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Life on Jindal’s Louisiana Higher Ed Frat House
Written by  // Tuesday, 14 February 2012 11:45 //

louisiana-politics

Bobby Jindal, the “most transparent, most ethical, most accountable” governor in Louisiana’s history just also happens to be a governor who will brook no dissent.
If you don’t believe that, of course, you need only contact Tommy Teague, the firmer director of the Office of Group Benefits (OGB), who was summarily fired last April when he didn’t jump on board the OGB privatization bandwagon quickly enough. Or his wife, who had the timerity to testify against Jindal’s proposed governmental streamlining plan and was fired the very next day. (She won her job back through Civil Service, but it took several months.)

But a more recent example has just surfaced in the form of a lengthy email from LSU System President John Lombardi and the contents of that memorandum are quite revealing of the Politburo mindset of this administration: “Be grateful for what we give you or suffer the consequences.” (The “Politburo” term was given us by friend Judith Howard, a columnist for Ruston’s Morning Paper.)
Lombardi’s memo went out to LSU administrators only hours before the Joint Legislative Budget Committee convened on Thursday to receive Jindal’s executive budget that called for, among other things, the elimination of 2,837 positions in higher education that turned out to be actually “only a handful,” according to testimony given by the Division of Administration (DOA) during Thursday’s testimony.
The discrepancy was explained that the bulk of the job eliminations were for vacant positions that will not be filled. Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater did not explain how eliminating already vacant positions would save the state money. And no one asked, certainly no one in higher education.
“In this upcoming session,” Lombardi said in his email, “the administration will be focused on K-12 and retirement reform, and the administration does not think it helpful to have complicated or difficult or contentious higher education initiatives brought before the legislature. Special tuition bills or other initiatives that do not have the complete support of all of higher education will only distract from their effort to hold the budget intact for higher education and complete the rest of their agenda.”
Does not think it helpful Indeed. How many parents would love to be able to sell that concept to their teenagers?
Lombardi also said the LSU Board of Supervisors leadership “has indicated strong support for coordinated messaging to accompany coordinated representation during the upcoming legislative session.”
Of course Jindal appointees make up the majority of that board’s membership. ‘Nuff said about that.
Lombardi also just happens to be in the final year of his contract. ‘Nuff said that, as well.
The budget counts tuition increases in the system’s total state budget allotment and includes tuition paid through the college scholarship program TOPS in much the same manner as it used grants from the 2009 federal stimulus act to prop colleges and universities.
But rather than complain, Lombardi wrote, “In exchange for this good treatment, the administration would appreciate” it if higher education officials recognize that the budget “gives higher ed special treatment and thank the administration for their attention and concern for higher ed.”
You can almost visualize the college presidents, deans and department heads down on their hands and knees at the fraternity hazing initiation saying as the fraternity president lays the leather strap to their backs and buttocks, “Thank you, sir! May I please have another?”
Here is the complete text of his email, which went out at 6:07 a.m. on Thursday:
As you all know, the Division of Administration will present the Governor’s budget to the legislature today. The best information we have from the Administration is that the general outlines of the budget for higher education will include the following:
1. higher education will be provided the same total all funds budget level as last year;
2. the new budget will include Grad Act tuition increases as part of the total all funds budget;
3. savings from the retirement adjustments will be given back to higher ed institutions;
4. only higher ed receives both the hold harmless all funds budget and the additional opportunity to use any retirement savings;
5. there will be no freezes on salary adjustments for employees whether in civil service or not;
In exchange for this good treatment, the administration would appreciate higher ed leadership doing the following:
A. recognize that the budget gives higher ed special treatment and thank the administration for their attention and concern for higher ed;
B. avoid negative messages about higher ed funding this year or overall as the total means of finance for higher ed has experienced a relatively low
reduction compared to other parts of the state budget and compared to other states;
C. recognize the need for retirement reform and recognize the benefit to higher ed of the ability to use the retirement savings at the institutions,
something not possible for other state agencies. Estimate is $100M from retirement savings to higher ed;
D. provided coordinated responses from our PR offices so that all units of higher education respond in the same generally positive and supportive way
to the Administration’s efforts to avoid significant loss of funding from the all funds budgets of higher education institutions.
In this upcoming session, the Administration will be focused on K-12 and retirement reform, and the Administration does not think it helpful to have
complicated or difficult or contentious higher education initiatives brought before the legislature. Special tuition bills or other initiatives that do
not have the complete support of all of higher education will only distract from their effort to hold the budget intact for higher education and
complete the rest of their agenda.
As usual, we will ask Bob Keaton to coordinate the LSU System institution’s responses to legislative issues, and Charlie Zewe will coordinate with
campus public relations offices on the various messages needed.
The Board of Supervisors leadership has indicated strong support for coordinated messaging to accompany coordinated representation during the
upcoming legislative session.
Many thanks.
John
The email may have been written by Lombardi and sent out by him over his name but the document has Jindal’s fingerprints all over it.
Jindal’s promise of $100 million for higher education should his retirement package pass the Legislature this year isn’t really that much when it’s divvied up among all the universities. The LSU system alone is comprised of 11institutions.
Then there are the various campuses of Southern University (Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Shreveport), University of Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana Tech, Grambling, Northwestern, McNeese, University of Louisiana-Lafayette, Nicholls State and Southeastern. Without even factoring in the junior colleges, that comes to 22 campuses, or an average of less than $5 million each.

by Tom Aswell, Publisher of Louisianavoice.com



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