Category Archives: lobbying

We didn’t sing the Helplessness Blues – we were an advocating machine!

Fleet Foxes has a song that just about sums up my feelings about the strike. We have all been taught that we are “something unique”, and we are. But we are also part of something beyond ourselves, and this year, it was the mighty, mighty union, APSCUF.

What strikes me now is that as chapter president, I was indeed a “cog in some great machinery serving something beyond me.” From the students and faculty who worked on campus to the 14-campus group we were all part of, from my local executive council and our officers and strike team up to the state leadership, it was awe-inspiring to be in the middle of a movement. Let’s not forget that.

So, enjoy this song. It may not be your stylistic cup of tea, but it’s mighty inspiring.

Solidarity forever!

Mark

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Filed under APSCUF, Collective Bargaining, Communities, Contingent faculty, Contract Negotiations, Higher Ed history, liberal arts, lobbying, Public education, Public employee unions, Teacher unions, Tenure, Unions, VoteSmart.org, West Chester University

Preserving Quality Higher Education in PA: Our story so far…

[A message from APSCUF-WCU President Lisa Millhous–I just posted it!]

Preserving Quality Public Higher Education in PA: Our story so far…

[Skip ahead to find out what you can do]

On February 7 Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett proposed his 2012-13 state budget that cuts PASSHE (including West Chester University) by $82.5 million, cuts grants and loans for students (PHEAA) by $27.2 million, and cuts many other educational programs from pre-kindergarten to Ph.D. candidates.
Email the Governor and let him know restoring the funding matters to your family.

On February 29 the PA Senate held a budget hearing for PA State System schools (PASSHE). Senate Appropriations Chair Jake Corman was supportive of restoring funding to the State System. He has said that the State-owned universities have already shouldered their share of the cuts.
Email Senator Cormanto thank him for his support of PASSHE.

On February 29 and March 1 WCU students rallied to show their concern about the budget cuts. Over 1000 post cards were sent to the Governor and more than 500 registered PA voters signed a petition asking their legislators not to approve a budget that cuts education.
Look up your legislators and email them to let them know how important state funding is for your family.

On March 5 the PA House of Representatives held a budget hearing for PASSHE. House Appropriations Chair Bill Adolph also was supportive of the State System and suggested the House would try and reduce the cuts that the Governor had proposed.
Email Representative Adolph and thank him for his support of PASSHE.

Although many have criticized the cuts to higher education, Governor Corbett continues to defend his position. Unfortunately, he regularly uses inaccurate information to support the arguments for cutting higher education. Email the Governor and let him know how restoring the funding would matter to your family.

What can you do?

On March 28th several busses of WCU students and faculty will join students and faculty from all 14 schools in Harrisburg to ask the PA Legislature to restore funding for education.
To see if there is room on the bus, email the WCU APSCUF Office.

On April 24 you can vote in the PA Primary Election (3/26 is the last day to register to vote). A strong student turn-out in the primary will send a message to Harrisburg that we will be out in force in November. And we will remember how the legislature handled the budget this year.

In May and early June we need to find ways to keep our issue alive for the Legislature even though our semester will be over and many students will be home.
You can register to receive text messages or email updates to join our student activities.

WCU Rally videos:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p86zJaSoKKU

http://westchester.patch.com/articles/video-west-chester-students-protest-budget-cuts#video-9228789

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Filed under Advocacy, APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, lobbying, PASSHE, Program elimination, Rally, Tom Corbett, Uncategorized, West Chester University

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

Our ‘friend’ Michele Rhee is at it in Pennsylvania

Another day, another effort by education ‘reformer’ Michele Rhee to destroy public education in the name of reforming it.

This time it hits closer to home, as according to Laura Clawson at Daily Kos Labor, Rhee is working with former Lynn Swann campaign manager Ray Zaborney on a bill to lobby for passage of school privatization (masked as “vouchers”) legislation.

In case you’re wondering why efforts to privatize K-12 education get so much air (screen?) time on a blog representing a university faculty union, I have at least these two answers for you: (1) what happens to K-12 is often a harbinger of what policy makers want to do to us; and (2) in the not-very-deep subtext of Rhee’s (and Gates’ and Duncan’s and others) push to privatize public education is an anti-labor, anti-union impulse that we as a union should be utterly committed to stomping out in any way, at any time we cross paths with it.

Simple as that.

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Filed under Advocacy, APSCUF, Arne Duncan, charter schools, Education reform, K-12 Education, lobbying, Michelle Rhee, PA Senate Bill 1, PASSHE, Privatization, Public education, Public employee unions, public employees, StudentsFirst, Teacher unions, Vouchers/School Choice

A member of the “Educational Reform” Cabal busted pushing anti-union legislation

Ever since the Educational “Reformer” gang (Gates, Duncan, Rhee, Obama) started getting serious airtime in the national discussions about education, it’s been clear that their agenda requires defanging teachers’ unions. All along, the “Reformers” have insisted that they’re not anti-union, but that unions protect “bad teachers” by making them difficult to fire; unions create expenses (salaries and pensions) that are untenable; unions fight against changes in teaching load and class size in spite of clear violations of “efficiency” as a godterm, etc.

Those of us (myself included) who have described the cabal as “anti-union” have, at times, been criticized for overstating the position. It usually goes something like this: “If the unions would just be less, well, unionish, then we could work out reasonable solutions to these problems.”

Well, as if I needed clearer evidence of the gang’s anti-union proclivities, this morning’s Daily Kos reposts and explicates some evidence that Michelle Rhee’s organization, the Orwellian-named Students First, actively participated in crafting the Michigan legislation that all but eliminates collective bargaining rights for teachers. Students First provided agenda points for the legislation, and staff members vetted language in the bills, all while telling the press that they had nothing to do with the bills.

While this news comes as no surprise to those of us who have been following this (ahem) movement over the last couple of years, it may seem only tangentially related to APSCUF or higher education. And that’s probably true, technically. However, it adds another piece to the threat posed by the US Education Delivery Institute (which I wrote about last week and am preparing another post on currently), which is part and parcel of the same movement. Don’t underestimate, even for a moment, the extent to which these folks are not on our side.

I’m not going to claim that they hate students, or that they’re sadists, or any of the easy overstatements. Their specific motives for busting the chops of unions are beside the point, at least at the moment.

What’s on point is that we have to counter the message, at every turn, that unions support bad teaching, that we protect colleagues at the expense of students, that we oppose evaluation systems that determine quality, and so on. With the kind of money the Gates Foundation is throwing at them, with the kind of bully pulpit Arne Duncan has as Secretary of Education, we’re facing a serious challenge. And knowing that members of the cabal are participating directly in anti-union activities ups the stakes for us that much more.

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Filed under Advocacy, APSCUF, Collective Bargaining, deliverology, K-12 Education, lobbying, Michelle Rhee, National Education Association, Public education, US Education Delivery Institute

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