Delay is no option for PASSHE, Sen. Brewster

Delay is no option for PASSHE, Sen. Brewster

This is what bureaucrats do worst:

State Sen. Jim Brewster, an Allegheny County Democrat, is seeking a two-year pause before any plan to right-size the foundering 14-school State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) proceeds.

His “solution” is to, on an interim basis, if not permanent, basis, throw more public money at this failed system.

So, all a long unsustainable system — plagued with escalating costs, tanking enrollment, duplicative services and recidivist operational hamstringing by labor unions – needs to survive and prosper is more taxpayer dollars?

No thanks.

The plan on the table now is to combine six schools into two. In the western part of the state, California, Clarion and Edinboro universities would join forces. In the northeastern part of Pennsylvania, Bloomsburg, Lock Haven and Mansfield universities would come together.

But Brewster says there are too many unresolved questions, whether it be how courses will be delivered, to what happens to sports, to the effects on host and surrounding communities.

“There’s (sic) too many human beings that I believe are going to be hurt by this without any guarantee that it’s going to work,” Brewster said at a recent hearing of the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Policy Committee.

Never mind that it can be guaranteed that some of the weaker State System schools to be combined certainly will fail if merger steps are not taken in short order. And the entire State System surely would be imperiled without these consolidation efforts in the two-year hiatus that Brewster seeks.

As is, PASSHE supporters have whined ad nauseam about the relative paucity of state funding for the system, pointing to an annual current appropriation of $477 million, which covers an estimated 29 percent of system operations.

But the days of pumping more and more money into any bottomless educratic rathole must stop. Though PASSHE is attempting to take long overdue steps to salvage its unsustainable system, even it still pines for a state rescue.

That’s evidenced by the words of system Chancellor Daniel Greenstein: “We can make this all go away with a $150-million annual additional incremental [appropriation] on top of the $477 [million].”

Which would only further embolden cost-escalation, service duplication and, of course, those hamstringing labor unions in a continuing uncertain student census environment.

Brewster says that if anybody is to be angry with somebody, it should be with the General Assembly. “We should be fighting for more funding.”

But, again, PASSHE has a responsibility to get its house in order before anybody starts talking about continued, let alone more, state funding. The State System has begun that process — even if it’s being dragged whining, kicking and screaming.

Delay clearly is no option, Sen. Brewster.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).