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 (!).

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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.

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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!!!

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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

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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