Monday, October 20, 2014

An Appeal to PASSHE's College Democrats and College Republicans - Part 1

PASCU
The Pennsylvania Association of State Colleges and Universities
 
An Appeal to PASSHE’s College Democrats and College Republicans - Part 1
TO: The College Democrats and the College Republicans at the 14 PASSHE Universities
FROM: Angelo Armenti, Jr., PASCU President
DATE: October 20, 2014
SUBJECT: The Future of the 14 PASSHE Universities and the PASSHE Students who rely on them
 
On behalf of the Pennsylvania Association of State Colleges and Universities (PASCU), I am reaching out to the College Democrats¹ and the College Republicans² at each of the 14 PASSHE university campuses.    
 
PASCU is a non-profit, non-partisan social welfare organization founded in June of 2012.  Its Mission is:
“To ensure that the statutory purpose of public higher education in Pennsylvania as specified by Act 188 of 1982: ‘High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students,’ is indefinitely preserved and faithfully delivered.”
PASCU’s primary purpose³ is to ensure that a “high quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students,”—as promised to PASSHE students by Act 188—does not become a meaningless platitude.
Definitions
Act 188 of 1982: The enabling legislation⁴ that created and, as amended, statutorily controls the public corporation now known as the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE).
PASSHE: The 14-University system of taxpayer-supported institutions of higher education that includes Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester Universities.
The Pennsylvania Promise:  PASCU thinks of the statutory purpose of Act 188—“High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students”—as the “Pennsylvania Promise”—a promise freely given by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to the PASSHE students and parents upon approval by the State Senate and the State House of Representatives and the signing of Act 188 by Governor Thornburgh.
PASSHE’s Funding Plan: Act 188 created a two-step process for funding the 14 PASSHE universities and from the very beginning, that process was predicated on the presence of two very different sources of funding:  1) State appropriation revenue, provided by the taxpayers; and 2) Tuition + Fees + Other revenue, provided by the PASSHE students, parents and private donors, primarily PASSHE alumni. 

PASSHE’s Funding History
: In terms of these two PASSHE revenue sources, the State provided 90% in 1950, 63% in 1984, and 25% in 2013 while, at the same time, the revenue share provided by students, parents and alumni donors rose from 10% to 37% to 75%!  This enormous shift in the funding burden of “public” higher education in Pennsylvania—from the State to the students, parents and alumni donors— has been called “Privatization Without a Plan.” Official data show that this drastic cost-shifting has been happening relentlessly in Pennsylvania and in many other states for at least the last three decades.
Majority Financial Stakeholders:  The PASSHE students, parents and private donors, primarily alumni now collectively provide 75% of PASSHE’s annual operating revenue.  Students and Parents provide 70% of the annual operating revenue while private donors, primarily PASSHE alumni, now provide 5%.
Minority Financial Stakeholder:  The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, in the person of the State’s elected officials, now provides 25% of PASSHE’s annual operating revenue.
 
Majority Governance Stakeholder: The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, in the person of the State’s elected officials, continues to control 100% of PASSHE’s 174 governance seats at the tables where all key PASSHE decisions are made.  That includes 20 out of 20 seats on the Board of Governors, as well as 154 out of 154 seats on the Councils of Trustees spread across the 14 PASSHE universities.
Minority Governance Stakeholders:  The PASSHE Students, Parents and Alumni Donors who control 0% of PASSHE’s 174 governance seats at the tables where all key decisions affecting them are made. 
 
Funding/Governance Disparity:  The disparity between the Funding Shares and the Governance Shares of different financial stakeholders.  For example, the Minority Financial Stakeholder, the State, has a funding/governance ratio of 25%/100%, while the Majority Financial Stakeholders, the Students, Parents and private donors, primarily PASSHE alumni, have a funding/governance ratio of 75%/0%.
Privatization: A rapid defunding of public higher education by the State.  This defunding is happening to varying degrees across America and results from powerful forces, both demographic (primarily an aging population) and economic (a weak recovery with high unemployment and stagnant wages). 
Privatization Without a Plan:  The rapid defunding of public higher education by the State in the absence of an effective plan to preserve and deliver the Act 188 statutory purpose: High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students.⁵
 
Privatization Without Representation:  The rapid defunding of public higher education by the State (the Minority Financial Stakeholder), which shifts the cost of education to the Students, Parents and private donors, primarily alumni (the Majority Financial Stakeholders), while the State nevertheless retains 100% control of PASSHE’s governance seats where all key decisions affecting all stakeholders are made.
(To be continued.)
Sincerely,                                                       
Angelo Armenti, Jr., Ph.D.
PASCU Founder & President


Monday, October 13, 2014

Act 188 and The Pennsylvania Promise - Part 2

As we saw in last week’s blog post:
 
It was thought that Act 188 would provide a sufficient buffer between the 14 universities and direct political control to allow the PASSHE universities and PASSHE students to thrive.  In fairness, the law worked perfectly well for its first 19 years (1984-2002), but it has increasingly failed to work since 2002.¹
What Went Wrong?
 
In a word:  The clear mandate of Act 188—The Pennsylvania Promise of “High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students”—has been ignored by the PASSHE Board of Governors since 2002.
 
Act 188² created a two-step process for the annual funding of the 14 PASSHE universities and from the very beginning, that process was predicated on the presence of two very different sources of funding:  1) State appropriation revenue, provided by the taxpayers; and 2) Tuition + Fees + Other revenue, provided by the PASSHE students, parents and private donors, primarily PASSHE alumni. 
 
Historically speaking—in terms of these two PASSHE budget sources—the State provided 90% in 1950, 63% in 1984, and 25% in 2013, while the budget share provided by students, parents and alumni rose from 10% to 37% to 75%!  This huge shift in the costs of “public” higher education from the State to the students, parents and alumni donors has been called “privatization without a plan.”¹ Official data show this cost shifting has been happening relentlessly in Pennsylvania and in many other states for decades.
 
Under Act 188’s statutory funding process, Pennsylvania’s elected officials get to decide how much appropriation the State can afford to provide to PASSHE in any given year, and then the Board of Governors gets to decide what the PASSHE tuition rates must be in order to achieve PASSHE’s statutory purpose: “High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students.”
 
Since Act 188 doesn’t authorize any role for the Pennsylvania governor in the tuition-setting process, the authors of Act 188 apparently never anticipated that elected officials would insert themselves into that process, with the unfortunate result that the statutory purpose of the 14 PASSHE universities since 2002 has been sacrificed to the political expediency of politicians from both parties. 
 
The promise given was a necessity of the past: the word broken is a necessity of the present.”
                                                                                                                        Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince

 As shown in the attached chart,³ half of the increase in the quality of the educational experience delivered to the students by the good policy decisions of the Board of Governors in PASSHE’s first 19 years was erased by the poor policy decisions of the PASSHE Board of Governors in the next 11 years.
 
And as shown in another attached chart,⁴ the Board of Governors is not providing a PASSHE university education at anything like the lowest possible cost to the students.       
 
In effect, the Pennsylvania Promise: High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students, which was made to PASSHE students with passage of Act 188, became a broken promise in the years between 2002 and the present.

Since the underlying law was not changed during that time, the sudden change in results can only be explained by a change in the politics of the situation, a self-serving change that would have come as no surprise to Machiavelli, as the following quote makes clear:  
 
“One can say this in general of men: they are ungrateful, disloyal, insincere and deceitful, timid of danger and avid of profit...Love is a bond of obligation that these miserable creatures break whenever it suits them to do so; but fear holds them fast by a dread of punishment that never passes.”  (Niccolò Machiavelli)

Considering PASSHE’s failure to deliver the Pennsylvania Promise of High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students, and considering Machiavelli’s two quotes above, one conclusion becomes inescapable:   Machiavelli’s hypothesis about broken promises by politicians fits PASSHE’s fact pattern.
The PASSHE Fact Pattern and the Emergence of PASCU

Since 2002, elected officials from both parties, Democratic and Republican, have controlled not just the level of State Appropriation to PASSHE—which is their right and duty—they have also controlled the tuition-setting process in PASSHE—a right and duty which Act 188 reserves to the Board of Governors. 
By caving in to political pressure from two Governors to keep tuition rates (sticker price) low—when Act 188 requires not the lowest possible tuition but, rather, the lowest possible cost to the students (bottom line)—politically subservient Boards of Governors since 2002 have allowed the Pennsylvania Promise: High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students, to become just an empty promise.  

But Machiavelli also offers hope for change in the last phrase of the above quote by identifying what all self-serving politicians apparently fear the most: “…a dread of punishment that never passes.”
The individuals harmed the most by the lawless way in which the mandate of Act 188 has been ignored are the Majority Financial Stakeholders—the PASSSHE students, parents and alumni donors—who now provide 75% of PASSHE’s annual operating revenue, while the State provides just 25%. 

But until now, elected officials from both parties had no reason to fear punishment at the polls from the hundreds of thousands of PASSHE students, parents and alumni negatively affected by the brazen failure of these officials to deliver the Pennsylvania Promise, as mandated by law in Act 188. And that is because those Majority Stakeholders have not yet found their voice.  But that is about to change.    
The Pennsylvania Association of State Colleges & Universities (PASCU)⁵ was created to awaken PASSHE’s Majority Stakeholders—a huge sleeping giant—whose interests have been ignored by Pennsylvania’s elected and appointed officials for years in favor of advancing their own self-serving interests instead.

On behalf of PASSHE’s Majority Stakeholders, PASCU hopes to instill in Pennsylvania’s elected and appointed officials the fear that Machiavelli calls “the dread of punishment that never passes.”
Were Machiavelli alive today, he might comment on the broken Pennsylvania Promise as follows:

What self-serving elected officials fear most is electoral defeat and exclusion from the public trough.”
¹ http://www.amazon.com/Privatization-Without-Plan-Leadership-Pennsylvania/dp/1491295244/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1408368767&sr=8-1&keywords=angelo+armenti.
² http://www.passhe.edu/inside/bog/Pages/Act-188.aspx.
³ https://www.keepandshare.com/doc/6794551/privatization-without-a-plan-chart-9-and-caption-january-23-2014-pdf-387k.
https://www.keepandshare.com/doc/6802256/privatization-without-a-plan-chart-20-and-caption-january-29-2014-pdf-390k.
http://www.pascu.net/.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Act 188 and "The Pennsylvania Promise"

Act 188

 Act 188 of 1982 was signed into law¹ and took effect on July 1, 1983.  With the approval of the State Senate, the State House of Representatives and the signature of Gov. Richard Thornburgh, the nature of the thirteen State Colleges and one State University (Indiana) would be forever changed.
 
Prior to Act 188 the 14 “state-owned” institutions of higher education were part of the executive branch of Pennsylvania State government, with the presidents reporting directly to the Secretary of Education, a political appointee and member of the Governor’s Cabinet.  University presidents were also political appointees nominated by the Governor and confirmed by the State Senate.
 
Political control of these 14 institutions was so pervasive then that some sitting presidents would be called on Inauguration Day for a new governor and told to clear out their desks by the end of the day.

But with passage of Act 188, the thirteen former State Colleges became State Universities and, together with Indiana University, were melded into a new “system” of public universities that would eventually come to be known as the Pennsylvania State System of Higher education (PASSHE).
 
PASSHE today is the 14-University system of taxpayer-supported institutions of higher education that includes Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester Universities.
The Pennsylvania Promise

From the text of Act 188, we see that the statutory purpose—i.e., the purpose by law—of the 14 PASSHE Universities shall be “To provide high quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students.”
 
From the Merriam-Webster dictionary, when used in law the word ‘shall’ expresses what is mandatory.

Act 188 has been amended since its initial passage, but its statutory purpose has not been changed.

Therefore

“The Pennsylvania Promise”

is

A Promise Freely-Given

By the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

To Current and Future Students of the 14 PASSHE Universities

“The Pennsylvania Promise: High Quality Education at the Lowest Possible Cost to the Students” 

PASSHE is a Public Corporation
 
Act 188 created PASSHE as a ‘public corporation.’  That meant, among other things, that the presidents would, for the first time, no longer be political appointees.  Rather, they would be selected through national searches and report to a Chancellor who would also be selected by means of a national search.
 
Although no longer political appointees, the presidents would report to a chancellor who, in turn, would report to a Board of Governors consisting of five elected officials and fifteen political appointees.

It was thought that Act 188 would provide a sufficient buffer between the 14 universities and direct political control to allow the PASSHE universities and PASSHE students to thrive.  In fairness, the law worked perfectly well for its first 19 years (1984-2002), but it has increasingly failed to work since 2002.²
 
But that failure did not occur because the law was changed—it wasn’t—but rather because the Board of Governors since 2002, with its slowly evolving membership over time, has decided not to deliver the Act 188 statutory purpose of the PASSHE universities: “High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students.”  Instead, the Board of Governors since 2002 has adopted a policy to maintain the lowest possible tuition (i.e., sticker price) rather than the lowest possible cost to the students (i.e., bottom line). 

A Misguided Focus on Low Tuition Rather than Lowest Possible Cost to the Students
 
This failure by the BOG to follow the law as written—when combined with the steady 30-year decline in State funding—has essentially starved the PASSHE system of universities of the funds needed to deliver PASSHE’s Act 188 statutory purpose, largely accounting for the BOG’s failure to deliver that purpose.

In simple terms Act 188 says—when it comes to funding—that: 1) the Governor and the Legislature get to decide how much State support the Commonwealth can afford to provide to PASSHE in any given year; and 2) The Board of Governors then gets to decide how high the tuition rates must be set in order “To do and perform generally all of those things necessary and required to accomplish the role and objectives of the System,” as the BOG is legally required to do by Section 20-2006-A(a)(15) of Act 188.  And, presumably, accomplishing the Act 188 statutory purpose of the PASSHE universities: To provide “high quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students,” would be one of the first “things necessary and required to accomplish the role and objectives of the System.”

Although the Board of Governors has the legal authority, from Section 20-2006-A(a)(11) of Act 188, “To fix the levels of tuition fees,” and despite the fact that the law does not require or even mention any role for the Governor in the tuition-setting process, the Board of Governors has for at least the past 20 years anxiously awaited—together with the 14 PASSHE university presidents, I included—the Governor’s word as to the maximum allowable tuition rate increase for that year! 
Why would 20 different Boards of Governors with slightly varying membership defer every year for at least 20 years to five different governors, both Democrat and Republican—when it came to one of their most important sworn duties—to set tuition rates in such a way as to provide “high quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students?”  Why would they let the Governor decide that, when Act 188 gives that responsibility not to the Governor, but to the Board of Governors?

While the reason must clearly be political—since it always involves the Governor—it is just as clearly not partisan—since it involved governors from both parties serving roughly equal time in office in the 20-year period between 1992 and 2012.
To be continued next week.  

² http://www.amazon.com/Privatization-Without-Plan-Leadership-Pennsylvania/dp/1491295244/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1408368767&sr=8-1&keywords=angelo+armenti.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Rearranging the Deck Chairs on the Titanic

According to Wiktionary:

To “Rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic” is, metaphorically speaking, “To do something pointless or insignificant that will soon be overtaken by events, or that contributes nothing to the solution of a current problem.”  It is a metaphor for all sorts of sinking enterprises, and not just ships on the ocean.
The Titanic metaphor came to mind after reading a September 28, 2014 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article¹ entitled: “State university system gets more nimble in face of fiscal stress.”  A careful look at the measures PASSHE is now taking—compared to what actually needs to be done—shows those measures to be pointless, insignificant, soon to be overtaken by events, and contributing nothing to the solution of the current problem.  For details see Privatization Without a Plan

The state university system which is the subject of the article is the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE)—the 14-University system of taxpayer-supported institutions of higher education that includes Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester Universities.
The article is a “puff piece,” defined by Wiktionary as “a journalistic form of puffery; an article or story of exaggerating praise that often ignores or downplays opposing viewpoints or evidence to the contrary.”
A Puff Piece with an Edge

While much of the article reads like a PASSHE news release, with its list of hopeful future outcomes in overcoming various challenges, a small portion of the article singles out just one of the 14 PASSHE universities—West Chester University and its campus leadership—for harsh public treatment.

The Post-Gazette takes credit for publicizing West Chester University campus emails obtained through the state’s Right to Know Law.  These emails reportedly showed that “top West Chester leaders engaged in what amounted to a stealth campaign to promote introduction and passage of Senate Bill 1275, the controversial secession legislation that the system leadership opposed.”
Based on my 20 years of experience as a university president in the PASSHE system, the leadership of PASSHE is not above—and in fact has made it a frequent practice—to tip off the media to “inside information” in an effort to publicly embarrass and thereby punish and intimidate presidents who would dare to cross PASSHE’s increasingly dictatorial and paranoid Board of Governors.

A citizen or reporter seeking negative or damaging information about a campus will get no response to a generic or non-specific RTK request. To successfully negotiate the RTK law, one must be able to cite a specific document that is known to exist and was created with the use of taxpayer funds.
For that reason, it is unlikely that a reporter will know what to ask for—without inside help.

The labor-friendly Post-Gazette is well known to reflexively support the faculty union position on various issues.  What makes the West Chester secession situation different is that, in this case, the interests of the faculty union and the interests of the PASSHE leadership happen to coincide—that is, both the faculty union and the PASSHE leadership have publicly declared strong opposition to the West Chester secession plan, and as the Post-Gazette article clearly suggests, any PASSHE president who supports a plan strongly opposed by both entities is likely to incur the wrath of both entities.
One measure of that wrath may be seen in the following quotes from the Post-Gazette article:

‘Mr. Brogan said he has contacted West Chester officials about the matter. “I was told that it was not the administration at West Chester.  It was the supporters of West Chester,” Mr. Brogan said.
Asked if he believed that explanation, the chancellor replied: “Not for a minute.”’

PASSHE’s chancellor is quoted in this article as basically calling the West Chester president a liar.
PASSHE’s Attack on West Chester University Administrators

In addition to publicly questioning the veracity of West Chester administrators, PASSHE may also have foolishly opens Pandora’s Box with the following quote:
“Mr. Brogan said the system has told some member schools they need to spend down more of their unrestricted net assets.”

“He cited as an example West Chester, which alone has $109 million out of the systemwide $598 million total.  State System officials say that West Chester’s sum exceeds system guidelines and that while reserves in general are necessary, most of the school’s assets do not appear to be earmarked.”  
PASSHE Hypocrisy Revealed

As shown in detail in my Blog Post of September 1, 2014 entitled “The PASSHE Story - Part 8:”
“PASSHE’s total fund balance is the sum of fifteen (15) different fund balances, including one for each of the 14 universities, plus a fifteenth entity known as “the Board of Governors plus the Office of the Chancellor,” or the (BOG+OOC) fund balance for short.  Between 1993 and 2013, PASSHE’s total fund balance grew exponentially from a low of $120 million in 1995 to a high of $597 million in 2013, corresponding to an average annual growth rate of 9.32%/year for 18 years, a rate which if continued, would cause PASSHE’s total fund balance to double to $1.2 billion in just seven and one-half more years.

“Despite BOG Policy 2011-01 which purportedly restricts individual PASSHE universities to fund balances between 5% and 10% of annual revenue, official PASSHE data show that not a single PASSHE university in FY 2013 had a fund balance that fell in the required range!  One university had a fund balance below the 5% minimum, and 13 other universities had fund balances in excess of the 10% maximum.  The data show that the fund balances for those 13 PASSHE universities range from a low of 12.2% to a high of 59.3%, with a PASSHE 14-university average of 36.4%.

“The fund balance history for the entity known as (BOG+OOC) is even more telling since, unlike the 14 universities, the maximum annual revenue permitted to that cost center is limited by law (Act 188) to one-half of one percent of PASSHE’s total operating budget, which is currently about $1.5 billion. One-half of one percent of that figure is about $7.5 million most of which—one would expect—is needed to pay for PASSHE’s many employees in Harrisburg, with little left over each year to put in a fund balance. 

“But official PASSHE data show since 1998, the (BOG+OOC) fund balance has routinely reached levels higher than PASSHE’s legally-permitted annual revenue.  In fact, in 2005, the (BOG+OOC) fund balance reached the astronomical figure of $68 million.  That 2005 fund balance figure is nine times higher, and the 2013 figure is 4.5 times higher, than the maximum permitted annual revenue to (BOG+OOC).”

As Lucy once said to Desi on I Love Lucy, “You have some splainin’ to do!”

² http://www.amazon.com/Privatization-Without-Plan-Leadership-Pennsylvania/dp/1491295244/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1408368767&sr=8-1&keywords=angelo+armenti.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Machiavellian Win-Lose Politics and PASSHE's Majority Stakeholders

Politics have no relation to morals.   Niccolo Machiavelli
 
Last week’s blog post on September 15, 2014 included the following question:
 
Will Either Candidate for Pennsylvania Governor Respond Publicly to PASCU’s Six Questions?
 
PASCU’s invitations to both candidates, and both statewide political parties, were delivered on August 25, 2014 and included a September 17, 2014 deadline for response.  Those three and one-half weeks passed with no response whatsoever from either candidate or either party.  Hence, we have our answer:  

Neither Corbett Nor Wolf Agreed to Publicly Answer PASCU’s Six Questions!

I hoped that both candidates would provide answers to the six questions and, as a result, that PASSHE’s Majority Stakeholders could benefit from their answers in deciding which if either candidate they might wish to support in the upcoming election for governor on November 4, 2014.
 
In view of the silence from both candidates, I have listed below the six questions and PASCU’s Response regarding what that silence might portend for PASSHE’s Majority Stakeholders going forward.
 
Recall the context for PASCU’s first three Questions: 
 
‘The purpose of the fourteen PASSHE universities, according to Act 188, is to provide: “High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students.”  Official PASSHE data show, however, that the Act 188 statutory purpose of the PASSHE universities has not been delivered to the students since 2002.  And in January of 2014, PASSHE unveiled its new strategic plan entitled “Strategic Plan 2020: Rising to the Challenge,” which makes no mention of PASSHE’s Act 188 statutory purpose. [Questions 1, 2 & 3]’

Question 1: If elected Governor of Pennsylvania on November 4, 2014, will you publicly endorse and support the Act 188 statutory purpose of the fourteen PASSHE universities cited above?
PASCU Response 1:  Neither candidate is willing to answer this question publicly.  I.e., neither candidate is willing to endorse and support an existing Pennsylvania law (Act 188) in the face of evidence that the purpose of that law is being ignored by the PASSHE Board of Governors on which the PA Governor sits! 

Question 2: During this election campaign for Governor of Pennsylvania, will you publicly endorse and support the Act 188 statutory purpose of the fourteen PASSHE universities cited above?
PASCU Response 2:  Since neither candidate was willing to publicly endorse and support the Act 188 statutory purpose of the PASSHE universities after being elected governor on November 4, 2014, it is perhaps not surprising that neither candidate was willing to campaign in support of that same purpose.

Question 3: In view of the dual failure cited above—PASSHE’s failure to deliver Act 188’s statutory purpose to the students, and PASSHE’s failure to even commit publicly that it is trying to deliver it—what public assurances, as a Candidate for Governor, can you give to PASSHE’s students, parents and alumni that, if elected Governor, you will use the power of your office to help correct both failures?
PASCU Response 3:  Taken literally, the silence of both candidates in response to this question basically says that neither candidate is willing to provide any assurances to the Majority Stakeholders with regard to helping correct either or both of these egregious PASSHE failures.

Recall the context for questions 4, 5 and 6:
‘PASCU’s Mission is “To ensure that the statutory purpose of public higher education in Pennsylvania as specified by Act 188 of 1982: ‘High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students’ is indefinitely preserved and faithfully delivered.”   [Questions 4, 5 & 6]’

Question 4:  As a Candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania, are you willing to campaign publicly in support of PASCU’s Mission?
PASCU Response 4:  Since neither candidate agreed to support the statutory purpose of Act 188, it also follows that they wouldn’t support PASCU’s goal of preserving and delivering that statutory purpose.

Question 5: In your opinion, is it appropriate for the State, the 25% financial stakeholder in the 14 PASSHE universities, to control 100% of the 174 PASSHE governance seats, while the students, parents and alumni donors, the 75% financial stakeholders, control 0% of PASSHE’s 174 governance seats?

PASCU Response 5:  Neither candidate wanted to answer this question because to do so—to admit that the status quo is unfair to the Majority Stakeholders—they would then have to admit to the need to do something about it!  The silence of both candidates on this question confirms: a) both political parties benefit from the status quo; and b) both parties will cling to the status quo to preserve those benefits.
Question 6: As a candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania and, in view of the great funding/governance disparity that exists between the Majority and Minority stakeholders, are you willing to campaign publicly in support of changing Act 188 to align the governance-shares of the Majority and Minority financial stakeholders to more closely match their respective funding-shares, as advocated by PASCU?

PASCU Response 6:  Why would either candidate offer to correct a problem they won’t admit exists? 
The First Amendment and the Hope of the “Fourth Estate

Since candidates for elected office can easily ignore inconvenient questions from non-partisan, not-profit organizations such as PASCU, and can do so with impunity, we can only hope that the members of the press will pursue these same questions on behalf of the thousands of PASSHE students, parents and alumni donors whose interests continue to be ignored by elected officials from both PA political parties.
I say that because of the critical role that America’s Founders created for the press in safeguarding the future of our democratic republic, a role emphasized in 1974 by Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart when he said: “The primary purpose of the First Amendment was to create a fourth institution [a.k.a. Fourth Estate] outside the government as an additional check on the three official branches.”

PASSHE students, parents and alumni can only hope that the press will live up to that primary purpose.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Myth of Political Gridlock: When D’s and R’s Secretly Work Together to Benefit Themselves

The Myth of Political Gridlock

For years we have been led to believe by our elected officials, and most media coverage, that the two major political parties—Democrat & Republican—refuse to work together for the benefit of the people, and that as a result the states and the country find themselves in the throes of “political gridlock.”
 
While every myth is entitled to its kernel of truth, in this case there is ample evidence to suggest that the two major political parties do cooperate much more than most people realize—just not in ways that are always obvious, nor in ways that voters would appreciate, if in fact they were to become aware of them. 
 
A cynic might even suggest that public displays of rancor between elected officials from both major political parties is a theatrical smokescreen designed to perpetuate the myth of political gridlock and in that way to distract public attention from numerous examples of collusion between the elected officials from both parties, a collusion that benefits, not the people but rather, the elected officials themselves.
 
Merriam-Webster defines “collusion” as “secret cooperation for an illegal or dishonest purpose

Don’t tell the children, but would any adult in America today be surprised if told that elected officials on both sides of the aisle might “work together secretly in a dishonest effort” say to benefit themselves at the expense of the taxpayers?  No one paying attention in Pennsylvania could credibly claim surprise.
 
In 1995 Pennsylvania legislators gave themselves automatic future salary increases tied to the CPI,¹ and in 2001 they doubled their pensions—in both cases with sufficient bipartisan support to make it law.
 
And lest you think that sort of thing is an anomaly, years earlier in 1978 the Pennsylvania Legislature created an Ethics Act nominally designed to make conflicts of interest by elected officials illegal.  But by cleverly ignoring the dictionary definition of the term and creating their own definition instead, ² the conflicted salary and pension grabs of 1995 and 2001 easily passed ethical muster. 

I’m not saying that individual legislators are bad people.  But as a group, something in the Capital coffee or water supply appears to have turned the legislature into a master of shameless, self-serving mischief.
 
PASCU’s Six Questions for Governor Corbett and Candidate Wolf

On August 25, 2014 PASCU reached out to both the Corbett and Wolf Campaigns on behalf of the Majority Stakeholders at the 14 PASSHE Universities, inviting both candidates to answer the following six questions:

“The purpose of the fourteen PASSHE universities, according to Act 188, is to provide: “High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students.”  Official PASSHE data show, however, that the Act 188 statutory purpose of the PASSHE universities hasn’t been delivered to the students since 2002.³  And in January of 2014, PASSHE unveiled its new strategic plan entitled “Strategic Plan 2020: Rising to the Challenge,” which makes no mention of PASSHE’s Act 188 statutory purpose.  [Questions 1, 2 & 3]

1.       If elected Governor of Pennsylvania on November 4, 2014, will you publicly endorse and support the Act 188 statutory purpose of the fourteen PASSHE universities cited above?
2.       During this election campaign for Governor of Pennsylvania, will you publicly endorse and support the Act 188 statutory purpose of the fourteen PASSHE universities cited above?
3.       In view of the dual failure cited above—PASSHE’s failure to deliver Act 188’s statutory purpose to the students, and PASSHE’s failure to even commit publicly that it is trying to deliver it—what public assurances, as a Candidate for Governor, can you give to PASSHE’s students, parents and alumni that, if elected Governor, you will use the power of your office to help correct both failures?
PASCU’s Mission is “To ensure that the statutory purpose of public higher education in Pennsylvania as specified by Act 188 of 1982: ‘High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students’ is indefinitely preserved and faithfully delivered.”   [Questions 4, 5 & 6]

4.       As a Candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania, are you willing to campaign publicly in support of PASCU’s Mission?
5.       In your opinion, is it appropriate for the State, the 25% financial stakeholder in the 14 PASSHE universities, to control 100% of the 174 PASSHE governance seats, while the students, parents and alumni donors, the 75% financial stakeholders, control 0% of PASSHE’s 174 governance seats?
 
6.       As a candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania and, in view of the great funding/governance disparity that exists between the Majority and Minority stakeholders, are you willing to campaign publicly in support of changing Act 188 to align the governance-shares of the Majority and Minority financial stakeholders to more closely match their respective funding-shares, as advocated by PASCU?”

Will Either Candidate for Pennsylvania Governor Respond Publicly to PASCU’s Six Questions?
 
The 2014 campaign for Pennsylvania governor between Tom Corbett and Tom Wolf is heating up, and with increasingly nasty attack ads a certainty, the question of whether either or both campaigns would be willing to publicly answer PASCU’s Six Questions naturally arises.  Between PASSHE’s 112,000 students and their parents and families, and PASSHE’s 450,000 Pennsylvania-residing alumni and their families, publicly answering those questions in an effort to gain support at the polls from such a large bloc of voters would seem like something both campaigns should consider. 
 
We will soon learn whether either, both or neither candidate will publicly answer PASCU’s Six Questions. 

Should one or both of the candidates decide to affirmatively address those questions, it would represent the first time that either political party in Pennsylvania will have recognized the interests of PASSHE’s Majority Stakeholders—the students, parents and alumni donors who currently pay 75% of the cost of education at the PASSHE universities, while the State now provides 25%.

Should both candidates decline to answer, it would suggest that both political parties believe they now benefit too much from the status quo to support the kinds of changes PASCU is calling for.  That would also mean neither political party is ready to support the interests of the Majority Stakeholders, despite their large numbers and potentially significant impact on the outcomes of elections for public office.   
 
Stay tuned.
¹ http://blog.pennlive.com/capitol-notebook/2013/11/this_years_legislative_pay_hik.html#incart_related_stories.
² https://www.keepandshare.com/doc/6732130/harrisburg-patriot-op-ed-angelo-armenti-jr-march-8-2013-pdf-157k.
³ http://www.amazon.com/Privatization-Without-Plan-Leadership-Pennsylvania/dp/1491295244/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1408368767&sr=8-1&keywords=angelo+armenti.

Monday, September 8, 2014

PASCU Reaches Out to the Two Candidates for Pennsylvania Governor

PASCU Reaches Out to the Two Candidates for Governor in the November 4, 2012 Election

On August 25, 2014 PASCU delivered identical packets of information to the Campaign Offices of the two announced candidates for Governor of Pennsylvania—Gov. Tom Corbett and Sec. Tom Wolf.  That same information was delivered that same day to the Pennsylvania Democratic Party and the Republican Party of Pennsylvania.  And in the next few days, that same information will be sent to the College Democrats and College Republicans at the fourteen PASSHE Universities, and will also be posted on the PASCU website at http://www.pascu.net/.

PASSHE is the 14-University system of taxpayer-supported institutions of higher education that includes Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester Universities.

The purpose of PASCU’s outreach to the two candidates is to invite each one to make their individual cases for support in the upcoming election to the “Majority Stakeholders” at the 14 PASSHE universities.

Background

The Pennsylvania Association of State Colleges and Universities (PASCU) is a non-partisan, non-profit association whose mission it is: “To ensure that the statutory purpose of public higher education in Pennsylvania as specified by Act 188 of 1982: ‘High Quality Education at the Lowest Possible Cost to the Students,’ is indefinitely preserved and faithfully delivered.”
 
PASCU was founded in June of 2012 as it was becoming abundantly clear that the statutory purpose of public higher education in Pennsylvania, cited above, had neither been preserved nor delivered since 2002.  In fact an analysis of official PASSHE data, which I carefully conducted, showed that:¹
a)      Half the gains in educational quality delivered to PASSHE students by the Board of Governors (BOG) during PASSHE’s first 18 years of existence (1984 to 2002) were subsequently undone by the BOG in the subsequent 11-year period (2002 to 2013); and,
b)      The BOG isn’t providing a PASSHE education at anything like “the lowest possible cost to the students.”  Financial aid packages for students across America average 51% grants and 42% loans, while financial aid packages for students at PASSHE universities average 27% grants and 65% loans.

Key Questions about Pennsylvania “Public” Higher Education

Two key questions include these: 1) Who pays?  And; 2) Who Decides?

Many people are surprised by the answers to those questions:
a)      75% of the cost of “public” higher education is paid—not by the State—but by the students, parents and alumni donors at the 14 PASSHE universities—i.e., by the “Majority Stakeholders.” (In particular, students and parents account for 70% while private donors account for 5%.) 
b)      25% of the costs are paid by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania—the “Minority Stakeholder.”
c)       But the 25% Minority Stakeholder controls 100% of the 174 governance seats on the boards where all key decisions affecting the Majority stakeholders are made; and
d)      The 75% Majority Stakeholders control 0% of the 174 governance seats on the boards where all key decisions affecting them are made!

This huge Funding/Governance Disparity has been called ‘Privatization Without Representation,’ and is an “un-American” travesty of justice that demands redress.  The Majority Stakeholders at the PASSHE universities currently have no voice in exchange for their 75% funding share, but PASCU aspires to become the voice of PASSHE’s more than 700,000 individual Majority Stakeholders.

Pennsylvania Voters will Elect a Governor on November 4, 2014

In eight weeks Pennsylvania voters will decide who our Governor will be for the next four years. 

Each candidate is associated with one of our two major political parties: Democrat and Republican.

But for PASSHE’s Majority Stakeholders—the Students, Parents and private donors, primarily Alumni, who now pay 75% of the cost of education—party politics will be no help in deciding whom to vote for—unless both candidates agree to be held to account by being asked, before the election, to provide written answers to questions on whether and how they will support the issues of greatest concern to the Majority Stakeholders at the 14 PASSHE universities.
 
The packet of information sent to the two candidates included a one-page Cover Letter,² a four-page Factsheet,³ a two-page Preliminary Statement and Candidate’s Questionnaire,⁴ a one-page Agreement⁵ and a one-page Guidance for Candidates.⁶
 
Taken together, these five documents represent PASCU’s attempt to hold both candidates accountable when it comes to the serious issues affecting the Majority Stakeholders at the 14 PASSHE universities. 

The most serious of these issues is Privatization Without Representation.

 “Privatization Without Representation” is the rapid defunding of public higher education by the State (the Minority Financial Stakeholder), which shifts the cost of education to the PASSHE students, parents and private donors, primarily alumni (the Majority Financial Stakeholders), while the State retains 100% control of PASSHE’s governance seats where all key decisions affecting those stakeholders are made. 

PASCU sees the current disparity between funding shares and governance shares as a gross injustice in which the appointees of the Minority (25%) financial stakeholder make all key decisions, while the Majority (75%) stakeholders now choose zero appointees who would give voice to their best interests.
 
To correct that injustice, PASCU is committed to giving the Majority Stakeholders a governance share comparable to their funding share and, in that way, providing the Majority Stakeholders with a proper voice in the operation of the 14 PASSHE universities, a voice currently and unjustly denied to them.    

² https://www.keepandshare.com/doc/7328870/pascu-ec-cover-letter-august-19-2014-pdf-172k.
³ https://www.keepandshare.com/doc/7328871/pascu-ec-factsheet-august-19-2014-pdf-384k.
https://www.keepandshare.com/doc/7328872/pascu-ec-preliminary-statement-and-questionnaire-august-22-2014-pdf-283k.
https://www.keepandshare.com/doc/7328873/pascu-ec-agreement-august-22-2014-pdf-169k.
https://www.keepandshare.com/doc/7328874/pascu-ec-guidance-for-candidates-august-22-2014-pdf-165k.