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Continuing the state budget fight, APSCUF President Steve Hicks yesterday provided testimony to the House Democratic Policy Committee, chaired by state Rep. Mike Sturla (Lancaster). Approximately a dozen House members, including state Rep. James Roebuck (Philadelphia), the Education Committee chairman, attended the hearing at Temple University in Philadelphia.

Beyond the points made in the testimony, Hicks responded to questions for 30 minutes. One question was about faculty pay in comparison with regional schools; Hicks responded that PASSHE faculty, according to AAUP numbers out last week, fell below total pay for Penn State branches and had not kept up with regional competitors from New York, New Jersey and Maryland (over the last decade). Asked about K-12 funding, Hicks indicated higher education had worried about the gap created by the funding formula during the Rendell years and there had been talk out of the Education Department of a “K-16 strategic plan.” He said he had never seen it, but knew it was being talked about and that Pennsylvania needed said plan so all elements of education worked as they should.

In a final question, Chairman Sturla provided an anecdote about a local dry cleaner who read Nietzsche. He indicated one local thought it was a waste of a college education for someone to be running the family dry-cleaning business. Sturla asked how Hicks responded to that. He said that someone with that background, we’ll presume some knowledge of philosophy, would have an enhanced sensitivity to the needs of their customers and would thus be more customer-friendly. That since he (or she) would likely to have a math course, maybe in statistics or advanced algebra, they would better calculate the profit-loss margin and therefore could pass on lower costs to customers, benefitting them. And he noted that studying something like philosophy would probably make the person a better civic citizen, voting more, but also participating more actively in civic groups like the Rotarians, or church groups, or even something as worthwhile as soccer coach for a group of kids. There was a lot of value added to the community from that kind of thinking.