Imagine if you struggled to pay your landlord for seven months’ rent. Would he or she be forgiving? Or would you be looking for a new place to live?
Thankfully for Shippensburg University students, there are some understanding landlords in the community. Students, however, are not so thankful to have a state government that has failed to pay its rent for more than 220 days. That is more than seven months of operating without a budget, while schools from kindergarten to college are scraping enough money together to keep operating.
SU faces a $1 million deficit until a new budget passes with increased funding. On Monday, faculty and students from across the Commonwealth came together for their “United we Stand, Underfunded we Fail” rally. Hundreds of people gathered on the capitol steps, demanding adequate funding for education.
Appropriations for the Pennsylvania State System for Higher Education (PASSHE) are at its lowest point in more than 10 years. From 2008 to 2012 more than $70 million dollars was slashed from PASSHE’s budget, and funding remained stagnant for more than four years afterward. Gov. Tom Wolf’s pledge to increase funding is buried in the turmoil that is plaguing Harrisburg.
Pennsylvania has less than five months to muster up next year’s budget, while hopes of establishing one for the current fiscal year are dwindling. In December, legislators initiated a stopgap — instead of passing a 2015-2016 budget they reinstituted last year’s funding levels. After six months of operating without a budget the best lawmakers and Wolf could do was to revert to a year-old plan. Their action likens to a student procrastinating on a research paper all semester, only to submit one written in high school — a new year calls for new needs.
Though professors warn pupils about the harsh real world that awaits them if they do not work hard, it is evident lawmakers missed out on that lecture. Apparently, they were daydreaming about the debate club, failing to realize the impact they could have on millions of people if ever elected to office. Or maybe the real world does not apply to the government. Maybe, buried in the Commonwealth’s Constitution, lies a scribbled clause exempting politicians from being held responsible for their actions.
If that is true it means they are not responsible for PASSHE’s budget remaining at the same low for the fifth year in a row. It means they are not responsible for forcing administrators’ hands to raise tuition or not filling the 120 faculty vacancies at SU. And by no means are they responsible for the students who await thousands of dollars in state grants.
After all, what should the young generation expect? Men and women sitting down together and compromising for the good of the commonwealth? No doubt that is easier said than done — it is easy for people to complain about politicians and blame their problems on them. But it is also easy for legislators, sitting in the confines of massive stone walls, to forget about what happens to the average person in the real world.
A new budget could be passed any day, but the next fiscal year is on the horizon, and this entire fiasco could repeat itself. Like landlords need to ensure their tenants abide by the lease, the electorate needs to ensure their government officials are fulfilling their responsibilities.
To contact your local legislator visit http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/findyourlegislator/ or search “contact PA legislature.”
To contact the governor’s office visit https://governor.pa.gov/contact/.