As most of you now know, Gov. Tom Corbett signed the 2011-12 state budget on June 30, less than an hour before the deadline. The final version of the budget cut funding for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) by 18 percent – an improvement from the governor’s proposal, but a slightly larger reduction than the one in the House-passed version of the budget. In today’s blog post, APSCUF Associate Director of Governmental Relations Laura Saccente offers her thoughts and advice for members who want to stay engaged even during the summer months:
When he spoke at our Harrisburg rally in March, State Sen. Vincent Hughes was right on target when he predicted the legislature would wait until classrooms cleared and students and faculty members were out of sight before having the final budget drawn up. He worried that there would be last-minute changes to the budget. Unfortunately, his observation was correct. Behind closed doors a handful of individuals came up with a budget agreement that cut PASSHE by 18 percent.
Throughout the budget process, I encouraged APSCUF members to continue to correspond with legislators. APSCUF staff and faculty members met with dozens of lawmakers over the past few months. Those efforts were essential in reversing the governor’s original plan. However, APSCUF needs to sustain these communications at every stage of budget negotiations, right up until the governor affixes his signature. If we do not, we risk being forgotten when key decision makers are at the table.
It’s summer, and many APSCUF members are on vacation or focused on research and other pursuits at this time. That’s why it’s important for members to plan ahead with an emergency budget plan, just like a fire or natural disaster plan, to be able to advocate quickly, effectively and easily from any location. Preparing a budget plan in advance for yourself or your local chapter can help make mobilization efforts go smoothly when legislators need to hear from their constituents.
As a good reminder, prepare/update the emergency budget plan at the same time grades are due. Below are very easy steps to set up your emergency budget plan:
- Place your own House and Senate member’s contact information in an accessible location, such as a cell phone, purse or wallet so you can contact them if needed at any time. You can access this contact information at www.legis.state.pa.us.
- When traveling, if you have cell phone or email access, make sure you receive updated budget information by subscribing to the APSCUF e-newsletter, becoming a fan of APSCUF on Facebook and following APSCUF Tweets at www.twitter.com/APSCUF.
- Be sure to notify your local or state APSCUF office if you will not be checking your university address and plan to use another email address for the summer, so we can send information to the right address.
- Store a simple budget template letter on a flash drive or email folder that you can readily access while on the road. After one or two updates, the letter will be ready to go with a click.
- Try to maintain a list of five to 10 email addresses for students you know would be interested in getting budget updates. Forwarding important budget information to students is giving them power to mobilize if they wish to help advocate for their own university.
These steps will ensure that you will be an informed and effective advocate ready to mobilize at any time or location.
So in conclusion, thank you to everyone who took the time during this budget season to write, call or meet with legislators. Without your hard work, this budget would have been much, much worse. As we move into next year’s budget, we will continue to stand together – students, faculty, coaches and advocates – for high-quality public higher education in Pennsylvania.