Sen. Fontana Discusses Penn State Scandal

Taxpayer dollars should not be used to pay costs of scandal, State Sen. Fontana says.

For months now, I have sat back and watched what has unfolded in the Penn State scandal. I consider myself a fair man who likes to hear all angles and sides of a situation and then base my judgment on the facts, or what is seen as the facts. As we have witnessed here, far too many times Pennsylvania and the nation have been too late to rescue a victim or victims when it comes to various forms of abuse. All we can do from here is try to find a solution to the problem and make sure a situation like this never happens again.

As your State Senator, one of the biggest areas I advocate for is public education. Every child should receive a quality education and what I see as a fundamental right. Not only does a child learn reading, science, and math in school, but also important life lessons. From an early age, we are taught the difference between right and wrong knowing that at some point in life, these values will be challenged.

What makes the Penn State ordeal so sad is that Jerry Sandusky preyed on disadvantaged young boys who essentially had nowhere to run. And instead of receiving help from grown adults who should know and understand the difference between right and wrong, these individuals turned a blind eye to the victims. The abuse didn’t stop after one episode, but continued on for so many years like it often does. And just as the victims went into hiding, so did the truth. Now, thousands of alumni, present students, and future Penn State goers will ultimately face the consequences for a heinous situation created by a few cowards. Perhaps what is more atrocious is that these cowards used children as sacrificial lambs all to protect the Penn State football program.

Penn State receives a state allocation every year for “general operations” for such things as tuition costs, research, to upgrade school buildings to make sure they are suitable to live in, etc. In fact, over $900 million of the university’s finances came from state and federal funding in 2011. In an effort to secure flat level funding from the Pennsylvania Legislature for the 2012-13 school year, Penn State has agreed to not raise tuition rates above the rate of inflation as well as promised to not use any of this state funding to pay for expenses incurred because of the Sandusky ordeal.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) that looks after many of the college and university sports programs has rightfully placed some harsh sanctions on Penn State’s football program, including a $60 million fine and reductions in scholarships. Penn State President Rodney Erickson stated on CBS’s “Face The Nation” this weekend that the university would likely provide a long-term loan to the athletic department from its financial reserves to pay the fine. If part of this long-term loan isn’t coming from past state and federal funding, where are these “reserves” coming from? Furthermore, why haven’t these reserves been used to help keep tuition costs down for this upcoming school year, rather than asking the state to once again pitch in more taxpayer dollars?

Moving forward from this scandal and tragedy, there are current students that attend Penn State who are truly going to college to get a higher education and a degree. These students are not the ones who should have to pay for Jerry Sandusky’s actions, nor should the taxpayers.

At this point, I think it would be wise for the General Assembly to keep a close eye on Penn State to make sure that not one penny of taxpayers’ dollars be used to pay for the NCAA’s repercussions as well as any other fines, legal costs, penalty sanctioned child abuse programs, victim restitution or additional expenses in response to or defense of the Sandusky scandal. Until this long-term “loan” is paid off, perhaps Penn State should have to open up their financial expenditures to the General Assembly as a condition to continue to receive a state allocation in the future or be stripped of their "non preferred" status. Otherwise, what conditions are in place to guarantee that state funding won’t be used or to assure that this loan actually gets repaid to the school?

The one-time leaders of Penn State got the university in this mess and now will need to get themselves out of it. After all, the perceived value of the football program was the reason for the cover up so it is appropriate that the program should be the one penalized, not the students who are there to ultimately further their degree and live the American Dream.

Even with all of these punishments, I personally don’t think that these penalties or sanctions will change the culture of thinking when it comes to major college football programs. If individuals want a true change from this mind set, perhaps the best route would be to do what the Ivy Leagues do and that is to give academic scholarships in place of athletic scholarships.

MSgt. John DeLallo August 01, 2012 at 02:04 PM
Senator Fontana: I could not agree with you more. Indeed, since PSU wont' be going to any bowl games during the rest of your current term in office, I'd suggest you introduce legislation to not only prohibit taxpayer funds from paying for civil awards to the the victims, but lessening the PSU budget amount from the taxpayers for the next 4 years. We are, after all, trying to balance the budget.
Billy McGowan August 01, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Excellent article. Things I didn't think of. Perhaps this senator should be president of the university. It seems he would do a good job to move penn state in the right direction...certainly the current leaders are not doing the job. They're too worried about appearances, the reputation of the football program, and the legacy of joe paterno.
Remembervictims August 01, 2012 at 08:46 PM
Just make sure that Sandusky's victims are not cheated out of the multi-million dollar settlements that they each deserve. I am not so sure that PA taxpayers are not partially at fault as well, however. They apparently did not demand openness for Penn State and this secrecy is what allowed The Cover-Up to continue. No one in PA seems to want to take responsibility, but they must and should.
Mike August 02, 2012 at 12:21 PM
They are victims of a horrible crime but i wonder how they "deserve" multi million dollar settlements?


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