UPDATE: Ronald Tomalis was not chosen for the position. The Board of Governor’s picked Frank Brogan from the Florida University System.
Governor Corbett has allowed a corporate coup’ de tat to occur within the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. On Monday August 5th, PASSHE’s Board of Governors announced that a vote for the new Chancellor will happen on Wednesday, August 8th. Former Education Reform Lobbyist and Secretary of Education, Ronald Tomalis is one of three candidates set to become State System’s fourth Chancellor; behind Dr. John Cavanaugh (June 2008 – February 2013), Dr. Judy Hample (2001-2008) and Dr. James McCormick (1983-2001).
Breaking from tradition, Governor Corbett’s handpicked man for the job, Ronald Tomalis, sets himself apart from the prior three candidates. The appointee does not have a Doctorate, nor a Masters degree, but does have a bachelors in Political Science from Dickinson College (the following article by the Raging Chicken Press details a couple of John Cavanaugh’s work on higher education). Ronald Tomalis’ resume shows that he started out as a government careerist the Pennsylvania Department of Education in the 90’s and 00’s. He then worked in the Department of Education from 2001 to 2004, and helped implement the No Child Left Behind Act. He then went on to become an education reform lobbyist. According to Ballotpedia:
After his public service, he was a private advisor and consultant in the field, and most recently was the director of Dutko Worldwide/Whiteboard Advisors, based in Washington, DC. At Dutko, he was a principal advisor to non- and for-profit groups, foundations and companies operating in Pre-K and postsecondary education environments.
The firms that Ronald Tomalis worked for, Dutko Worldwide and Whiteboard Advisors, have extensive experience in education reform. This 2011 Whiteboard Advisors State Legislative Preview titled “The New Normal,” explains:
President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act(ARRA)into law. The law seeks to do many things, including: (1) creating new jobs and saving existing ones,(2) spurring economic activity and investing in long‐term growth,(3)fostering accountability and transparency in government spending, and (4) advancing the four education reform priorities:teacher effectiveness,statewide data systems, common standards and assessments and rigorous school interventions.
After game planning for education reform opportunities, the white paper gave a shout out to Ronald Tomalis saying:
Education reform will have to co‐exist with deep state deficits. The negotiations will not be easy, but there are plenty of impressive leaders who are up to the task. Be sure to also keep an eye on Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis(a former Whiteboard Advisor associate),Oklahoma State Superintendent Janet Barresi, New Mexico Secretary Hanna Skandera, South Carolina’s Mick Zais(who retired from the military as a Brigadier General), and Mitch Chester’s ongoing work in Massachusetts, among others. Education reformers are also watching who Tennessee Governor Haslam will appoint as Commissioner of Education who will be responsible for implementing the state’s Race to the Top plan.
Dutko Worldwide has ties to the George Bush Education Reformist Eugene Hikock, who was a key architect to No Child Left Behind. The Atlantic had a small profile on Mr. Hockok.
The political cronyism on the Pennsylvania Board of Governors does not stop at Tomalis. It goes right to the top of the Board with Guido Pichini who has a history making donations to the Heritage Foundation. Guido Pichini was a board of trustee at Kutztown University and is the CEO of Security Guards Inc. In 2001, Kutztown University outsourced its parking attendants, ticket writers, and dispatchers to Pichini’s security company, Security Guards, Inc. The Raging Chicken Press explains his donations to Heritage, Koch and others:
The bigger news came from the 2010 Heritage Foundation Annual report. In 2010, Guido M. Pichini is listed as a Heritage Foundation Associate. In order to be listed as an Associate, you have to cut a check for AT LEAST $10,000. The next membership level begins at $25,000. Why is this significant? The Heritage Foundation is one of the oldest and most powerful right-wing think tanks in the country. Founded in 1973, the Heritage Foundation is funded by a who’s who in right-wing donors, including the now infamous Koch brothers, the John M. Olin Foundation, and the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation. Pichini’s 2010 contribution also took place during the election cycle that saw huge electoral victories of the Tea Party and far right-wing candidates.
At the top of the list of things Governor Corbett will be remembered for, his consistent attacks on public higher education will be up there. Students at the 14 state universities are still dealing with tuition increases from Corbett’s 20% cut to PASSHE in 2011, and now the governor is placing a BS in political science who was government careerist and lobbyist at the top of an institution that serves 115,000 college students and faculty members?