Sunday, March 15, 2009

Fingerhut Speech at Community Solutions

Apportioning Misery and Education Reform

Ohio's Chancellor and former staff member for the Center for Community Solutions, Eric Fingerhut, was one of the keynote speakers at the 67th Annual Human Services Institute on Friday March 13. I got to attend as a Board member of CTO to see them win their award. I am glad that I stuck around to hear Mr. Fingerhut, because he provided some interesting insights.

He talked all about the unified higher education system in Ohio, which I was not aware had already happened. I did not realize that all the GED programs, many job training programs and the Community Colleges are now linked together with the state universities. This was a huge change that occured over the last three years. But the best part of the speech was about his time in the state legislature.

Fingerhut was first elected in 1990, and took office in 1991. That was the time that many advocates traveled down to Columbus to protest the elimination of General Assistance (welfare for single adults). Fingerhut ran on a platform of a champion of human services, having worked at Legal Aid and worked with many of the groups helping people in Cleveland. He felt that the early 1990s was just a cyclical downturn, and that things would turn around for the state. The state legislature was cutting the budget, but would eventually get back in the business of helping people when Ohioans returned to work. Fingerhut took a few years off, and went back to Columbus in 1999. He said that by 1999 and 2000 the feeling in Columbus was depressing and there was a general realization that things were not going to go back to the way they were in the 1980s ever again. Fingerhut felt that he was managing the misery all human service groups would have to face. He was an advocate for social services and he was now deciding if his friends were going to receive a 10% or a 5% cut. There was a general realization that we were never going back to restore these programs. Fingerhut had to accept that his job was now "apportioning misery" among his closest friends.

So, he is back in Columbus as the head of higher education in Columbus. The only way to get more tax revenue for the state is to boost employment. The only way to boost employment is to provide higher education to the population. Fingerhut has a good sales pitch; championing the opportunities available in Ohio. He talked about how the State of Ohio is willing to help low income residents get a free associates degree.

Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.

No comments: