Oh how times have changed for State Senator Andy Dinniman. In 2011, Governor Tom Corbett proposed a 50 percent cut to the State System of Higher Education, which was later reduced to 18 percent – or roughly 82 million dollars. The following year Governor Tom Corbett proposed cutting PASSHE for a second year in a row. This time it was 20 percent.
In a Chester County Democrats email during that time, Senator Dinniman described the cuts:
$82,550,000 (20 percent) reduction from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), which includes West Chester and Cheyney universities. PASSHE cuts from last year and those proposed for this year will amount to a more than 40 percent total reduction in funding.
Also note that the governor’s proposed education budget for 2012-13 includes no Key 93 funds for deferred maintenance, meaning the total cut for PASSHE universities is actually $89,394,000 a 21.3 percent reduction in state funds.
Then at a student rally a couple of months later (wait for it…) Senator Dinniman spoke out against Governor Tom Corbett’s plan to dismantle the State System of Higher Education. At the Harrisburg based demonstration Dinniman stated:
“We’re not going to stand by and let the Commonwealth’s state system of higher education be dismantled,” Dinniman said. “We recognize the integrity and excellence of the education we are receiving. We value education on all levels, and we’re going to make it clear that there is nothing more important than to support all levels of public education.”
And in that same press release, Senator Dinniman even offered solutions to the funding problems facing the State System of Higher Education. He went as far as calling the governor and the governor’s administration a bunch of hypocrites for “ignoring potential revenue sources.” The press release said:
Dinniman pointed out the hypocrisy of the Administration ignoring potential revenue sources like a proper Marcellus Shale impact fee and a fee on smokeless tobacco while imposing state funding cuts that will greatly increase families’ tuition bills and homeowners’ local property taxes.
Oh the hypocrisy, right?
Jump ahead to (oh I don’t know) Mach 11, 2014 when State Senator Andy Dinniman and Tommy Tomlinson introduced legislation that would allow the larger state schools to secede from the SSHE so they can save the cash strapped state system of higher education. At that press conference, Dinniman and Tomlinson were joined by senators who represent Millersville and Shippensburg and those senators were calling for their schools to secede.
It sounds like this legislation will dismantle public higher education in Pennsylvania? That same dismantling of PASSHE that Senator Dinniman was so concerned about it 2012? But in Senator Dinniman’s world this isn’t “dismantling” this is just a “transformation.” At the press conference, Dinniman said:
I think what we see here, the keyword you should take away from today, is ‘transformation.’ Our bill tries to create transformation. Transformation in the sense of meeting change; transformation in the sense of ending the centralized bureaucracy which has prevented flexibility and agility in our institutions; and, transformation in the sense that under this bill we will be able to provide the resources – which aren’t going to come from the budget at this point now and the state does not exactly have a lot of cash – but provide the resources to our sister institutions which have no other means of getting those resources.
In a Philadelphia Inquirer interview, Dinniman was asked about the secession legislation, and Dinniman’s response was the typical free-for-allism deployed by fiscal libertarians. In the interview he stated:
All (West Chester separation bill co-sponsor Sen. Tommy) Tomlinson (R-Bucks, a WCU grad and trustee) are saying is, ‘Listen, this is a house of cards that’s coming down, man. West Chester is succeeding. We want you to leave our university alone.’ Like we want you to leave our schools alone.
‘And, by the way we have some models here, you might want to see why West Chester is succeeding. We’re not the enemy. We’re trying to save you from yourselves.’ We certainly maintain that fiscal conservatism. We’re not asking anyone for more help. We believe in self-reliance. On the other hand, in each of these situations, we’re saying, ‘We’re here to work with you.’
In a matter of two years, Senator Dinniman went from saying “leave the Commonwealth’s schools alone” to “all for one and none for all.” Maybe the change Dinniman’s rhetoric on this issue, is from laziness in advocating for a stronger state system or maybe it’s because State Senator Andy Dinniman is a hypocrite when it comes to protecting the Commonwealth’s 14 public university system. I think it’s the latter of the two.