Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Education Funding Reform Long Overdue in Alabama. (Last Word)

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Education Funding Reform Long Overdue in Alabama. (Last Word)

Article excerpt

"Proration, Proration, Proration." They're playing that old, familiar song these days in Montgomery, Ala., accompanied by a symphony of complaints, arguments and accusations. But there's a I new twist in the latest version of the old song. Last year, a circuit court judge abruptly informed the executive and legislative branches of state government of two things: Revenue shortages cannot be offset by prorating K- 12 public schools, and the state has thus far failed to solve the real underlying problem, which is how to pay adequately for education in the state.

This Alabama problem is decades old. It is a problem acknowledged by practically every citizen in the state, and yet no reform has occurred. The problem is exacerbated by the rifts it has produced among the K12, postsecondary and higher education sectors, forcing them to compete when none of them is fully funded in the first place.

It is disconcerting, at best, that more than $200 million of the Special Education Trust Fund is spent on entities -- private institutions, museums and the like -- that are not part of the public system of education. Some people contend that "pork" money should be spent on classroom education, while others contend higher education should absorb all of the budget cutbacks. Later, the judge ruled that, constitutionally, the cutbacks could not come via proration of K- 12.

Clearly, some type of reform in Alabama must begin now. Proposals include ad valorem tax increases, even though there is not always a relationship between the amount of tax paid and one's income. For example, a farmer whose net income is barely at poverty level could quickly have an unbearable debt if his land taxes were raised. In any case, no tax affects everyone the same, so there will always be bitter arguments about changes. The truth is, no single solution exists.

What leaders can do, however, is closely examine current allocations and then exercise creativity in their approaches and courage in their decision-making. …

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