JSU Newswire
Jacksonville, Alabama

Governor's Plan Is Not a Good One

By Gordon Stone
Higher Education Partnership

JACKSONVILLE -- March 1, 2001 -- Here we go again! How can Governor Don Siegelman make the statement that his proposal to solve the inequity between K-12 and higher education was the right answer for the students of the state's universities? It was the Governor's original package of bills that caused the legislative battle that has been occurring in Montgomery. It was the governor's plan that refused to treat college and university teachers the same as K-12 teachers. It was the governor's plan that proposed a 4.8 percent proration for K-12 and a 9.8 percent proration for higher education. It was the governor that asked for the attorney general's opinion that he says will result in even greater higher education cuts. It was the governor's legislative team that fought the passage of House Bill 9 that would cut everyone in the Education Trust Fund by 6.2 percent and treat all of public education the same.

Aside from House Bill 9 and the accompanying Senate Bill 24, there has only been one equitable proposal on the negotiating table during this special session. It was placed on the table by the university presidents and chancellors. We are proud of the university leadership for standing tall. We are proud of their continuing efforts to find a realistic, long-term solution. We are disappointed that the governor is choosing to provide a distorted explanation of the facts.

The governor's only other proposal was for the state to float a bond issue to give higher education a small amount of financial relief in 2001. At the same time, his plan required the universities to accept a permanent change to proration law. If the universities had accepted this plan, it would have penalized future generations of college students, faculty and staff because all future prorations would have treated higher education in an inequitable manner. From now to eternity, whenever there was proration, higher education would have to take a cut twice the size of K-12. The universities could not accept the governor's "bond scenario."

Proration has occurred seven times in Alabama's history and there is every reason to believe, that even with a Proration Prevention Account, it will continue to occur. Why? The state's tax structure is based on economically sensitive revenues. Real leadership would make a commitment to changing the revenue problem. It would not pit one sector of education against another.

What is gained by distorting the facts? Why not lead by doing what is right for the long-term? The university students, faculty and staff should be proud of their institutions' leadership and extremely disappointed in Governor Don Siegelman. For the colleges and universities of the state to accept the governor's plan, they would have agreed that they were second-class citizens.


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