Monday, May 03, 2010

When It Comes to Supporting SUNY, Who Does Sheldon Silver Really Listen To?

Check out the report from Tom Precious of the Buffalo News that a Democratic member of the Assembly, Mark J.F. Schroeder, is attacking Sheldon Silver for backing out on a deal and blocking a vote on the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act:

Schroeder, a Buffalo Democrat, said Silver told members of the Western New York delegation last year that if they could win SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher's support for the effort [on behalf of UB2020], the Assembly would pass the bill.

Zimpher has since signed on.

"He said, 'Get the new chancellor's support, and we got a deal,' and it never happened," Schroeder said Wednesday in an interview.

"The current obstruction in the Assembly majority conference is a misguided power play," Schroeder said in a recent letter to Silver.

More than 40 Democrats have pledged to support the Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act, he said, and Republicans have told him they can provide 38 votes--enough to pass the legislation if brought to the floor.

Silver and other Democrats from New York City oppose the measure, which will largely help the upstate-based SUNY system, Schroeder said.

Buffalo News columnist Douglas Johnson explores why the post-Census reapportionment of New York's Congressional districts places so much power in Silver's hands. His parting shot at Silver's "embrace of public employee union dominance" seems gratuitous, however. The public opposition of UUP and other unions to PHEE&IA provides political cover to those already opposed to SUNY's growth. As the contributors to SUNY at 60 have shown, the NYS Board of Regents and State Education Department have long been colonized by New York's private colleges and universities. We've already seen the Regents take such a swipe at SUNY that the former president of Columbia Teacher's College thought it was unfair. Well, it should come as no surprise that the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities is lobbying against PHEE&IA. Joan Hinde Stewart the excellent president of Hamilton College, my alma mater, is an at-large member of the CICU Board of Trustees.

A professor at NC State for 26 years, Stewart needs no lecturing on the value of public higher education or the opportunities it provides to its students--and to the alumni of private colleges and universities. I'll be writing her an open letter soon, but I wonder how much Columbia and NYU have to do with Silver's opposition even to the parts of the PHEE&IA that UUP President Phil Smith specifically lent his support to?

[Update 1 (1:09 pm): Here's another Buffalo News broadside at Silver.]

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