University of Pittsburgh, West Chester University

Education Reformer lays anti-union agenda bare

At the risk of sounding a little conspiracy-theory-esque…

On this morning’s (7/14) Daily Kos, an entry about a member of the reformer cabal giving a speech to a think tank. During the speech, the “reformer,” named Jonah Edelman, unloads on teachers unions in IL, and how he managed to manipulate them into supporting legislation designed to cost them their right to strike.

You can read the post and watch video of Edelman here.

The reason I’m posting it on our blog is that the familial connections among Edelman, Michelle Rhee, Arne Duncan, and the cabal start hitting closer to home when we remember that same Pew Foundation/Gates Foundation money fueling all the rest of those “enterprises” is behind our friends at the US Education Delivery Institute!

It’s a rare moment that we get to see how these folks talk to each other when they don’t think we’re listening. And we should be paying attention. It should hardly even count as lip-service when they say they don’t hate unions. Get it?

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Filed under Advocacy, APSCUF, deliverology, K-12 Education, Michelle Rhee, PASSHE, Public education, Public employee unions, US Education Delivery Institute

Why we love our union, part 933844050433276

This newspaper article came across the Philly Activist listserv this morning. Unfortunately, there’s no publication info so I can’t link to it. It’s credited as an AP wire story with some author/contributor info at the bottom, so I believe it’s real.

Collective Bargaining in US South

Union bargaining just a dream for many gov workers

(AP)  JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Whenever Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has asked lawmakers to weaken benefits for state employees, his proposals have met little resistance from workers.

Mississippi is among those states — many in the South — where most government employees do not have the right to collective bargaining, the benefit that has caused a political upheaval in Wisconsin and has become a national flashpoint for those who argue that public employee benefits are too generous.

Those states provide a snapshot of what life is like for government employees who do not have the same union clout that workers in Wisconsin and some other states are desperately trying to retain.

“We’ve been holding on by a hair through the political process,” said Brenda Scott, head of the Mississippi Alliance of State Employees, which has no bargaining power but provides a voice for state government workers to air their concerns before the governor and Legislature.

Across the South, governors like Barbour and state legislatures dominated by conservative lawmakers find it relatively easy to chip away at public employees’ benefits or eliminate government jobs because most state employees in the region — even when represented by a union — lack collective bargaining rights.

Nine of the 10 states with the lowest percentage of public employees eligible for collective bargaining are in the South, according to data compiled by Barry Hirsch of Georgia State University and David Macpherson of Trinity University in San Antonio. Their research shows only about two in five public employees nationwide have the type of collective bargaining rights that have drawn fire in Wisconsin and other states.

To be sure, government jobs are still seen as more secure and desirable than most private-sector jobs even in states where public employees do not have the right to collective bargaining. In Mississippi, one of the poorest states in the nation, state workers get 10 paid holidays a year, their sick days and vacation days can be rolled over from year to year, and they can retire after 25 years of service under a defined benefit plan. They also have a certain level of civil-service job protection.

But those workers have fewer protections and generally less generous compensation and benefits than public employees represented by collective bargaining. While pay and perks vary greatly among states, the primary benefit is that governors and lawmakers cannot unilaterally impose changes, such as pension reforms, without going to the bargaining table, nor can they impose lay-offs without following union tenure rules.

In California, where most state employees are covered by collective bargaining, negotiated labor contracts allow state workers to retire, collect their pensions and then return to work, allowing them to make more money than before. They also can purchase more lucrative pension benefits before they retire.

Two independent government auditing agencies in California have recommended reforming the state’s pension system, even for current employees, but unions there have vowed to sue if the governor and Legislature try to enact reforms outside the bargaining process.

Governors and lawmakers in states without collective bargaining can make such changes without consulting workers. Pensions for new public employees in Virginia, for example, were shifted last year from the traditional defined benefit — the type of pension that many governments say they no longer can afford without major changes — to a 401(k)-style system similar to that used in the private sector. The change was made with little fanfare and no organized opposition.

In North Carolina, some state workers are represented by a local of the Service Employees International Union, but the group has no bargaining power. That leaves employees with no real say over how many jobs would be shed this year due to budget cuts — Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue has recommended eliminating 10,000 state government jobs, 3,000 of them currently filled.

In 2009, Perdue signed legislation that made sweeping changes to the state worker health insurance plans, creating higher premiums, deductibles and copays without having to get consent from an employee union. Barbour, a Republican with possible presidential ambitions, came into office on a promise to shrink Mississippi’s state government and reduce employee benefits. Unencumbered by union contracts, he has scored a number of successes.

He persuaded the Legislature in 2004 to temporarily erase civil-service protections for corrections employees, which allowed the prison system to fire workers and trim the payroll. Mississippi lawmakers also voted last year to make public employees put 9 percent of their own pay into the state retirement system, up from 7.25 percent, and they’ve made government workers hired since 2006 pay more for their health insurance than their longer-serving colleagues.

Barbour defends his actions as tilting the balance of power away from unions and toward the side of state taxpayers. He said he supports Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s effort to eliminate most collective bargaining rights for government workers.

“When they have collective bargaining in Wisconsin, on one side of the table there’s state employee unions or the local employee unions. On the other side of the table are politicians that they paid for the election of those politicians,” Barbour said. “Now, who represents the taxpayers in that negotiation? Well, actually, nobody.”

In states without collective bargaining, public employees are “completely subject to the power of the governor” because lawmakers often don’t want to get involved labor disputes, said Ed Ott, who has been active in the New York labor movement for 42 years and is a former executive director of the New York City Central Labor Council AFL-CIO.

“It’s really about a balance of power between employer and employee,” said Ott, a lecturer on contemporary labor issues at the City University of New York’s Murphy Institute. “Without any collective bargaining rights, you have no ability to say, ‘Whoa, why don’t we try something else?'”

Maryland and Tennessee have hybrid systems. Some Maryland employees are represented by unions and have the right to bargain with the governor, but there is no binding arbitration and no right to strike.

“We call it collective bargaining-lite L-I-T-E because they’re not as strong as what you see in a number of the northern states,” said Sue Esty, assistant director of the Maryland chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Teachers in Tennessee have the right to collective bargaining, but other public employees do not. That is still too much for Republicans in that state’s Legislature, who have wide majorities in both chambers and are looking to quash teachers’ bargaining powers.

The Tennessee Education Association, which represents 52,000 teachers, has said the proposal is political payback by Republicans because the group has given more financial support to Democratic candidates over the years.

Gov. Bill Haslam has not signed on officially to the movement by his fellow Republicans, preferring to focus on teacher tenure, expanding charter schools and other issues he says are necessary to improve academic performance. But he also sympathizes with their intent to give the Legislature as much leeway as possible to control costs without having to submit to union negotiations.

“My job in the state of Tennessee is just like when I was running a company,” said Haslam, a former president of Pilot Corp., a family owned national truck-stop chain. “It’s to bring in the very best people to work, to provide the very best product we can, at the lowest price.”

Like its neighboring states, Alabama does not allow public employees to bargain collectively, even though associations representing teachers and state workers have had some success working with the Legislature

Lawmakers have approved cost-of-living raises and maintained health and retirement benefits that are better than those offered by most private-sector employers in the state.

The two organizations, which traditionally have supported far more Democratic candidates than Republican ones, have come under attack since Republicans gained control of the Legislature in November. Since then, a new law has stopped the organizations from using payroll deductions to raise money for their political action committees and any other political activity, greatly reducing their influence.

When the Legislature convenes Tuesday, one of the House Republican leaders will push a bill to provide state-paid liability insurance for education employees. Currently, the Alabama Education Association supplies this insurance as an incentive for teachers to join.

“Obviously what they are trying to do is discourage members,” said Paul Hubbert, the association’s executive secretary.

___

Schelzig reported from Nashville, Tenn. Associated Press writers Bob Lewis in Richmond, Va., Gary Robertson in Raleigh, N.C., Brian Witte in Annapolis, Md., and Phillip Rawls in Montgomery, Ala., contributed to this report.

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Filed under AFSCME, APSCUF, Benefits/Benefit Cuts, Budget Cuts, Budget Deficit, Collective Bargaining, Contract Negotiations, Public employee unions, public employees, Vouchers/School Choice

PASSHE and the US Education Delivery Institute (Part 2 of ???)

A couple of weeks ago, I did a pretty lengthy post beginning to lay out PASSHE’s (otherwise unannounced) participation in a higher education “initiative” (ahem) with an organization called the US Education Delivery Institute. As I wrote and started to pay careful attention to the language in their mission and elsewhere on the website, I started to get, well, irritable (something of an understatement!) at the coded nature of the language EDI uses to obscure its agenda, which seems to be squarely along the lines of the Bill Gates/Michelle Rhee/Arne Duncan “educational reform” movement (further evidenced by the fact that the Gates Foundation is listed as their primary funder).

Anyway, the kind of close reading of their site that I’d planned on doing has struck me as essentially fruitless. If you’re an APSCUF member or an academic at pretty much any advanced level, you can decode their site on your own; it’s not very oblique.

If you don’t feel like digging through it, all you really need to understand about their rhetorical approach is this: like the Gates Foundation, and like Arne Duncan’s Race to the Top, and like Michelle Rhee’s Students First organization, US EDI frames its mission in terms that are difficult to disagree with. I teach a course in Propaganda; we use the term “glittering generalities” to describe what I’m talking about. Who could be opposed to “student success?” Who could be opposed to “efficiency?” Who could be opposed to “excellence?”

So when US EDI emphasizes its mission of improving access to and retention in higher education for marginalized students, who (if you already teach at a public university, or community college, especially) would contest or dispute that as a goal? It’s the very essence of our reason for being, isn’t it? [Yes, this is melo-dramatic overstatement.]

So what’s the problem? I fully support the mission of providing access and high quality education to the Commonwealth. I’d love nothing more than to have a sustainable system that could do right by any student who wants a college education. But we don’t have that, especially while our Governor proposed in March to slash our state allocation in half (the budget bill about to pass the PA Legislature sets the reduction at 18%), and it’s, er, unclear how our system is supposed to educate more students and do it well while our funding is getting crushed under the collective foot of a state government that isn’t very interested in paying for much of anything. Or put another way, the “do-more-with-less” trope has been pushed beyond its logical extreme currently in PA.

The promise of deliverology is that it can help systems solve that problem. It can, that is, help us continue to do more with less by, well, as I try to explain it, I realize that based on the website materials, uh, er, I can’t really answer that question.

Neither can anybody else, it seems from any of the other systems that have joined up with US EDI. In our next episode, I’ll report on the results of some discussions I have had with colleagues in the California State and Connecticut state university systems. Let’s just say they’re impressions aren’t, er, positive.

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Filed under Academic Freedom, Access, Advocacy, APSCUF, Budget, Collective Bargaining, deliverology, PASSHE, Program elimination, Public education, Retention, Retrenchment, Shock Doctrine, US Education Delivery Institute

How academic managers SHOULD feel when they fire people

Via our comrade Kevin Mahoney at KU–

Graham Spanier, President of Penn State, said in a recent interview that the PSU funding cut is like to cost jobs “in the scores” in the university’s Agriculture school (it has to do with the fact that the positions aren’t funded such that increased tuition can recover them–there’s not a lot of detail in the article).

Anyway, as opposed to ANYTHING I’ve heard from PASSHE management as they’ve been retrenching faculty, fighting the union to stop us from getting preferential hiring for retrenchees (as the CBA demands), waving around the threat of further retrenchments as a negotiations tactic, and generally behaving reprehensibly cavalierly about other people’s lives…

pant pant pant…

… Faced with looming layoffs and firings, President Spanier says:

“The longer it takes, the longer we postpone getting to the savings. At the same time, we’re trying to be very fair to our employees and come up with ways to help them find other positions, severance, health benefits,” he said. “These are good people who work hard and really care.”

As I said on Kevin M’s Facebook page when he posted the article this morning, why the hell does Spanier sound downright heroic simply because he acknowledges that firing people is bad for them?

All I hear from PASSHE management is that the top priority is to “protect educational quality” in face of budget cuts. At the local level (and presumably at the state level also, but I haven’t talked with anybody about this), we’ve been pushing at every Meet and Discuss for management to recognize publicly that protecting jobs is also a high priority. While management nods and smiles, the commitment magically never gets made.

Graham Spanier is no hero. But at least he recognizes, and is willing to say so, that there’s a very high human cost to the state’s attacks on higher education.

It’s long past time for PASSHE to figure this out and to act accordingly.

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Filed under APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, Budget Deficit, Collective Bargaining, Contract Negotiations, Graham Spanier, Office of the Chancellor, PASSHE, Penn State University, Retrenchment, Tom Corbett, Tuition increase, West Chester University

Board of Governors approves 7.5% tuition increase

Another piece of the economic puzzle in place; the PASSHE Board of Governors approved a 7.5% tuition increase for the upcoming school year: to $6,240 per in-state student, up from $5,804.

Read more about it, including reactions from students and managers from KU and WCU, and the Chancellor’s Office.

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Filed under Budget, Budget Cuts, Kutztown University, Office of the Chancellor, PASSHE, Tom Corbett, Tuition increase, West Chester University