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Monday, 06 December 2010 11:27
25 Louisiana Reps. Call For Higher Education Plan
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A group of 25 State Representatives, including several from Jefferson Parish, sent a letter to the Louisiana Board of Regents Thursday demanding the Board provide more accountability and come up with a plan to revamp higher education before the Legislative Session begins.

The Louisiana Education system has been criticized for being too top heavy, having too many boards and colleges and universities, and for a lack of focus on improving poor graduation rates.

The letter states: “Let us be very clear, the majority of tax payers want a smaller and more accountable Higher Ed system”.

The letter also blasts the State’s bloated education budget and poor graduation rates.

“No matter the amount of money, this system is broken, and it needs to be fixed.”

Jefferson Parish State Representatives Patrick Connick (R-Marrero), Cameron Henry (R-Jefferson), John LaBruzzo (R-Metairie), Tony Ligi (R-Metairie), Joe Lopinto (R-Metairie) and Kirk Talbot (R-River Ridge) signed off on the letter.

Here’s the full text of the letter:

“December 2, 2010

Louisiana Board of Regents
P.O. Box 3677
Baton Rouge, LA 70821-3677

Re: Higher Education Challenges

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Board

Headlines discussing the financial challenges to higher education appear with great frequency in newspapers across the United States. Students and faculty are protesting budget cuts at state houses and conducting ‘sit ins’ across college campuses. Articles such as those entitled “The Great Recession: Implications for Higher Education,” “State Support of Higher Education: The Roller Coaster Plunges Downward Again,” and “With State Budgets Tanking, Cost of Merit-Based Scholarships Gets a 2nd Look” have appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education and the NEA 2009 Almanac of Higher Education, journals with which I am sure you are familiar.

It’s no secret; times are tough. States across the U.S. have less money to appropriate due to unprecedented revenue and budget shortfalls. Admittedly, higher education suffers disproportionate budget cuts in tough fiscal times – this is a historical fact. A president of a university in a major state university system wrote in a 2009 article that “(S)tates are appropriating less money to higher education not because legislators and the people whom they represent value us less, but because they can afford less.” In what some may consider to be a lightning rod of an article, this university president went on to state “The economy has suffered changes so deep and fundamental that institutions cannot just hunker down to weather the storm. The time has come for creative reconstruction. We must summon the courage and will to reengineer education in ways founded on shared responsibility, demanding hard work and a willingness on the part of everyone involved to let go of ‘the way it’s always been’.”

We know that higher education has suffered painful budget cuts. And because states’ fiscal difficulties usually last several years after a recession officially ends, it is unlikely that you will see full funding for several more years to come. These cuts, coupled with the rising cost of education and a climate of no new taxes spells out one thing for higher education – change the way you do business. We could sit before you today and suggest larger classes, propose that professors teach more, or advocate the elimination of duplicative programs, but you are the experts in education. Furthermore, the numbers speak for themselves. Student population is DOWN and costs are UP.

Yes, we need to be a part of this process, but systemic change must come from within, and it starts with a willingness to let go of “the way it’s always been.” Let us be very clear, the majority of tax payers want a smaller and more accountable Higher Ed system.

Although basic, very important questions must be answered:

- In comparison to other states what size system should we have?

- What is the realistic system size compared to realistic funding?

- Do the academic programs at the regional universities meet the regional educational and economic requirements?

- We know this is an extremely difficult process! Are you up to it? Can a board of volunteers fix this problem?

- We have had two years of “looking into it” or “we’re looking at it,” now time has run out! So, “where’s IT at”?

- We want our children to attend college, BUT we must stop admitting the ones we know will not graduate! What is the plan to immediately improve the graduation rates?

No matter the amount of money, this system is broken, and it needs to be fixed. This is reflected clearly by statistics, not subjective observations. A plan for a revamped system needs to be laid out to the legislature and ultimately to the people of this state. This plan needs to include bringing costs down. In fact, you need to totally turn it around and reduce costs substantially.

It would be a travesty for us to wait till we show up for session and then not have the time to thoroughly examine and address the issues.

We look forward to receiving information on your plan for addressing Higher Education and working with you to implement the programs and plans that will put Higher Education in Louisiana on a stronger footing for the future.

Respectfully,

Members of the Louisiana House of Representatives:

Rep. Taylor F. Barras
Rep. Richard T. Burford
Rep. Tim Burns
Rep. Thomas G. Carmody, Jr.
Rep. Stephen F. Carter
Rep. Simone B. Champagne
Rep. Patrick Connick
Rep. Greg Cromer
Rep. Michael E. Danahay
Rep. Noble E. Ellington
Rep. Joseph A. Harrison
Rep. John C. “Cameron” Henry
Rep. John LaBruzzo
Rep. H. Bernard LeBas
Rep. Tony Ligi
Rep. Joseph P. Lopinto III
Rep. Nick Lorusso
Rep. Rick L. Nowlin
Rep. J. Kevin Pearson
Rep. J. Rogers Pope
Rep. Jerome “Dee” Richard
Rep. Scott M. Simon
Rep. M.J. “Mert” Smiley
Rep. M. “Kirk” Talbot"

by Walt Bennetti, Publisher of ClickJefferson.com


 

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