Category Archives: Student activism

“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

If you needed more evidence that our Chancellor may not be on our side…

…beyond the nearly empty letter sent from his office last week in response to the Governor’s budget proposal, read this article to see what it looks like when a Board of Regents mobilizes against even less substantive a threat then we faced last year and face again this year.

In short, the article explains a situation brewing in Florida, in which the Republican chair of the Senate Budget Committee is threatening to cut the budget for the University of South Florida by 58% if USF won’t hand off one of its branch campuses to him (essentially) to become a part of Florida’s state-owned system (which, by the way, is where our esteemed Chancellor came from, if you remember). Anyway, Senator Alexander is a well-known thug, and everybody knows it, and everybody knows he can’t possibly do what he’s threatening.

At the same time, within a couple of days after his announcement, upper administration/management across the entire USF system had mobilized, sent out angry alerts to faculty, students, alums, staff members, and so on, and begun organizing a response.

In Pennsylvania, the Governor makes an entire predictable speech promising to assault our system for the second year in a row, and our upper leadership response is to agree that the Governor’s position is generally right, but that he’s being a little mean to us.

For those of you who haven’t figured it out yet, you’d better start getting this now. We can count on the Office of the Chancellor for nothing helpful to the majority of the system. He simply refuses to fight for us. His record is one of throwing us under any bus that passes by. And all while maintaining his position as the highest paid public employee in PA.

We can’t fire him, and I can’t imagine anything he could do that would make the Governor happier (so he ain’t getting fired). But the implications for students, faculty and staff, residents of PASSHE campus locations, and community members, are clear. If we’re going to keep our system from getting butchered by a bunch of thugs who couldn’t care less about it, we have to do it ourselves.

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Filed under Access, Advocacy, APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, Communities, Office of the Chancellor, PASSHE, Public education, Student activism, Tom Corbett

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

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

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

ACTION ITEM: Write your PA Senator NOW!

This letter went out to all APSCUF members from our Legislative Director, Laura Saccente, this morning. Some of you don’t read your e-mail over the summer, and many of you (who see the blog posts on Facebook) aren’t APSCUF members.

One editorial note–this version of the letter is addressed directly to constituents of Senator Dinniman. If he’s not your Senator, you should write to your own.

Laura’s letter explains why you need to do this, so I don’t have to. Just do it.

Dear APSCUF member,
 
In May 2011, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives approved a budget bill (House bill 1485) that would set the appropriation for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) at $427.8 million. While this is better than the originally proposed cut of 54 percent, it still represents a cut of 15 percent, or a $75 million reduction from last year’s state appropriation to PASSHE.
 
The budget proposal is currently in the Senate, and we need you to contact your Senator and ask for additional funding restoration for PASSHE.  Additional restoration could help keep a large tuition increase at bay and further reduce staff layoffs.   Please contact your own member, Senator Andrew Dinniman, the Education Chair, at andy@pasenate.com or (717) 787-5709.
 
Time is very limited and the budget will be wrapping up soon, so please take five minutes to send your email or make a phone call today!  Please do not use university email or stationary when making your case.  If you have already contacted your senator in recent months, this is the opportunity to follow up with him or her to request restoration of PASSHE funding.
 
When giving examples on the reason to restore funding, please consider how PASSHE has wisely used its appropriations dollars, how cuts may affect department/program cuts and class sizes, how a large tuition increase will limit the ability for some to attend, etc.  I’ve also attached a general budget message sheet if you need additional talking points.  Let your senator know today, before it’s too late, how the proposed cuts may impact your campus.
 
Thank you,
Laura Saccente

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Filed under Advocacy, APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, PASSHE, Public education, Student activism, 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