A two-page letter today (Feb. 26) from five higher education leaders lobbed fluffy white marshmallows at Gov. Bobby and an anticipated $400 million (or more) cut to the state’s public colleges and universities. Joint Higher Education Letter 2-26-15
The letter was signed by LSU President F. King Alexander, Southern University System President Ronald Mason, Jr., Louisiana Community & Technical College System President Monty Sullivan, University of Louisiana System President Sandra K. Woodley, and Commissioner of Higher Education Joseph Rallo.
Rather than digging their collective heels in and shouting “Enough!” the higher education officials attempted to appeal to Gov. Bobby’s well concealed humanitarian instincts which has about as much chance as the proverbial snowball.
The letter comes about as close as possible to the prediction of one of our readers who said the college presidents in the end would thank Gov. Bobby for not cutting them more.
The letter began, predictably, with the education officials thanking Gov. Bobby “for your support during last year’s legislative session and the creation of the Workforce and Innovation for a Stronger Economy (WISE) Fund,” calling it an “unprecedented statewide collaboration across higher education.”
The pandering continued when the letter practically pleaded with Gov. Bobby to not lose “the momentum that began last year to raise the level of educational attainment in Louisiana.”
Have these educational leaders lost their collective minds? Have they forgotten that this governor’s policies of lavishing tax exemptions and incentives on corporations like Wal-Mart, chicken plucking plants and other corporations that offer little in the way of gainful employment are directly responsible for the fiscal mess we find ourselves in today?
And while Gov. Bobby did eventually support the move, it was the legislature that repealed the Stelly Plan, one of the most progressive tax programs in the history of this state, so we’re not giving lawmakers a pass on this.
“The need for college graduates, particularly in high demand fields such as engineering, computer science, business and industrial trades, is fundamental to meeting workforce goals and ensuring Louisiana graduates are prepared to reap the economic benefits Louisiana has realized,” the shameless communication said.
“Economic benefits Louisiana has realized”? Give us a freaking break! The only economic benefits realized by this state has been realized by Gov. Bobby’s campaign contributors. Why don’t these higher education officials just go on and kiss Gov. Bobby’s ring (yeah, we cleaned that up) and get it over with?
“Commissioner (of Administration) Kristy Nichols has informed us of the impending budget shortfall and the funding impacts on higher education,” the letter continued. “We want to partner with you and our legislative leaders to craft both a short-term approach to address the immediate budget shortfall and offer long-term recommendations that fundamentally change the higher education funding model. In both instances, budget stability is the overarching goal,” it said.
First of all, the use of the word “partner” scares the hell out of us. The last time “partner” was used by this administration, it gave away an entire system of public hospitals that resulted in such an overbearing spillover to Baton Rouge General Mid-City that it is closing its emergency room, thus making it even more difficult for the poor in north Baton Rouge to obtain needed medical care.
“In the long term, higher education is requesting budget stability and increasing state supported investments in higher education,” the letter said.
“The economic stability of Louisiana hinges on our collective ability to find both a short-term solution in the budget for next year and a long-term solution to sustain and increase investments in Louisiana’s higher education system.”
If the economic stability of Louisiana hinges on the ability of this administration, we’re in for a long, hard winter of economic—and intellectual—instability.
In addition to sending the letter to Gov. Bobby, copies also were sent to Gov. Bobby’s various lap dogs in the House and Senate where it will be promptly ignored as legislators turn their attention to getting re-elected while dealing with a $1.6 billion distraction.
To paraphrase H. Ross Perot, “That giant sucking sound you hear is Louisiana college-bound students headed out of state.”