Posts Tagged ‘public education’

In case you missed it over on Raging Chicken Press,  I was talking about my recent article, “Wall Street on the Susquehanna: PASSHE Bond Scheme Bleeds Education Budget for Beautiful Buildings,” on the Rick Smith Show this past Tuesday night.

Click on the image below or CLICK HERE to listen to the interview:

Mahoney on Rick Smith PASSHE Bond Schemes 10-22-13


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Note: This article was published earlier today on Raging Chicken Press. An excerpt appears below. You can read the full article by clicking the link at the end, or you can go to the original article now by clicking here

Last week, Clarion University announced what it called a “bold, ambitious workforce plan” that will result in the elimination of over 40 jobs, including 22 faculty. This is only the latest blow to a Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) university in a state that seems hell bent on gutting public higher education. This past May, Raging Chicken Press reported on plans to retrench – that is, fire – faculty members at East Stroudsburg University and the long battles with austerity-minded administrators at Kutztown University is a familiar story to our readers.

What sets the move at Clarion apart from previous PASSHE cuts is that it may be the lead example of “transformation” at state universities championed by the system’s Board of Governors. PASSHE’s last Chancellor, John Cavanaugh, released a new vision for PASSHE in November 2010 called simply enough, “PASSHE Transformation.” That document laid out in general terms PASSHE’s intention to take the 14 university system in a different direction:

The vision includes four major components, all grounded in the need for transformation: (a) how, when, and where learning occurs; (b) how the resources necessary to ensure learning are pursued, retained, and sustained; (c) how our universities relate to their various communities; and (d) how we partner with the Commonwealth to create and deliver a shared vision for the future. Only through transformation, grounded in a thoughtful reexamination of our historic emphasis on high quality student learning opportunities, will our success be assured during these very difficult economic times [bold in original].

In my review of Cavanaugh’s tenure as PASSHE Chancellor after he announced he was headed out the door for greener pastures in Washington, DC, I note that Cavanaugh’s vision of “transformation” was lock-in-step with what’s happening to public education at all levels across the nation:

Anyone paying attention to what was and is going on in higher education policy, especially in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis, saw the coded language consistent with those seeking to privatize and profitize education at all levels. Take, for example, language from the Broad Foundation, founded by Eli Broad – #157 on the Forbes Billionaire list with a personal net worth of $6.3 billion. Broad is a major contributor to Democratic Party candidates with close associations with Democrats favoring anti-labor, Michelle Rhee-type “reforms” to public education. At the center of the Broad Foundation agenda is, you guessed it, “transformation” of public education. Cavanaugh’s “PASSHE Transformation” memo seemed to signal the austerity to come, squeezing PAASHE’s limited resources and striking a blow to our 6,000+ member union.

While Cavanaugh’s memo was short on specifics, what it meant was not lost on the faculty union. In a scathing piece of satire, “The Great Stalin Plan for the Transformation of PASSHE,” president Steve Hicks and vice president Ken Mash of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) wrote:

Perhaps you’ve seen the Chancellor’s latest on “PASSHE Transformation?”  It’s amazing how a document so short on details can still manage to rankle.  The very notion that students and faculty will be transformed is enough to disturb, but its implicit anti-intellectual message really vexes.  It’s hard to ignore the presumptuousness that could lead some to conclude that “transformation” is necessary or, even worse, that they somehow single-handedly possess the knowledge of what that transformation ought to be and that it should be imposed from above.

Clarion University’s new “workforce plan” reads more like an accounting ledger than it does a document that helps guide the university to best serve students of the Commonwealth. Clarion’s plan is clearly situated within the growing right-wing, “market-based” proposals to “reform” everything public. Rather than putting forth a strategic plan based on an academically sound rationale, we are treated to a consumer vision of higher education: “eliminating academic programs which no longer hold the interest, based on enrollment trends, of our students.”

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Note: This article was originally published earlier today on Raging Chicken Press. Below is an excerpt from the article. If you want to read the entire piece, you can go there now or click on the “continue reading” link at the bottom of this post. 

On May 9th of this year, Raging Chicken Press was the first to report on Kutztown University’s attempt to quietly lift the ban on carrying weapons on its campus. In less than twenty-four hours, the story was picked up by the Associated Press casting Kutztown University into a national spotlight. In rapid succession, stories appeared in most regional newspapers and broadcast media. Thanks to excellent investigative work by reporters from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Allentown-based Morning Call, we learned that the change in policy had been happening under the radar of the media, faculty, staff, and students for well over a year. And, we learned, that the order to change the policy came directly from Governor Tom Corbett’s Office of General Council in consultation with PASSHE attorneys.

A few days after my initial story, I sent Right to Know requests to Kutztown University and PASSHE asking for several items, including:

  • “The ‘model policy’ on campus firearms policy from PASSHE legal counsel.” PASSHE Board of Governors Chair, Guido Pichini, issued a public statement on May 10, 2013 indicating such a policy had been shared with all 14 PASSHE universities. 
  • Correspondence, including email correspondence, between Kutztown University administrators and relevant staff and the Office of the Chancellor and the PASSHE Board of Governors regarding Kutztown’s change in gun policy going back to March 2012.
  • A copy of the legal opinion from PASSHE attorneys “concerning the constitutionality/legality of a ban on guns on PASSHE universities.”

Both Kutztown and PASSHE said they required a 30 day extension in order to carry out a “legal review” of my request for documents — their right under PA’s Right to Know law — with the exception of PASSHE’s “model policy,” which Kenn Marshall, PASSHE’s Agency Open Records Officer and official spokesperson sent to me a few days after my request was filed.

A month later, I received responses to my requests. Most of my requests were “granted in part, and denied in part” and were subjected to significant redaction.

What, if anything, did the documents reveal?

The short answer is: not much upon first glance.

The reason why the documents didn’t reveal much had a whole lot to do with Section 708 of PA’s Right to Know law entitled “Exceptions for public records,” specifically, 708(b)(10)(A). That section excludes records that reflect:

The internal, predecisional deliberations of an agency, its members, employees or officials or predecisional deliberations between agency members, employees or officials and members, employees of officials of another agency, including predecisional deliberations relating to a budget recommendation, legislative proposal, legislative amendment, contemplated or proposed policy or course of action or any research, memos or other documents used in the predecisional deliberations.

In short, the public is allowed access to the outcomes of deliberations, but we are not allowed to know how the decisions were made and who influenced those decisions. We are welcome to eat the sausage; we are just not allowed to know how it was made. Here is a sample of one of the redacted email exchanges I received: 

RTK Redaction Sample

Continue reading at Raging Chicken Press



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If you haven’t discovered the APSCUF-WCU (West Chester) blog written by Seth Kahn yet, well, XChange readers, you should check it out today.  Here’s how the latest post on APSCUF-WCU begins (click link at end for full article):

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:

via APSCUF-WCU | All-Faculty Meeting, All the Time.

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Yesterday’s NAACP “Children’s March to Save Public Education” was quite a show.  K-12 students from PA public schools were out in force and showed off their marching bands, drum lines, and choruses.  I was proud to be one of the handful of KU faculty at the rally – I even got to speak along side APSCUF-KU President, Paul Quinn.

Visit the Raging Chicken Press for pics and reflections on the rally in the Field Notes section.

Last night I got to chat again with Rick Smith again on The Rick Smith Show.  We talked about organizing and concerns about losing this decisive battle to preserve public education in PA.  You can check out our discussion here:

Rick Smith Show: Kevin Mahoney on NAACP Rally and Summer Organizing

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Earlier today I made one last appeal to faculty to GET ON THE BUS for tomorrow’s NAACP rally in Harrisburg.  The theme of the rally is “Save Public Education in PA.  This will be the first rally  in the current budget battles that faculty from higher education will join their K-12 colleagues and students from all levels of public education in PA  on the Capitol steps.  There are still seats available.  Students, faculty, and community members are welcome.  If you want to join, send an email to apscufku@kutztown.edu asap!  If you like to procrastinate, you can just show up in the parking lot behind Beekey tomorrow morning!  Bus leaves at 8am.

Here’s my email to faculty:

Dear colleagues,

I want to make at least one last call for faculty to join the NAACP rally in Harrisburg tomorrow.  The theme of the rally is “Save Public Education in PA.”  The rally will consist of a march of public school children on the Capitol, speakers representing all aspects of education – K-12 and Higher Ed.  Our work has already made a difference as several key Republican legislators have been calling for a reduction — if not elimination of Corbett’s education cuts.

APSCUF-KU still has seats left on tomorrow’s bus to Harrisburg.  If you can make it, please join us.  We keep on hearing the call for “shared sacrifice.”  Let our sacrifice be our time in making our voices heard publicly in the State Capital!  In a time when the dominant argument among politicians and the media attempt to keep us afraid and NOT raise our voices (keep your head down and be good), we need to resist such cynicism.  After all, we’ve been working our tails off all along and that hasn’t been a sufficient argument to prevent us being the focus of budget cutting and public attacks.

As I’ve said on a number of occasions now, Pennsylvanians have taken it on the chin over and over and over again.  Solid industries have given way to casinos.  As faculty and educators, we are in a relatively privileged position. If WE are not willing to speak out, who will?  Should we punt the ball to out of work Steelworkers?  Should we punt the ball to our students?  I don’t think so.  We need to lead by example.  We often seek to instill in our students a critical consciousness and a willingness to be active citizens.  What does it say to our students if we are not willing to fight for our profession and their education?  What does it say that we’re willing to miss a day (or days) of class for a professional conference but not a rally to defend public education?

But, it’s not too late.  APSCUF-KU still has seats on the bus. We are leaving bright and early tomorrow morning @ 8am from the parking lot behind Beekey.  We hope you will join us.  And if you can’t make it, we hope that you will support your colleagues who can.

Reserve your seat on the bus: contact APSCUF-KU secretary, Karen Epting, at 610-683-4277 or email her at apscufku@kutztown.edu.


If you can’t make the bus and are considering driving yourself, you can find parking at the River Street garage or surrounding streets. For information on location and cost of River Street garage go to http://www.harrisburgparking.org/

I hope to see you there!

Kevin Mahoney

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I heard a lot of people talking about the budget cuts in my hole — I mean home — on the KU campus, Lytle Hall.  Same thing all across campus, actually.  Some of those conversations were concerning.  For example, I over heard some faculty saying that “don’t worry about what Corbett said…I’ve seen this all before, it’s just a scare tactic.”  Frankly, that kind of conversation concerns me more than those that explicitly support the cuts — not that I heard one person on campus today supporting Corbett.  Just to add a little more evidence to the reality of Corbett’s gutting of public education, here’s an excerpt from a  story in the Morning Call (click the link to go to the full story):

The budget ax will be coming down hard next week in the Bethlehem Area School District.

Superintendent Joseph Roy announced Monday that the administration will be proposing “deep and far-reaching” personnel and program cuts to try to close a funding gap created by Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed budget, which reduces statewide education spending by about $1.3 billion.

Roy told the board Curriculum Committee that Corbett’s preliminary budget would shortchange Bethlehem by $5 million, resulting in a total budget deficit of $11 million. Roy said he will present at the March 24 budget hearing plans to cut into that deficit.

“We are starting with non-mandated programs outside of the school day, many funded in the past by state grants that have been eliminated,” Roy said. “We then are looking at non-mandated programming within the school day and then at core academic programs.”

via Bethlehem: Budget ax will be coming down hard next week in the Bethlehem Area School District because of Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed budget that reduces statewide education spending by about $1.3 billion. – mcall.com.

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