There is an active public relations campaign to dismantle Pennsylvania's 14 state university system known as the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education - or PASSHE. The secession campaign is being bankrolled by the Council of Trustees at PASSHE's largest university, and their argument falls right in line with the "makers vs takers" way of thinking.
On February 22nd, the Raging Chicken Press (our blog) reported that two state senators were drafting legislation that would allow PASSHE's largest university - West Chester University (WCU) - to secede from the 14 school system. The two senators pushing this legislation were Republican Tommy Tomlinson and Democrat Andy Dinniman, and they are both connected to West Chester. Tommy Tomlinson is a trustee at the school, and Dinniman was a professor there for 30 years. To allow this break up, Tomlinson was lobbying with staff and administration and they were going to use Shock Doctrine rhetoric to allow the their university to leave the system. To understand the use of shock doctrine being applied in their secession argument here's a brief history.
Going back to 2011, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett proposed a 50% cut to higher education spending in his first budget. Eventually, the cuts were reduced to 20%. The following budget Corbett proposed a 20%, but the Republican Assembly took those cuts out of the budget. Then in 2013, Governor Corbett came out as a champion of public education and announced no proposed cuts to higher education. Massive orgasms broke out in the media and everywhere else because higher ed went two years without restoring funding. Over that following year, a bunch of universities were proposing layoffs of up to 10% of the faculty workforce because those cuts weren't restored, and these layoffs were happening at the schools that were struggling financially and they all recieve help from the more successful schools. For a third year in a row, the SSHE didn't get an increase in funding.
So now we're here in 2014 where legislators who have connections to the more powerful schools in the system are pushing legislation to allow the more successful schools to break away from the struggling schools, and they're using budget reasons to push this legislation. It was reported that the West Chester Council of Trustees hired a high powered lobbying group to run a public relations and social media campaign to garner support for the bill. The PPG wrote:
The West Chester University Foundation is bankrolling a campaign to help win passage of state legislation that would enable that school and other state-owned universities to break away from the State System of Higher Education.
A representative of Bravo Group, a Harrisburg lobbying and public relations firm, said the foundation hired Bravo at the request of the university’s council of trustees.
We broke the story about the social media campaign and reported that the Bravo Group is connected to some of Philadelphia's most influential education reformers. We wrote:
What is most troubling is Chris Bravacos’ (Bravo Group CEO) connections to the Philadelphia School Partnership, the William Penn Foundation, and the 2012 Philadelphia School District’s “blueprint” that closed dozens of schools.
The article goes into more detail on what is happening and our blog will be covering this as stories unfold over the next few months. This is a pretty dangerous piece of legislation that will hurt faculty members and raise tuition on students who attend all these schools. The actual bill can be found here.