Vote Yes on November 4
By Gordon Stone, Executive Director
Higher Education Partnership
Box 761 Montgomery; AL 36101
The Higher Education Partnership, representing over 15,000 members consisting of students, faculty, staff and administrators of the state's public universities, encourages all Alabamians to Vote Yes on Amendment One. When citizens go to the polls on November 4, the ballot will provide an opportunity for each person to cast a vote relative to the state expanding its savings capacity and building a larger rainy day reserve. Simply put, Amendment One lets the state borrow from itself in order to prevent education from experiencing proration. Plus, it requires the state to repay the borrowed amount in 6 years. With this in mind, we encourage all of our friends and those who believe in the value of public universities to "go to the polls" and support the amendment.
Given the dire circumstances facing the national economy and the heavy reliance on sales and income tax as the primary sources of revenue for public education, the state's K-12, two year and four year educational programs are obviously concerned about the problems that are ahead. The 2007-08 Education Trust Fund budget was based on revenue projections that turned out to be greater than the revenue that was actually collected. Therefore, in order to avoid proration and across the board cuts, the governor had to take money from the current rainy day account. By taking this action, the state avoided much of the pain that the cuts would have caused in public education. However, that action helped last fiscal year. Now, the state is facing similar circumstances for the year ahead and the question is "how to operate reasonably and effectively with a budget shortfall pending?"
Since the rainy day account was used to alleviate the problem for 2007-08, it is empty. A 'YES' vote refills it and sets up a set amount that can be borrowed (not more than 6.5 percent of the previous year's total appropriation).
Financial experts from the universities to the private sector are predicting that the revenue collections will further diminish in 2008-09. This puts the state at a financial crossroads. Do we borrow from the Alabama Trust Fund, with a commitment to pay it back in 6 years? Or, do we force the governor to call proration and cut the operational funding for the state's educational entities (PreK through PhD)?
While everyone appreciates the value of growing the Alabama Trust Fund, what value is it if the state cannot utilize it to meet a special set of needs? This is certainly an example of special needs. In addition, there are other benefits that are derived from this new rainy day approach. First, it is simply the most affordable and dependable method for cushioning the blow that bad economic times brings to public education. Also, it is a way to assure the citizens that the state is not losing control of its financial destiny. Many complain that the national economy is in trouble because of its reliance on foreign lenders and investors. Passing Amendment One allows Alabama to take care of its own concerns.
An across-the-board cut designed to offset a budget shortfall is the definition of proration. Since Alabama has witnessed a cycle where proration has had an impact nearly every 10 years, a 'YES' vote is a necessary tool for protecting the Education Trust Fund. Even more specifically, it is a valuable tool for preventing the schools, colleges and universities from having to eliminate classes, increase student-teacher ratios, park buses, leave teaching positions unfilled, turn off air conditioners, reduce security programs, charge increased tuition and fees, etc. From the northeast corner of Alabama to the southwest and from southeast to the northwest, the projected shortfalls in education revenue will present school, college and university administrators with challenges. The good news is that the passage of Amendment One softens the blow and allows the state to help students in every classroom from PreK to Ph.D. Vote Yes on November 4!
(Editor's Note: For a Calhoun County Sample Ballot, please click here. For more information about voting in Alabama, click here.)
for news releases by using the request form at www.jsu.edu/newswire/request