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Legislator Asks Rodney Erickson to Put $60 Million Toward Underfunded Programs in Pa.

by on August 09, 2012 6:00 AM

Pennsylvania House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody sent a letter to Penn State President Rodney Erickson Wednesday, urging him to put Penn State's $60 million fine toward underfunded programs in Pennsylvania that support abuse victims. 

Dermody's letter marks the second pitch to Penn State for the funds, dealt as part of the NCAA's sanctions, to go toward a certain cause. 

On Wednesday morning, the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association held a news conference to announce its effort to secure the $60 million for children's advocacy centers. 

Penn State is expected to administer the fund.

Dermody's letter in its entirety is below. 

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Dear President Erickson,

In the aftermath ofthe Sandusky prosecution and the Freeh Report, you have led Penn State University's effort to respond and to take proactive steps to help the healing process. With your signature on the July 23 NCAA consent agreement, the university begins a new chapter in dealing with this tragedy.

The NCAA's unprecedented punishment and enforcement action contains several parts, and while some aspects of that agreement are clear there is one area that concerns me greatly. The $60 million fine that Penn State agreed to pay in five annual installments is to be used to create an endowment to prevent child sexual abuse and assist victims of child sexual abuse, but details about the endowment are scarce.

As a former prosecutor of child abuse cases in Allegheny County, I know of many effective Pennsylvania programs and providers that exist to fight child sexual abuse. And as a state legislator, I know that these programs have long suffered from inadequate funding to meet their needs. The funding crisis only worsened with the recent state budget cuts imposed by Governor Tom Corbett.

Limited resources are available in every county ofPennsylvania to help children and adults to deal with the life-changing trauma of sexual abuse, but many victims and potential victims in need of this help do not know it exists. Service providers desperately need funds. These programs have been forced to lay off counselors, cut counseling hours, and eliminate inschool prevention programs all ofthis at a time when the state's sexual assault and rape crisis programs are reporting an even greater demand for services as a result of the Sandusky prosecution.

I am in receipt of your July 30 letter stating that Penn State will not use taxpayer funds to pay the NCAA-mandated fine. That assurance is appreciated. Now I am appealing for your help, along with the efforts ofthe state university's Board of Trustees, in working with the NCAA to ensure that the $60 million endowment is focused on these underfunded Pennsylvania-based programs.Given the tragedy that occuffed at Penn State University and the long-term damage that was done to this state as a result, the fairest approach is to use the money in Pennsylvania.

I understand that Penn State University and the NCAA still are establishing the structure of the endowment and not all the details are known. Nevertheless, the brief initial explanation of the endowment presented by NCAA President Mark Emmett raises several questions:

  • Who will decide how and where the $60 million is used?
  • What expertise does the NCAA have in the area of child sexual abuse, if any?
  • If experts in the field of child sexual abuse are to administer the endowment, how will they be selected?
  • Although Penn State University agreed that no proceeds from the fine will go to university affiliates or PSU-sponsored programs, will the university offer suggestions as to how the money can best be used?
  • Will child advocates, victim advocates, health professionals, elected officials, or members of the public have an opportunity to provide input on the use of the money?
  • How will the use of the money be reported and what procedures will be put in place to ensure the endowment's finds are being spent properly?

While child sexual abuse undeniably is a national problem, the impact of the Sandusky case has been, and will continue to be, felt most immediately in Pennsylvania. 

Because the endowment will be funded with Penn State University funds, I believe the university is justified in working with the NCAA to keep this money focused on providing victim services and prevention in Pennsylvania.

Because the consent agreement with the NCAA is silent on how the $60 million in dedicated funding will be administered and distributed, I believe the time is right for all of us to advocate an outcome that provides the most help for the people here in Pennsylvania who are experiencing the biggest impact from this tragedy.

Thank you for your consideration.



Laura Nichols is a StateCollege.com news reporter and @LC_Nichols on Twitter.
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