PRESS STATEMENT: Campus Workers Applaud Focus on Higher Education, Say: Just Fund It

January 8, 2015

KNOXVILLE - United Campus Workers-Communications Workers of America Local 3865, Tennessee's public higher education union, welcomes President Obama and Vice President Biden's upcoming visit to East Tennessee, and applauds their support for higher education. Every year, we demonstrate to Governor Haslam and the General Assembly that higher education institutions are key economic drivers, and campus employees - from professors and adjuncts, secretaries and custodians, to researchers and counselors - are at the forefront of delivering quality education and essential services to Tennesseans.

 

Initiatives such as the Drive to 55 and the Tennessee Promise are receiving much attention. What is not receiving attention is the fact that no public policy solution can succeed without publicly financed support. Sweeping public policy initiatives require a strong commitment to public financing. Governor Haslam's higher education initiatives have included zero funding other than to offset student costs. This is not sufficient to support community colleges and technical centers around the state in facing the challenge of thousands of new enrollees in 2015. What's more, despite a rhetorical emphasis on education, funding earned under the new formula as well as pay raises for higher education employees and teachers were the first items the governor cut from the budget. He has broken the promises he made during the 2014 State of the State to make higher education his "top priority," and to make Tennessee a national leader in increasing educator salaries.

 

Since 2008, politicians at the state capitol have made $200 million in cuts to higher education, which have raised tuition for students and slashed wages for campus workers. They locked in these cuts and tied future funding to poor metrics of educational achievement through the 2010 Complete College Tennessee Act (CCTA). This creates a zero-sum game, in which institutions essentially compete with one another for the same funding. Despite misgivings, students and educators rose to the challenge and met many of the new criteria. Instead of being rewarded for these achievements, Governor Haslam slashed higher education again in his 2015 budget.

 

Our state needs a fully funded higher education system, with a workforce of educators and support staff who are competitively and fairly compensated. Campus workers desperately need a living wage. With no new funding for higher education, and no public funding attached to these public policy initiatives, we can expect continuing poverty wages and an increase in temporary, benefit-free jobs such as adjuncts and outsourced custodians and other support staff.

 

United Campus Workers has an alternative to Haslam's unsustainable model for Tennessee higher education. Governor Haslam needs to put the people first. Our state needs living wage jobs, high-quality, public education, affordable health care, and respect for our democratic rights to vote, organize, and exercise our constitutional freedoms. Our working conditions are our students' learning conditions.
 

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Members available to be interviewed - For more information, please contact:

Cassie Watters, United Campus Workers, 877-292-3865