Category Archives: Public employee unions

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

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

APSCUF-WCU President on Anti-Union Attacks in Education

APSCUF-WCU President Lisa Millhous published this guest column in today’s (June 7) West Chester Daily Local News.

She makes several crucial points, at the core of which is the point that, especially in PA, attacking teacher and other public unions is almost all a diversion from the Governor’s (and his allies’) agenda–selling off public K-16 education to whichever bidder contributes the most to their campaigns. Dr. Millhous doesn’t put the point quite so belligerently, of course, nor should she have!

If you have the stomach for it, feel free to engage the anti-union thugs who tend to populate Comments sections of newspapers and websites. Or, let them have their echo-chamber to themselves since there’s probably not much you can say that will sway them.

Either way, share this piece with anybody you think needs to understand what anti-teacher-union attacks are really about. It ain’t about teachers or students, folks.

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Filed under APSCUF, charter schools, Corporate University, Education reform, K-12 Education, PASSHE, Private higher education, Privatization, Public education, Public employee unions, public employees, Shock Doctrine, Teacher unions, Tom Corbett, Unions

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

Call for support for the Neshimany Federation of Teachers

Just got this e-mail, via Lisa Millhous, via the PA Federation of Teachers:

Please read this important announcement from brother Ted Kirsch, President, AFT Pennsylvania:
As you may know, teachers in the Neshaminy Federation of Teachers bargaining unit have been on strike for 9 days.  We are returning back to the classroom, but unfortunately, have not persuaded our school board to return to the bargaining table to negotiate a fair contract.

The board has refused to engage in good faith negotiations and has offered one proposal that decimates our rights as professionals.  This impasse has lasted for way too long — almost 4 years — and needs to end.  Please help us by signing our petition asking the board to negotiate.

At this point, it is not about who is wrong or right — it is about sitting down at the table to negotiate — something our board is refusing to do. Sign our petition here.

Feel free to forward the petition information to anyone who is concerned about education.

Thank you!

Take 5 seconds to sign the petition. This is beyond ridiculous.

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Filed under AFT, Collective Bargaining, Contract Negotiations, K-12 Education, Public education, Public employee unions, public employees

Starting to think about strategy and tactics for the upcoming budget battle

As you should know by now, Governor Corbett has put in a request that PASSHE return about $20 million of our 2011-2012 budget allocation to the state. That’s on the heels, remember, of a 19% reduction in our budget already, and in spite of a sizeable rainy day fund that’s designed precisely to respond to situations like this one.

You should also know by now that the Governor’s next budget proposal address is scheduled for February 7. In it, we have no reason to believe he’ll do anything other than propose idiotically draconian budget cuts again for next year. Clearly he has no interest in the health or quality of public higher education in his state, even though his job mandates that he must. And just as clearly, nobody in the Office of the Chancellor or the on the Board of Governors seems inclined to fight with him about this anywhere near as avidly as the situation calls for. Their track record is terrible, so we shouldn’t expect much help from that direction. As long as we have an unsettled contract situation, anything the state does to butcher the budget strengthens PASSHE’s bargaining position (in their myopic calculus), so…

It’s clear, therefore, that just like last year, the brunt of beating back these budget attacks falls on the students, faculty, staff (thank heavens AFSCME is generally pretty well-organized!), and communities in which our universities operate. The people who actually depend on the success of the universities, that is, in the most direct and obvious ways have to be the ones who keep it from being devastated by any number of politicos who seem simply not to care what happens to it. As long as junket jobs exist, and as long as there’s a system that acts as a pawn in the chess game that seems to pass for budget and policy debates in the Commonwealth, they’re happy.

With all that said, although we have a lot of work to do over the next several months, I want to emphasize in the rest of this post one basic concept that I think needs to frame everything else we do. And that concept is, as I put it in a Facebook post to a KU student activist–

Remember who the opposition is: the Corbett Regime and their neo-liberal allies in the Chancellor’s Office. Not the people who disagree about whether it’s better to do civil disobedience or voter registration.

There are going to be actions of all kinds happening on our campuses over the next few months. Some of you will find some of them distasteful–either because they’re too aggressive or not aggressive enough; because they’re ‘paralyzing by analyzing’ or underinformed; because somebody didn’t coordinate with somebody else before scheduling two events at the same time. You get the idea.

But understand this. Every time you dismiss or attack somebody who’s on the same side you are because you don’t like their tactics, you’re making the Governor’s attacks work better. Unfortunately for sane people everywhere, Governor Corbett and his allies have easier pathways to make things happen than we do. They have convenient access to the channels of power that we don’t. We only make it worse for ourselves when we squabble and bicker with, rather than collaborate and encourage, our allies.

More to come, I’m sorry to have to say…

 

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Filed under Access, Advocacy, AFSCME, APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, Collective Bargaining, Communities, Contract Negotiations, Corporate University, Office of the Chancellor, PASSHE, Privatization, Public education, Public employee unions, public employees, Shock Doctrine, Student activism, Tom Corbett, Tuition increase, West Chester University

Just in case you were wondering…

I suspect when I start writing about the Ed ‘Reform’ [sic] folks, some of you think I’m waxing pretty paranoid. The Gates Foundation and Michele Rhee aren’t *really* as bad as I think they are, yada yada yada…

On the Daily Kos Labor blog yesterday, I stumbled across this gem, which reports that the Gates Foundation recently gave a $376,000+ grant to our friends at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

If you’ve only gotten your news in the last year from CNNMSNBCFOXNBCABCCBSNewYorkTimes, you may not recognize the name ALEC. Short version–ALEC is a ‘think tank’ (to put it generously) that crafts legislation, which gets distributed, sometimes barely revised, and often voted up in legislatures all over the country. Some recent examples you might recognize: Wisconsin’s union-killing ‘budget’ laws that led to mass protests in Madison and the recalls of several state Republican legislators and a current effort to recall Gov. Scott Walker; Ohio’s SB5, which was recently repealed by ballot initiative, that would have all but gutted public unions in that state; Michigan’s ’emergency manager’ law that allows the Governor to install a manager in any municipality he declares as an emergency, and which authorizes that manager to ignore collective bargaining agreements and other contracts with impunity.

These people are NOT OUR FRIENDS. And Bill Gates is giving them stacks of cash. Even I can do that math.

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Filed under ALEC, Bill Gates/Gates Foundation, Collective Bargaining, Education reform, Koch brothers, Michelle Rhee, Ohio SB5, Public education, Public employee unions, public employees, Teacher unions, Unions