Kathleen Schatzberg on the Governor's Education proposal

Does not believe  state’s Higher Education department would
understand the local needs better than our local Board of Trustees.

By Kathleen Schatzberg, President, Cape Cod Community College

We are thrilled that Governor Patrick recognizes, and will support with increased funding, our workforce education and training function.  We certainly share his goals to put people back to work.  The recent Dept. of Labor grant of $20M for which all 15 community colleges collaborated, is an example of what the Governor is talking about:  the grant provides funding for unemployed people who are not qualified for “middle skills” jobs (requiring some post-secondary education but not a bachelor’s).  We are eager to work with the Governor to expand this kind of training.

Greatest concern I have is with moving budgetary and presidential oversight from control of the local board to control at the state level.As for the re-organization, there can be some advantages to centralization, collaboration, etc.  For example, state-level standardization could help  a student on the Cape who moves to Worcester and wants to continue the same degree or certificate training at another community college.  We also need to be sure, however, that flexibility accommodates local needs  – for instance, on the Cape, certain healthcare programs will probably emphasize elder care to a greater degree than might be needed in other parts of the state.

The Devil is in the details

We don’t know the details on this plan at all yet – the 15 community college presidents were briefed yesterday morning by the Governor, Education Secretary Paul Reville, and Higher Education Commissioner Richard Freeland about this plan, in a very “big picture” way.  The Governor, Secretary and Commissioner repeatedly said there are many details to work out, which will be done in consultation with us. 

The greatest concern I have is with moving budgetary and presidential oversight from control of the local board to control at the state level.  Accountability is not an issue – we are completely open to whatever accountability measures the state would like to apply.  It’s appropriate for us to be subject to public scrutiny of what we do and how well we do it.  However, I don’t believe that the state’s Higher Education department would  understand local needs better than our local Board of Trustees. 

The Governor’s plan appears to remove virtually all of the local trustees’ authority over fiscal and presidential oversight.  The dynamics will change if the presidents are essentially reporting to the state’s community college authority rather than to the local board.  I’m also concerned about the potential impact on philanthropy.  As you know, we have enjoyed great support from local donors and businesses, and this has helped us fill gaps that reductions in state funding would otherwise have left open.   

The details on how this would work are not yet clear, however, so I’ll reserve further analysis until we learn just how all this would work.

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