Congress members protest Pitt-less stimulus package

By Liz Navratil

Fourteen of Pennsylvania’s 19 members of the U.S. House of Representatives requested Friday that the U.S. Department of Education reject the commonwealth’s application for stimulus funds because it does not include Pitt and the three other state-related universities.

In their letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the representatives said Gov. Ed Rendell’s attempts to exclude the schools — Pitt, Penn State, Lincoln and Temple universities — from the stimulus application are “at odds with the letter and spirit of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,” which says the schools must receive funding.

The representatives said the Act is meant to prevent tuition from rising unreasonably at state-sponsored schools, given the state of the economy.

“We are concerned that the commonwealth’s approach … does nothing to shield students from tuition hikes, and in fact these actions may directly contribute to an increase in student tuition,” the letter said.

Rendell’s attempts to exclude the state-related schools from the stimulus application because they are not under the “absolute control” of the state “sets a dangerous precedent” that would allow other states to “pick and choose which public institutions they may support with federal dollars,” the representatives said.

The representatives who signed the letter are Jason Altmire, D-McCandless; Robert Brady, D-Philadelphia; Christopher Carney, D-Susquehanna; Kathy Dahlkemper, D-Erie; Charles Dent, R-Allentown; Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills; Jim Gerlach, R-Chester Springs; Tim Holden, D-Schuylkill County; Patrick Murphy, D-Bristol; Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair; Todd Russell Platts, R-York; Joe Sestak, D-Delaware County; Bill Shuster, R-Blair; and Glenn Thompson, R-Centre County.