Category Archives: Budget Deficit

Tentative Budget Deal Reached

The Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting on Friday morning that the PA Legislature and Governor Fracker have reached a tentative deal on the state budget.

The preliminary reports are not good for us, although the numbers aren’t yet very precise. The article indicates that the “state-supported” universities will take a 19% hit, but doesn’t distinguish between PASSHE and the state-relateds. So we don’t yet know exactly what will happen to us.

If that 19% is even close to what we see when the numbers are released, we’re going to have lots of work to do protecting our system from the kinds of Draconian cuts we all know PASSHE already wants to make. Yet again, our state government has provided the cover under which our Chancellor and Board of Governors can radically overhaul our whole system, while pretending that it has anything whatsoever to do with economics.

As a pacifist, I usually am very stridently resistant to military metaphors, but in this case, … Oh hell, I still can’t do it.

But now at least the circular logic of management is laid bare: “We can’t afford to pay for anything [except more managers and management salaries]. Why not? Because we just gave all the money away. See?”

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Filed under Access, APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, Budget Deficit, Collective Bargaining, Contract Negotiations, Office of the Chancellor, PASSHE, Penn State University, Public education, Retrenchment, Shock Doctrine, Tom Corbett, Tuition increase, West Chester University

IUP management proposes radical (and not in a good way) overhaul of the university

My department chair (via our Dean, via the Provost) just e-mailed around this article from the Indiana Gazette (originally published Fri 6/11, updated Sat 6/12).

The short version is that IUP management proposes, by Fall 2012, eliminating 62 (yes, that’s right–SIXTY-TWO!!!!!!) programs from the university’s curriculum, ranging from Associates to Masters degree programs. Management offers a variety of rationales for elimination: low enrollments, high expenses, changing needs in the Commonwealth, the current budget crisis, and so on, all of which every PASSHE campus has heard before, and some of which aren’t especially consistent with each other. Management also lobs the retrenchment-grenade, albeit in a vague way. Furthermore, as IUP-APSCUF Vice-President Francisco Alarcon notes:

“I think it’s posturing for the most part,” said Vice President Francisco Alarcon. He said he believes the plan is an attempt by administrators to scare faculty into retirement, which would save the university money.

Alarcon said it is unclear to him the basis on which the decision to discontinue any given program was made. He said the decisions seemed arbitrary and had no real analysis behind them.

He also said the proposal fails to outline which programs are to benefit, and to what extent, from the elimination of others.

Buried among a great many slippery claims in the article, I was simultaneously relieved and disturbed to find this one, in a statement from IUP Interim President Werner:

“While commonwealth budget issues have been at the center of many of our discussions and decisions, even if future budgets are more favorable than currently projected, the university must still preserve and invest in its strongest and highest-quality programs through strategic reallocation,” he wrote.

Do you see what I see? I see a not-very-subtle admission that the agenda here has little, if anything, to do with the economic viability of IUP, and most certainly little, if anything, to do with the quality of the institution as it currently fulfills its mission. I see, as Kevin Mahoney has written about several times on the KUXchange, an effort to transform PASSHE schools, heart and soul, into degree-manufacturing facilities that turn out widgets, um, I mean degree-bearing workers, er, um, I mean students, er um (What about PEOPLE?!?), quality of their education be damned.

[I’ll have a post ready later this week about PASSHE’s participation in a program run by a think (ahem) tank called the US Educational Delivery Institute, one implication of which is that it provides another layer of cover for this attack.]

So, for those of us who work in or attend PASSHE schools, two points to leave you with–

1. We ALL have to be on the lookout for these moves on our campuses. If your management hasn’t yet unveiled (admitted to) these plans, that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. You’re not.

2. I know the IUP-APSCUF chapter is one of the best organized chapters in our union. They’re very capable of fighting this fight, but they shouldn’t have to do it without knowing we support them and stand ready to help in any way we can.

 

 

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Filed under APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, Budget Deficit, Collective Bargaining, Indiana University of PA, PASSHE, Program elimination, Public education, Retirement, Retrenchment, Shock Doctrine, West Chester University

Another reason you should love your union

If you follow any independent media at all, you’ve likely seen the story breaking over the last few days that billionaire conservative/libertarian activists the Koch Brothers are poking their heads (read: checkbooks) into higher education. The most recent story involves a $1.5M “gift” to the College of Business at Florida State, which comes with some frightening strings attached: the contributors have some veto power over hires that their money pays for; they’re putting pressure on the college to adapt pieces of the curriculum to their radically anti-government agenda.

Here’s a good summary of it from ThinkProgress.org (Wed 5/11):

REPORT: Koch Fueling Far Right Academic Centers At Universities Across The Country

Yesterday, ThinkProgress highlighted reports from the St. Petersburg Times and the Tallahassee Democrat regarding a Koch-funded economics department at Florida State University (FSU). FSU had accepted a $1.5 million grant from a foundation controlled by petrochemical billionaire Charles Koch on the condition that Koch’s operatives would have a free hand in selecting professors and approving publications. The simmering controversy sheds light on the vast influence of the Koch political machine, which spans from the top conservative think tanks, Republican politicians, a small army of contracted lobbyists, and Tea Party front groups in nearly every state.

As reporter Kris Hundley notes, Koch virtually owns much of George Mason University, another public university, through grants and direct control over think tanks within the school. For instance, Koch controls the Mercatus Center of George Mason University, an institute that set much of the Bush administration’s environmental deregulation policy. And similar conditional agreements have been made with schools like Clemson and West Virginia University. ThinkProgress has analyzed data from the Charles Koch Foundation, and found that this trend is actually much larger than previous known. Many of the Koch university grants finance far right, pro-polluter professors, and dictate that students read Charles Koch’s book as part of their academic study:

– West Virginia University: As ThinkProgress reported last year, Koch funds an array of academic programs at West Virginia University, a public university. One Koch-funded academic at WVU, economics professor Russell Sobel, has written a book blasting regulations of all types. He even argues that less mine safety regulations will make coal miners more safe. As the St. Petersburg Times reported, a similar arrangement has been made with WVU as with FSU in accepting at least $480,000 from Koch.

– Brown University: The Charles Koch Foundation funds the Political Theory Project at Brown, which provides funding for “Seminar Luncheons for undergraduates, academic conferences, research fellowships for graduate students, support for faculty research, and a postdoctoral fellowship program.” Amity Shales, a pop-conservative writer who argues that the New Deal made the Great Depression worse, an odd theory promoted by Charles Koch himself, has been a featured speaker at the Koch-funded Project at Brown. Moreover, Koch’s donation of at least $419,254 to Brown has underwritten a number of research projects in the Economics and Political Science deparments, including a paper arguing that bank deregulation has helped the poor.

– Troy University: The Charles Koch Foundation, along with the Manuel Johnson and the BB&T Foundation, provided Troy University, a public university, a gift of $3.6 million to establish the Center for Political Economy last year. The Center’s stated goal is to push back against the belief following the financial crisis that markets need regulation. Notably, the entire Advisory Council for the Center is made up of Koch and BB&T-funded professors at other universities, including Russell Sobel at West Virginia University and Peter Boettke at George Mason University. Currently, the Center’s only staffer, Professor Scott Beaulier, is a board member of the ExxonMobil-funded attack group, American Energy Alliance, and a former staffer for Koch’s think tank at George Mason.

– Utah State University: The Charles Koch Foundation has given nearly$700,000 to Utah State University, mostly for the Huntsman School of Business. The money has been used to hire five new faculty members, and establish a program for undergraduates to enroll and learn about Charles Koch’s “Science of Liberty” management theory. Professor Randy Simmons, the “Charles G. Koch Professor of Political Economy” at the school, helps select students — who must provide information about their ideological interests in their application form — to the Koch program. Simmons also works for several Koch-funded front groups, and writes papers against environmental regulations. Charles Koch’s book, “The Science of Success,” a book Forbes mocked for proclaiming a “Marxist faith in ‘fixed laws’ that govern ‘human well-being,’” is part of therequired reading list for the program. A representative for Utah State did not return ThinkProgress’ calls about conditional strings attached to the Koch grant.

Charles Koch Foundation grants, along with direct Koch Industries grants, are distributed to dozens of other universities around the country every year, to both public and private institutions. Some of the programs, like the Charles Koch Student Research Colloquium at Beloit College, are funded by grants of little over $130,000 and simply support conservative speakers on campuses. We have reached out to several of the schools to learn more about the agreements, but none so far have returned our calls.

Budget constraints and other problems at universities have allowed a small set of oligarchs to use school donations to interfere with academic integrity on campuses. A group of hedge fund managers, working through the Manhattan Institute’s Veritas Fund, have created entire departments dedicated to advancing failed supply side ideas and climate skepticism. John Allison, the former CEO of BB&T Bank, a bailout recipient, has used his corporation’s money to force college campuses to adopt Ayn Rand readings into their programs.

Overall, Koch is still a dominate player when it comes to meddling with academic integrity. Part of the effort is coordinated through operatives like Richard Fink, who doubles as a vice president at Koch’s corporate lobbying office. Through an organization called the Association of Private Enterprise Education, Koch organizes these corporate-funded university departments into a powerful intellectual movement. The organization allows Koch staffers in Washington DC to request certain types of studies, interfere with hiring decisions, and reward loyal free market academics with hefty research grants.

So why does this have anything to do with being grateful for a strong union?

Look at that list again.  Notice anything interesting about the schools represented on it? Other than Florida State, which has a union whose power is sharply constrained by right-to-get-fired laws, there’s not a union to be found among them.  Some of them are private, and courtesy of the Yeshiva decision, it’s nearly impossible for them to unionize.  Most of them are in right-to-get-fired states.

The Koch Brothers and their ilk are inhumane and despicable, but they aren’t stupid. One of the reasons they support union-busting is that unions stop them from having their way with anyone and everyone they feel like exploiting.

All of this is to say, when we tell you we need you–for an event, for a phone call/letter-writing campaign, for a job action, for a contribution to CAP, whatever–remember that THIS is why we need to stand in solidarity. Our working conditions and compensation are worth fighting for, and in order to protect them we have to beat back threats like these.

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Filed under Advocacy, APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, Budget Deficit, CAP, Collective Bargaining, Follow the Money, Koch brothers, Yeshiva decision

Follow the money!

I’m sorry to title this post with such a tired cliche, but dagnabbit, it’s right on target again!

As you’re likely aware, Governor Corbett is attacking not just public higher education but all public education in PA.  There’s legislation pending in Harrisburg that would transfer a huge chunk of the money Governor Drill-and-Kill (Drill the Shale, Kill the Schools) wants to cut from K-12 education into a voucher program.

From my early morning cruise through the blogosphere, two articles that help debunk the notion that vouchers are anything but money-stealers from public schools for private interests:

1. In Testing for Thee, but Not for Me, Kevin Drum reports the results of a study from Milwaukee Public Schools indicating (not for the first time!) that voucher-eligible schools are producing test scores that aren’t any better than their public school counterparts. So, all those lazygreedyunion teachers wouldn’t seem to be the problem, would they?

2. If you follow the KUXchange blog, you’ve seen them developing arguments, based on Naomi Klein’s notion of the Shock Doctrine, which holds (in simplistic terms) that the powerful often use rhetorics of crisis and disaster (shock) as smokescreens behind which they accrete power to themselves while people aren’t watching.  In Monday’s HuffPost Education section, Timothy Slekar from Penn State-Altoona applies the Shock Doctrine directly to Governor Drill-and-Kill’s K-12 budget proposal.  His most interesting finding, in my estimation, is that the voucher program in SB1, along with increased (you gotta be frackin’ kidding me!) testing requirements that add nothing to education, will ACTUALLY COST MORE than the proposed cuts would save.

Sometime later today, I’ll see if I can find this again, but about 6 weeks ago, I found evidence that the second largest individual contributor to the Corbett for Governor campaign is the guy who owns the Charter School Management firm that would profit the most from Drill-and-Kill’s “education reform” package.  Gee.  We’re surprised, aren’t we?

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Filed under Advocacy, APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, Budget Deficit, Follow the Money, K-12 Education, PA Senate Bill 1, PASSHE, Penn State University, Public education, research, Shock Doctrine, taxes, Tom Corbett, Uncategorized, Vouchers/School Choice

You Pay, Corporations Don’t (repost from KUXchange)

Yet another score from our friends at the KUXchange.  The CLEAR Coalition explains one reason why tax revenues in PA aren’t higher. If the link to the vid doesn’t show up in your e-mail (for those of you who get posts by subscription), just click through to the blog post itself and the video is there.

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Filed under Advocacy, Budget, Budget Cuts, Budget Deficit, Communities, Follow the Money, Shock Doctrine, taxes, Tom Corbett, Uncategorized

Corbett’s plan for PASSHE budget restoration

It’s taking almost all the inner strength I can muster not to launch into the most profane tirade in human history.  At what?  This proposal from Gov Kill-the-Schools-Drill-the-State Corbett:

Some Pennsylvania universities should consider drilling for natural gas below campus to help solve their financial problems, Gov. Tom Corbett said Thursday.

The Erie Times-News reported that Corbett made the suggestion during an appearance at a meeting of the Pennsylvania Association of Councils of Trustees at Edinboro University.

Corbett said six of the 14 campuses in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education are located on the Marcellus Shale formation, part of a vast region of underground natural gas deposits that are currently being explored and extracted.

So let me see if I understand this.  The state should slash its appropriations to the state-owned universities in half.  Then, the universities, at least the six lucky enough to be sitting on gas reserves (not WCU, by the way) should poison their communities, students, faculty, staff, and anybody else within poisoning distance by extracting that gas using a method that’s demonstrably stupid and dangerous.

And who would get the contracts to perform the extractions?  Me wonders, yes, me wonders, My Precious…

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Filed under Advocacy, APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, Budget Deficit, Communities, Follow the Money, PASSHE, Public education, Tom Corbett, West Chester University

Two MUST-READ posts from the KUXchange (KU’s local blog)

1. If you’re still not convinced that the threat of retrenchment is real, even at WCU, where President Weisenstein has been telling us for two years now about the sound financial health of the university, you need to read Kevin Mahoney’s post, I Went to Harrisburg, and My Head Exploded.  I’ve known Kevin for a long time now and know that he’s often motivated to fight against this kind of madness but rarely taken by surprise.  Even with all the research KU-APSCUF has done in the last couple of years, it was hard to anticipate what they’ve found.

2.  Contributor mslibrarygoddess says it loud and proud, in Don’t Want to Accept Responsibility? Blame Teachers! A couple of marquis moments.

Responding to the assertion by some politicians that teachers are the greedy ones:

[R]ather than seeing teachers as advocates, the government is making them out to be greedy millionaires who want to line their pockets with your tax dollars.

Hmmmm….if that’s what teachers were doing, wouldn’t they all be politicians? After all, aren’t politicians the people that have taken jobs that were supposed to be civil service positions, things you volunteered for to serve your community and if you were paid it was a modest salary, and made them into career positions that eat up tax dollars?

And:

Teachers are more than teachers. We do the work of educators, counselors, administrators, disciplinarians. We become more than just someone standing up in front of a room lecturing. We become people that are charged with the emotional and physical well being o students in addition to their academic well being.

And we do it all while we are under appreciated, while jobs are being taken away, while class sizes are exploding out of control and the time of the year when we work is dedicated to nothing but work. And we get blamed for everything because we speak out.

Taken together, these two posts underscore the OBLIGATION we have to fight against a radical agenda that doesn’t want an educated citizenry, wants to funnel pubic money into private pockets, and doesn’t much care about what else happens to anybody.

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Filed under Advocacy, APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, Budget Deficit, Collective Bargaining, Communities, Kutztown University, Links, PASSHE, Public education, Retrenchment, Shock Doctrine, Student activism, Tom Corbett, Tuition increase, West Chester University

Just in case you’re not clear on the political context…

…for Tom Corbett’s proposal to slash the PASSHE budget and all public education budgets in PA, for the Feds’ desperate rush to cut spending in the middle of deficit and so on, this gem of a video makes it all crystal clear.  Thanks to Kevin Mahoney from the KUXchange for posting.

 

So remember–

Wed April 27, 7 pm.  Chester County Courthouse!  Rally for Public Education!

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Filed under Advocacy, APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, Budget Deficit, Collective Bargaining, Contract Negotiations, K-12 Education, Kutztown University, PASSHE, Public education, Shock Doctrine, Student activism, Tom Corbett, Tuition increase, West Chester University