Category Archives: Tom Corbett

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

How academic managers SHOULD feel when they fire people

Via our comrade Kevin Mahoney at KU–

Graham Spanier, President of Penn State, said in a recent interview that the PSU funding cut is like to cost jobs “in the scores” in the university’s Agriculture school (it has to do with the fact that the positions aren’t funded such that increased tuition can recover them–there’s not a lot of detail in the article).

Anyway, as opposed to ANYTHING I’ve heard from PASSHE management as they’ve been retrenching faculty, fighting the union to stop us from getting preferential hiring for retrenchees (as the CBA demands), waving around the threat of further retrenchments as a negotiations tactic, and generally behaving reprehensibly cavalierly about other people’s lives…

pant pant pant…

… Faced with looming layoffs and firings, President Spanier says:

“The longer it takes, the longer we postpone getting to the savings. At the same time, we’re trying to be very fair to our employees and come up with ways to help them find other positions, severance, health benefits,” he said. “These are good people who work hard and really care.”

As I said on Kevin M’s Facebook page when he posted the article this morning, why the hell does Spanier sound downright heroic simply because he acknowledges that firing people is bad for them?

All I hear from PASSHE management is that the top priority is to “protect educational quality” in face of budget cuts. At the local level (and presumably at the state level also, but I haven’t talked with anybody about this), we’ve been pushing at every Meet and Discuss for management to recognize publicly that protecting jobs is also a high priority. While management nods and smiles, the commitment magically never gets made.

Graham Spanier is no hero. But at least he recognizes, and is willing to say so, that there’s a very high human cost to the state’s attacks on higher education.

It’s long past time for PASSHE to figure this out and to act accordingly.

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Filed under APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, Budget Deficit, Collective Bargaining, Contract Negotiations, Graham Spanier, Office of the Chancellor, PASSHE, Penn State University, Retrenchment, Tom Corbett, Tuition increase, West Chester University

Board of Governors approves 7.5% tuition increase

Another piece of the economic puzzle in place; the PASSHE Board of Governors approved a 7.5% tuition increase for the upcoming school year: to $6,240 per in-state student, up from $5,804.

Read more about it, including reactions from students and managers from KU and WCU, and the Chancellor’s Office.

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Filed under Budget, Budget Cuts, Kutztown University, Office of the Chancellor, PASSHE, Tom Corbett, Tuition increase, West Chester University

More news on the budget

This press release just out from State APSCUF:

The budget that’s likely to pass (by the way, without ANY significant Democratic input whatsoever) imposes an 18% cut on the PASSHE allocation, which would require a tuition increase in the neighborhood of 10% to level off. We can rest pretty sure that the Board of Governors will approve nothing of the sort.

It’s well worth taking one more shot at calling/writing your legislators to make one more appeal on our behalf. There’s nothing to lose. And now that we have a specific number, we can make a lot more concrete arguments about how these cuts will harm our campuses; we can sound simultaneously less shrill and more certain. May as well give it a try.

And then get ready. The cuts management has been threatening for months are about to start getting announced. APSCUF will fight like hell to minimize the damage to our institutions inflicted by this absurd political theater playing out on the backs of PA’s families–students, staff, and faculty.

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Filed under APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, PASSHE, Public education, Shock Doctrine, Tom Corbett

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