It’s All Sally’s Fault

The defeat yesterday in the Louisiana House of Representatives (House) of House Bill 401 was the fault of Sally Clausen, Louisiana’s Commissioner of Higher Education, we suggest. The constitutional amendment would have allowed universities to raise tuition without legislative approval.

Last week Clausen took leave of her senses and threatened the Legislature with closure of up to eight of the state’s universities.

State higher education leaders delivered a blunt message Tuesday about the kinds of budget cuts that will be needed to make up for the loss of nearly $300 million in federal stimulus dollars starting next year.

The options presented to the Senate Finance Committee include closing as many as eight four-year college campuses, including Southern University at New Orleans, or implementing across-the-board cuts of about 30 percent that would require laying off more than 1,700 faculty and staff in the budget year that starts July 1, 2011.

Senator Dan “Blade” Morrish was not happy with Clausen’s threat.

A southwest Louisiana lawmaker Thursday denounced state higher education “bureaucrats” for threatening to close eight public universities because of state budget problems.

“Instead of working with us they threatened the students and citizens of this state,” said state Sen. Blade Morrish, R-Jennings.

“They are setting us up to fail,” Morrish told the Senate. They are threatening us instead of working with us.

“I am going to ask these bureaucrats to be more responsible,” Morrish said.

Morrish also said that the president of McNeese State University, in Lake Charles, told him the school has a donor considering making a $1 million donation to the school.

After reading news accounts that the school could be closed, Morrish said, the donor “is having second thoughts.”

Over the weekend, there was this Associated Press piece that was published in most of the state’s newspapers.

Louisiana’s public colleges have frustrated state lawmakers for more than a year of budget hearings. Now, that frustration is blowing back onto the schools, with lawmakers proposing all sorts of micromanagement ideas to rein in higher education leaders viewed by some legislators as uncooperative and resistant to change.

Proposals to require more detailed reports of college spending, to force universities to get legislative approval before they can change their funding structure and to give lawmakers more control over higher education jobs are filed at the Louisiana Capitol.

Even an attempt to let the colleges raise tuition without a two-thirds vote of the Legislature is chock full of meddling with the schools, setting a series of performance benchmarks they must meet before they can boost their costs on students.

There’s no doubt: state lawmakers, particularly in the House, aren’t happy with higher education.

Yesterday’s vote in the House was a message to the higher education bureaucracy that obstinacy with the legislature does not pay – they control the purse strings.

We suggest the best course of action would be for the Leges to set up a chopping block on the top step of the State Capitol and at high noon in front of TV cameras lop off Sally Clausen’s head and watch it roll down all fifty steps.

For good measure, do the same with the loudmouth LSU System President John Lombardi.

Metaphorically speaking, course.

Originally posted at Lincoln Parish News Online.

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