Category Archives: Budget Deficit

They just never get tired of it

As we all know by now, Governor Corbett’s budget-slashing attacks aren’t aimed solely at PASSHE. He seems willing to destroy any school system at any level if doing so hurts teachers’ unions and allows his private/charter school patrons to make more money.

This account of the situation in nearby Reading, PA from today’s Huffington Post is enough to infuriate even the most heartless person–except members of the Corbett administration, apparently.

As always, the Governor, in a radio interview, tries to pass off the attacks as “tough decisions”:

Representatives from Corbett’s office did not return requests for comment, but Corbett did address the budget on a recent radio program. “You have to make tough decisions, and nobody really likes them,” Corbett told Q106.9-FM.

No, it’s not a tough decision to sell off our schools, systems, students, their families, their futures, teachers, their careers, and the health of our entire Commonwealth to his friends. That’s a really easy, lazy decision, and it’s long past time for him to be at least honest about it. He should have to make clear to voters that he knows when they voted for “fiscal responsibility,” they weren’t voting for him to cut millions of dollars out of school budgets so kids in “America’s Poorest City” couldn’t go to pre-kindergarten. And we should make clear to him that’s not what we meant too.

I better stop there before I say something unprofessional (!).

Leave a comment

Filed under Access, Budget, Budget Cuts, Budget Deficit, charter schools, Collective Bargaining, Communities, Education reform, K-12 Education, PASSHE, Privatization, Public education, Public employee unions, public employees, Shock Doctrine, Teacher unions, Tom Corbett, Unions

“Who Does That Help?” (reprised)

About a year ago (Feb 8, 2011), I wrote an entry on my personal blog called “Who Does That Help?”

The post, which you can read if you want, pushes us to challenge every management decision, initiative, policy change, etc by asking for specifics about who benefits from it. Abstractions (flexibility, potentiality, the dreaded ‘fiduciary responsibility,’ and so on) aren’t good enough. They never have been, really, but they’ve become the semantic wall behind which too much of our upper leadership hides in order to make decisions that bring actual harm to actual people.

I’m reposting and reprising that blog entry here because I think it’s incumbent on us to ask that question not just about our local university administration, or even just the Chancellor/Board of Governors, but just as importantly about the Governor’s current budget proposal for 2012-13. Who does it help to slash the PASSHE budget by 20%? Name one actual person, or even group of people, who directly benefits from that decision. I can’t. Maybe you can.

But until you can, trying to have a meaningful debate about the impacts of budget attacks, er cuts, against PASSHE is very difficult. Why? Because nobody is really on the Governor’s side except the Governor and his friends. That is, the fact that there’s nothing to debate should make it really easy to win our argument–because they have no case.

There is, to put it as directly as possible, no benefit to the huge majority of residents of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; students, faculty, staff, or management of the State system; residents of the towns/cities/boroughs that are our universities’ homes; or anybody but the recipients of tax breaks the Governor can afford to give away only by choking and selling off public education. 

We must push the Governor and his allies in the Legislature (and the press) to answer the question at every turn: Who does it help when you slash our system’s budget? Who benefits? Because we win the argument about who gets harmed and by how much hands down, as long as we make that argument loud and clear.

Leave a comment

Filed under Advocacy, APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, Budget Deficit, Communities, Office of the Chancellor, PASSHE, Public education, Rally, Student activism, Tom Corbett, Tuition increase

Governor Corbett’s 2012-13 Budget Proposal

Here we go again.

If you haven’t heard the news already, this morning Gov. Corbett launched, er, presented his budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year. Unsurprisingly, PASSHE is once again in his crosshairs.

Corbett proposed a cut of 20%, or about $86 million, for PA state universities. That’s after a cut of 18% last year (which we fought like hell to reduce from his original proposal of cutting over 50%), and a mid-school-year request from his office to freeze 5% of last year’s already reduced allocation.

Here’s the official response from State APSCUF, posted just a few minutes ago on that blog:

GOVERNOR CORBETT’S BUDGET CUTS TO PUBLIC HIGHER EDUCATION JEOPARDIZE PENNSYLVANIA’S FUTURE
Funding for state-owned universities is necessary to ensure that Pennsylvania students have the opportunity to go to college.

HARRISBURG – Today Governor Tom Corbett revealed his FY 2012-13 state budget proposal, which cuts funding for Pennsylvania’s 14 state-owned universities by 20 percent, or $82.5 million. The president of the association representing 6,000 faculty members and coaches at the State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) institutions expressed dismay that the governor has once again attempted to balance the budget on the backs of students and their working families.

The governor’s proposed budget allocates $330 million to PASSHE, a loss of almost $175 million since Corbett took office. His budget proposal comes just one month after he requested that the State System freeze five percent of last year’s appropriation.

“Since taking office, Governor Corbett has taken every opportunity to decrease funding for our universities,” said Dr. Steve Hicks, president of APSCUF. “We understand that these are challenging economic times, but our students and their families are already struggling to make ends meet. Additional budget cuts are going to put the college dream out of reach for many Pennsylvanians.”

In June, Governor Corbett signed a budget that reduced funding for PASSHE by 18 percent.

As a result, PASSHE was forced to raise tuition 7.5 percent.

“PASSHE has a state-mandated mission to provide accessible, affordable, ‘high quality education at the lowest possible cost to students.’ Our universities cannot continue to meet these goals without critical state support,” Dr. Hicks stated. “The governor’s proposal puts current funding for the State System below 1989-90 levels. This short-sighted budget fix will have a lasting impact on the future of the Commonwealth.”

“Our campus communities must stand together for quality education,” Hicks said. “I urge the legislature to reaffirm the promise of affordable higher education for the working families of Pennsylvania.”

The governor’s budget proposal includes cuts to higher education totaling $265.4 million. In addition to the State System reduction, three of the four state-related universities will see cuts totaling $146.9 million, community colleges, $8.8 million, and the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, $27.2 million.

For understandable reasons, State APSCUF’s response is somewhat restrained in its tone. And if what I’m about to say seems unrestrained, you should see what it looked like when I first wrote it.

Understand the context:  these proposed cuts coincide with the Governor’s firm refusal to tax gas extraction companies that are volunteering to pay taxes as they begin fracking up our state; I’m not advocating fracking, but it’s doubly outrageous for the Governor to want it both ways. He can’t just let his fracking friends destroy the state and not pay a penny in taxes for doing it.  The cuts further coincide with the Governor’s refusal to make businesses and wealthy residents pay their fair share of the operating costs of our state, even as many of those businesses are benefiting from state contracts (read: taxpayer dollars), from the squeezing of public services, and so on. None of this is news.

I understand other states, especially California, have faced bigger cuts to public higher ed budgets, and other states (WI, OH, FL, MI, TX) have Governors who are more drooling, insane whackjobs.

Nonetheless, for those of us who live in PA, it’s about time to throw down the gauntlet. The reason the Governor keeps making these outrageous decisions is that nobody is stopping him. We’re not the only organization deeply harmed by the Governor’s stance, and it’s incumbent on all of us not just to defend our system and our students, but our state.

Be on the lookout for calls to act coming fast and furious now that the budget proposal is official. More important, when you see those calls, ACT!!!

3 Comments

Filed under Advocacy, APSCUF, Benefits/Benefit Cuts, Budget, Budget Cuts, Budget Deficit, Communities, free speech, lobbying, PASSHE, Privatization, Public education, Public employee unions, public employees, Rally, Shock Doctrine, Student activism, taxes, Tom Corbett

Start writing to President Obama and the DOE now

I don’t think anybody thinks it’s a good idea to raise tuition and make college unaffordable for students. However, President Obama’s announcement in the State of the Union the other week, and hearings happening in Senate committees already, suggest that the President doesn’t understand, or care about, the difference between tuition increases based on increasing costs, and increases based on collapsing state support. He needs to hear that message loud and clear.

Notice in this article from this morning’s (Feb 3) Inside Higher Education that nobody says a word about state support for public higher ed.

Senators Focus on Tuition Costs
February 3, 2012 – 3:00am

WASHINGTON — Members of the U.S. Senate’s education panel got a firsthand look Thursday at the president’s new higher education agenda, offering both bipartisan support and bipartisan expressions of concern.

At a hearing on college affordability before the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, lawmakers from both parties expressed agreement with President Obama’s assertion that tuition growth must be curtailed to maintain access to higher education, suggesting that college pricing is likely to be an election-year priority. But Democrats and Republicans alike tried unsuccessfully to pry loose more details about the president’s plan, and picked apart some aspects already made clear.

Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter testified but divulged no secrets about Obama’s Race to the Top-esque proposal for higher education, which would pay institutions that find ways to control tuition growth and increase value for students in much the same way the government rewarded states that improved their K-12 curriculums. Kanter said more information about funding for Obama’s plan will be released with the president’s 2013 budget proposal on Feb. 13.

While consensus emerged that college tuition can’t continue to increase unabated, opinions varied about the proper role of the federal government in stunting that growth. Sen. Richard Burr, Republican of North Carolina, said the free market can help determine what tuition prices are sustainable.

“Higher education is a great example of how the market place works,” he said. When tuition gets too expensive, he said, “people choose to go somewhere else.” (The hearing also featured testimony from officials of traditional two-year and four-year colleges talking about their efforts at innovation, and from advocates for alternatives such as Western Governors University.)

While those open-market principles are important to remember, Burr said, Congress sometimes has an important function in addressing college issues. “Where it’s appropriate for us to have a role,” he said, “I hope we play it.”

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat, pushed for brisk action and clarity about the more specific steps the administration wants legislators to take. She said students are essentially taking out a mortgage to pay for college and aren’t always seeing a return on that investment.

“They don’t know whether they’re going to have equity or an albatross of debt,” she said. “We can’t keep this going.”

Wyoming Sen. Michael B. Enzi, the committee’s senior Republican, said that efforts to expand grants for low-income students have failed to stop tuition growth and prove that legislation can accomplish only so much.

“If we’ve learned anything in recent years,” he said, “it’s that the government cannot solve this problem.”

But Obama says that government-supported reform is imperative. He introduced his agenda during last month’s State of the Union address, telling colleges they were “on notice” and that they risked losing taxpayer support if they couldn’t control their costs and increase their educational value.

Perhaps sensing a popular cause to champion with an election looming, senators in both parties seemed eager to continue discussions on how to hold down college prices.  Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, promised more discussion on the subject.

“This,” he said, ” is the first of many hearings.”

Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/02/03/senate-help-committee-hears-college-affordability-testimony#ixzz1lK6xuXDu
Inside Higher Ed

Leave a comment

Filed under Advocacy, APSCUF, Barack Obama, Budget, Budget Cuts, Budget Deficit, Corporate University, Education reform, Inside Higher Ed, PASSHE, Public education, Shock Doctrine

Public unions and budget deficits

Although facts and evidence don’t much matter to the controlling factions on most Capitol Hills these days, it’s never a bad idea to marshall them anyway.

David Moberg’s “The Wrong Target” (In These Times, 10/14/2011) summarizes and highlights the results of a recent study out of the University of California at Berkeley, making clear that public unions are not at all responsible for state budget deficits; neither are public unions responsible for skyrocketing numbers of state jobs (although I don’t see why that’s a bad thing–but that’s just me).

Some highlights from the article (but you should look at the whole thing, which isn’t very long, and at the study on which it’s based):

   •    Public workers have been a steady share of the workforce from 1979 to 2011—averaging 14.2 percent of the entire workforce and ranging from 13.6 to 15.2 percent (slightly increasing typically following a recession simply because private workers disproportionately lost jobs).

•    State and local government employment for every thousand residents rose very slightly from 1990 to 2001 (from 60.8 to 64.2 workers for a thousand residents, virtually all in local government), then remained flat through 2009.

•    Comparing states with the highest and lowest rates of unionization, the researchers found that from 1990-2009 there were more public employees for every thousand residents in weak- or non-union states than in states densely unionized. Also, there was faster growth in weakly unionized states, especially from 2001 onwards when the ratio of public workers to the population declined in the most unionized states.

•    Ultimately, the data seem to show no correlation between union density and public sector employment. (Jacobs suggests some rural, lightly populated and big states that also have few public unions may have a higher ratio to serve a dispersed population.)

•    Public worker total compensation has not been growing as a share of state expenditures. Indeed, worker wages and benefit declined as a share of state spending from 1992 to 2002, then remained stable (according to a study from the Center for American Progress).

•    As many studies have demonstrated, state and local government workers earn less in wages and benefits than similar private sector workers. Moreover, in recent years private sector labor costs have risen faster than costs in the public sector—a remarkable record considering the widespread wage stagnation and cuts in both pay and benefits in the private sector.

 

So the next time somebody tells you that public sector unions are bad for the economy, here’s a solid block of evidence to the contrary. We can only hope that evidence starts to matter sooner rather than later.

Leave a comment

Filed under Advocacy, AFSCME, APSCUF, Benefits/Benefit Cuts, Budget, Budget Cuts, Budget Deficit, Collective Bargaining, Communities, PASSHE, Privatization, Public education, Public employee unions, public employees, research, Shock Doctrine, taxes, Teacher unions, Unions

As we fight for public education, let’s not forget the “public” part

It’s not just about keeping costs down and providing access. It’s about our contract to live in civilized society.

I didn’t write this letter, and there’s a point or two I’d never say personally, but for the very most part it’s a brilliant statement to students of what we’ve done to their generation and what they need to do in response.

A letter to my students

Michael O’Hare, professor of public policy | 8/24/10 | 273 comments | Leave a comment

Michael O'HareWelcome to Berkeley, probably still the best public university in the world. Meet your classmates, the best group of partners you can find anywhere. The percentages for grades on exams, papers, etc. in my courses always add up to 110% because that’s what I’ve learned to expect from you, over twenty years in the best job in the world.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that you have been the victims of a terrible swindle, denied an inheritance you deserve by contract and by your merits. And you aren’t the only ones; victims of this ripoff include the students who were on your left and on your right in high school but didn’t get into Cal, a whole generation stiffed by mine. This letter is an apology, and more usefully, perhaps a signal to start demanding what’s been taken from you so you can pass it on with interest.

Swindle – what happened? Well, before you were born, Californians now dead or in nursing homes made a remarkable deal with the future. (Not from California? Keep reading, lots of this applies to you, with variations.) They agreed to invest money they could have spent on bigger houses, vacations, clothes, and cars into the world’s greatest educational system, and into building and operating water systems, roads, parks, and other public facilities, an infrastructure that was the envy of the world. They didn’t get everything right: too much highway and not enough public transportation. But they did a pretty good job.

Young people who enjoyed these ‘loans’ grew up smarter, healthier, and richer than they otherwise would have, and understood that they were supposed to “pay it forward” to future generations, for example by keeping the educational system staffed with lots of dedicated, well-trained teachers, in good buildings and in small classes, with college counselors and up-to-date books. California schools had physical education, art for everyone, music and theater, buildings that looked as though people cared about them, modern languages and ancient languages, advanced science courses with labs where the equipment worked, and more. They were the envy of the world, and they paid off better than Microsoft stock. Same with our parks, coastal zone protection, and social services.

This deal held until about thirty years ago, when for a variety of reasons, California voters realized that while they had done very well from the existing contract, they could do even better by walking away from their obligations and spending what they had inherited on themselves. “My kids are finished with school; why should I pay taxes for someone else’s? Posterity never did anything for me!” An army of fake ‘leaders’ sprang up to pull the moral and fiscal wool over their eyes, and again and again, your parents and their parents lashed out at government (as though there were something else that could replace it) with tax limits, term limits, safe districts, throw-away-the-key imprisonment no matter the cost, smoke-and-mirrors budgeting, and a rule never to use the words taxes and services in the same paragraph.

Now, your infrastructure is falling to pieces under your feet, and as citizens you are responsible for crudities like closing parks, and inhumanities like closing battered women’s shelters. It’s outrageous, inexcusable, that you can’t get into the courses you need, but much worse that Oakland police have stopped taking 911 calls for burglaries and runaway children. If you read what your elected officials say about the state today, you’ll see things like “California can’t afford” this or that basic government function, and that “we need to make hard choices” to shut down one or another public service, or starve it even more (like your university). Can’t afford? The budget deficit that’s paralyzing Sacramento is about $500 per person; add another $500 to get back to a public sector we don’t have to be ashamed of, and our average income is almost forty times that. Of course we can afford a government that actually works: the fact is that your parents have simply chosen not to have it.

I’m writing this to you because you are the victims of this enormous cheat (though your children will be even worse off if you don’t take charge of this ship and steer it). Your education was trashed as California fell to the bottom of US states in school spending, and the art classes, AP courses, physical education, working toilets, and teaching generally went by the board. Every year I come upon more and more of you who have obviously never had the chance to learn to write plain, clear, English. Every year, fewer and fewer of you read newspapers, speak a foreign language, understand the basics of how government and business actually work, or have the energy to push back intellectually against me or against each other. Or know enough about history, literature, and science to do it effectively! You spent your school years with teachers paid less and less, trained worse and worse, loaded up with more and more mindless administrative duties, and given less and less real support from administrators and staff.

Many of your parents took a hike as well, somehow getting the idea that the schools had taken over their duties to keep you learning, or so beat-up working two jobs each and commuting two hours a day to put food on the table that they couldn’t be there for you. A quarter of your classmates didn’t finish high school, discouraged and defeated; but they didn’t leave the planet, even if you don’t run into them in the gated community you will be tempted to hide out in. They have to eat just like you, and they aren’t equipped to do their share of the work, so you will have to support them.

You need to have a very tough talk with your parents, who are still voting; you can’t save your children by yourselves. Equally important, you need to start talking to each other. It’s not fair, and you have every reason (except a good one) to keep what you can for yourselves with another couple of decades of mean-spirited tax-cutting and public sector decline. You’re my heroes just for surviving what we put you through and making it into my classroom, but I’m asking for more: you can be better than my generation. Take back your state for your kids and start the contract again. There are lots of places you can start, for example, building a transportation system that won’t enslave you for two decades as their chauffeur, instead of raising fares and cutting routes in a deadly helix of mediocrity. Lots. Get to work. See you in class!

UPDATE: Like your political science in musical form? Here’s the way people thought about this stuff back in the day, and maybe should again. Bet there’s a good rap along these lines waiting to be born…

Cross-posted from the blog The Reality Based Community.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Advocacy, Budget, Budget Deficit, Communities, K-12 Education, Public education, Shock Doctrine, Student activism

More on the debate about reframing the value of higher ed

Thanks to Mark Rimple (again!) for sending this piece to me for the blog.

From Friday’s Inside Higher Ed: Linda Grasso, an English Prof in the CUNY system, writes eloquently, or perhaps just prettily, about the need to reframe our arguments about the value of higher education, particularly the liberal arts. Her most elaborated evidence for her claim about the value of liberal arts education is an anecdote about a conversation she had on the subway who seemed to have been deeply effected by reading Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried in a college English course.

Commenters on Grasso’s essay make several points about the limited value of the anecdote, on both epistemological and rhetorical grounds; I won’t duplicate them here, except to say that you should look at them. They’re very revealing, not only of the complex task we face as we fight to reclaim what public higher education is about in this country, but also of the internal dynamic that makes the fight that much more complicated. Not everybody that works at a public university supports the vision(s) that liberal arts faculty have.

If we can’t even agree among ourselves about what we’re doing here, it’s no wonder we struggle to convince external constituencies to pay for us to do it.

Let’s remember who our friends are.

Leave a comment

Filed under Access, Advocacy, APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, Budget Deficit, Corporate University, Inside Higher Ed, liberal arts, PASSHE, Shock Doctrine

Sociologist Michael Burawoy on a future for public higher ed

Thanks to friend and colleague Christine Monnier, a sociology prof at the College of Dupage, for bringing this piece to my attention by posting it on Google+.

Michael Burawoy is past president of the American Sociological Association and current president of the International Sociological Association. He’s a Professor of Sociology at UC Berkeley.

This essay, titled Redefining the Public University: Developing an Analytical Framework posted in a series called Transformations of the Public Sphere by the Institute for Public Knowledge, quickly describes the current state of American public higher education. If you’re familiar with current thinking on the issue, you’ll recognize most of the claims he makes about commodification and corporatization, but it’s worth reading carefully. The meat (or tofu, or beans and cheese, for us vegetarians) of the essay in my opinion is his ‘alternative framework’ for understanding what public universities do, that is, a matrix of ‘Professional,’ ‘Policy,’ ‘Critical,’ and ‘Public’ knowledges we both help to create and are responsive to. You can read the explanations, but this table maps out the key terms and relations:

It’s an interesting read, and one that has some generative potential for us as we work to defend our system from the kind of evisceration it faces at the hands of organizations like the US Education Delivery Institute and similar voices of neoliberalism.

Leave a comment

Filed under Advocacy, Budget, Budget Cuts, Budget Deficit, Corporate University, deliverology, Higher Ed history, Intellectual Property, PASSHE, Performance Funding, Private higher education, Public education, research, Retention, Retrenchment, Shock Doctrine, 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.

Leave a comment

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

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.

1 Comment

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