– Citing the hundreds of millions in taxpayer funding sent to Pennsylvania’s four state-related universities each year, Reps. Ryan Warner (R-Fayette) and Kate Klunk (R-Hanover) have introduced legislation to make the universities subject to the state’s Right-to-Know Law.
Currently, universities within the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, community colleges and the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency fall under the Right-to-Know Law. The state-related universities – University of Pittsburgh, Penn State, Temple and Lincoln – are exempt from certain provisions of the law, even though they receive annual appropriations from the state.
“Taxpayers deserve to know how their money is being spent by these universities, plain and simple,” Warner said. “Other educational institutions funded by the Commonwealth are subject to the law already. This is a matter of fairness among the institutions and accountability to our citizens.”
“We do not take lightly our obligation to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent responsibly,” said Klunk. “By increasing transparency for our state-related universities, we can confirm public funds are benefiting students, not getting lost in the administrative system.
“We support a student-first, family-focused education system. House Bill 1556 will bolster that priority by confirming our investment is being carried out as intended. Pennsylvania students deserve that.”
Collectively, the four state-related universities received more than $600 million in state funding in the 2022-23 state budget, and the governor has called for even more funding this year. While university leaders have claimed the funding is necessary to keep down the cost of in-state tuition, the heads of Pitt, Penn State and Temple testified during state budget hearings that tuition rates would go up regardless of how much money they get from the state.
To better hold these institutions accountable to taxpayers, the proposed legislation would significantly increase the amount of university personnel salary information that must be disclosed. The bill would also provide access to budgetary and contract information in user-friendly, searchable online databases. The legislation would not affect existing statutory exclusions related to privacy or similar legal protections required under the state’s Right-to Know-Law.
The lawmakers noted that for most of the nation, state-funded universities’ records are presumed open or have been judicially confirmed as open. Pennsylvania’s institutions of higher learning are powerful engines for the state’s economy. They are world class institutions, and it is important to ensure they remain so.
Representative Ryan Warner
52nd Legislative District
Representative Kate A. Klunk
169th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Warner Media Contact: Patricia Hippler
717.772.9846 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Klunk Media Contact: Katelin Morrison
717.260.6502 / email@example.com