A year ago, PHENOM brought together the “Summit” coalition to unite our allies in campaigns to support public higher education. The group has been meeting monthly at the State House, and has included representatives of unions, student groups, campus administrations, public officials, and legislative leaders.
In the first few meetings, some people seemed to be there because they felt they “had to”, and were observing more than participating. Now, it’s become a lively group with active participation from all the groups.
The Summit group’s first success came last fall when we succeeded in inserting language in the casino legislation that earmarks a portion of the state’s revenues to public higher education. The estimate: $20 million per year! The group then worked on some funding issues for a possible supplemental budget last fiscal year. While this effort was unsuccessful, it laid the foundation for a strong effort around this year’s budget.
The highlight of that effort was the Day of Advocacy on March 8 when 500-600 people crowded the State House to advocate for increased funding for our campuses, increased state financial aid, and a reserve to fund the union contracts for our staff and faculty. We succeeded in the latter two, and are more determined than ever this year.
Last year’s effort succeeded in eventually bringing a wide variety of groups together to organize for the Day of Advocacy. This year, we can organize an even better Day by starting the planning earlier and making sure that all groups, especially student organizations, are included right from the start.
The Summit group is also discussing other possible higher education legislation to file in January for the next session. Many ideas have been floated and a process of outreach to an even broader array of stakeholders in under way.
While PHENOM continues to put energy into this successful coalition “at the top”, we will also be concentrating on increased grassroots organizing to build the base of people in active support of the bold changes we need to fight for to ensure accessible and affordable public higher education in Massachusetts.
Stay tuned! And check out some of the ways you can support PHENOM.