Category Archives: Follow the Money

Right to Know request from National Educational Services

Folks, just in case anybody wonders about the two emails from our Right to Know Compliance Office about the request for our salares, office numbers, phone numbers, and home addresses–revised today to allow us to opt into sharing that information rather than having to opt out–

The organization asking for that information is called National Educational Services, and the original request came from somebody named Janine Fye.

Following the lead of the English Department Secretary (thanks, Mary!) who had the good sense to Google the name, I did the same. NES appears to be a mixture of TIAA-CREF and AFLAC for educators; they offer insurance plans (life insurance, disability, disability supplemental, etc), retirement plans, help with fundraising campaigns on campuses, a whole swath of services. I don’t get any inkling they’re more evil or sinister than any other corporation that does what they do.

Once I learned this, I emailed VP Mixner to ask what their rationale for the RTK request is. He explained that it’s “internal research”; I’ve replied to that message asking if “internal research” means something else in legal-land than it does in research-land. They want information about people who don’t belong to their plans, which is about “external” as I can imagine. I just sent that message, but if anybody is curious about the response, ask and I’ll post it.

Anyway, the reason I’m posting this entry on the blog is so that if you’re trying to decide whether to “opt in” (re: Tuesday’s email about the revised RTK request), I figured you should have at least a dim idea of what you’d be “opting into.”

My opinion on the fact that our RTK people didn’t tell us that themselves? I’ll sit on that.

Oops, that probably gave me away, didn’t it?

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Filed under AFSCME, APSCUF, Follow the Money, Right to Know

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

Access takes money

For you WCU English Department subscribers, you’ve seen some of this before…

At this past weekend’s APSCUF Legislative Assembly in Greensburg, statewide CAP (Committee for Action through Politics) chair Brad Wilson provided delegates with a couple of slightly distressing numbers I need to pass along.

1.  Statewide, only about 50% of APSCUF members donate our yearly dues rebate back to the organization.

2.  At WCU, only about 5% of APSCUF members donate to CAP via voluntary payroll deductions, a system that’s been in place for many years.

I know some people aren’t in position to take extra payroll deductions for much of any reason; if you’re one of those folks, I’m not talking to you when I say this:

APSCUF-CAP needs money.

Brad Wilson, in his report, made what struck me as the obvious version of the point.  Right now, Governor Corbett has threatened to slash our budget in half, while he refuses to tax gas companies for extractions from or profits on Marcellus Shale.  Why?

I’m not saying we’ll ever outspend huge energy companies, nor should we.  I am saying, however, that along with our strong and continuing grassroots efforts to convince legislators not to halve our budget, we can do a lot more, and a lot more effectively, and a lot more sustainably, with just a little help from a lot more faculty members.

An important point of clarification: I imagine that some of you will respond to this request saying something like, “We just had our dues increased last year, and you’re already asking for MORE money?”  And the answer is yes.  The money we collect from last year’s dues increase goes to pay organizational expenses–office expenses, staff salaries, legal fees, assembly/meeting costs, public relations, and so on.  It’s illegal to spend that money on lobbying.  Your CAP contribution would go to nothing but lobbying and candidate endorsements.

This isn’t complicated stuff, y’all.  Every faculty who can afford to offer a voluntary CAP payroll deduction, we need you.  When you fill out the form, which you can find on-line here, you’ll see that you can specify the amount of your deduction.  I wouldn’t presume to suggest an amount you should contribute, except to say that we can certainly find useful places to put every penny.

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Filed under APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, CAP, Collective Bargaining, Contract Negotiations, Follow the Money, lobbying, PASSHE

When did Tom Corbett lose faith in *public* education?

Thanks and kudos to WCU student Kevin Mann for this catch:

As a candidate, Tom Corbett wrote a position paper about education policy posted at the very useful site Vote Smart.  There’s not really anything in it you wouldn’t expect from a Republican gubernatorial candidate–lots of talk about accountability, making sure money is spent wisely, rewarding quality teaching and ousting bad teachers, all the usual suspects.

Interestingly, however, there’s a passage in his statement that jumped out at Kevin, and me:

Tom Corbett believes in Pennsylvania’s public school system and will make funding our schools a top priority. Putting students first means ensuring the resources intended to support their education make it to the schools and classrooms they attend.

The second half of that is standard issue conservative education-reform-speak.  But notice in the first sentence the commitment to public education.

At the bottom of the page is a link to then-candidate Corbett’s own campaign website, on which you’d find a somewhat shorter, lightly edited version of the same statement.  I’ll point you specifically to the most interesting, uh, edit.

Tom Corbett believes in Pennsylvania’s education system and will make funding our schools a top priority. Putting students first means ensuring the resources intended to support their education make it to the schools and classrooms they attend.

See what’s missing?  Tom Corbett doesn’t care about public education anymore!

And I can’t even begin to prove what I’m about to posit, but I’m going to posit it anyway.  Sue me.

According to Follow the Money, one of the largest individual contributors to the Corbett for Governor campaign is a fella named Vahan Gureghian, CEO of Charter School Management Corporation.  I’ve written about this relationship elsewhere and won’t (don’t need to?) rehash it here; the short version is that it’s awfully difficult to believe that Corbett’s, um, turn away from support for public education isn’t connected, at least in some way, with huge amounts of money appearing in his campaign coffers from somebody who stands to profit massively from cuts to the public education system.

Gee.  What a surprise.  The Governor supported public education, until he didn’t.  He supported publication, more likely, until a rich charter-school “entrepeneur” persuaded (!) him not to.  And here we are today.

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Filed under Follow the Money, K-12 Education, Tom Corbett, VoteSmart.org