Monday, February 16, 2009

Desperation is da mama uh common sense

Holy crap.

The budget crisis is so bad in Louisiana that, out of sheer desperation, even legislators are starting to think straight. No, really.

I AM NOT making this up. Check it out -- it's in Friday's New Orleans Times-Picayune:

With a $2 billion shortfall looming in the state budget for the fiscal year starting July 1, the state should look at shutting down some of its smaller four-year colleges, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee said Thursday.

"We have too many four-year schools," Sen. Mike Michot, R-Lafayette, told reporters after a four-hour meeting with higher education officials on their proposed budget cuts.

Michot did not say which schools should be closed, but he said turning the Alexandria branch of LSU from a two-year campus into a four-year school a few years ago was a step in the wrong direction as the state was developing a community college system.

"You can stand on the Bonnet Carre Spillway and can be at six schools in an hour's drive," Michot said. "There is an opportunity with a tight budget" to realign schools, possibly merge some and close some.

Sen. Jack Donahue, R-Covington, called for an outside consultant to study the state's college system and make recommendations on which ones may have to go.

Higher Education Commissioner Sally Clausen said her staff and the state's college system presidents have been looking at economies in programs as they face cuts of as much as $382 million in the coming year.

Achieving greater efficiency in higher education and possibly closing some schools should be studied now, said Sen. Nick Gautreaux, D-Abbeville. "It is going to have to happen," he said. "The general public really wants this one."

THIS IS ENTIRELY new thinking afoot in the halls of the Louisiana Capitol, and I'm not entirely sure what to make of it. You see, the Gret Stet really has no significant tradition of reality-based thinking . . . and, for the life of me, this appears to be just that.

Reality-based thinking.

By Louisiana legislators.

Holy café au lait, Batman!

What may be emerging -- MAY be emerging -- due to the specter of budgetary calamity is a realization that the populist vision of the brothers Long, Huey and Earl, was a flawed one at best. And, at worst, a deliberate charade foisted upon people who were too stupid or too solipsistic to know any better.

For many decades, what that has meant in higher education is that many a podunk town has found itself with its own four-year "university," usually not very good at all, and usually sporting a high percentage of young men and women who don't belong in a four-year university at all. Louisianians considered this "progress," harboring the politician-encouraged illusion this made them as up-to-date and sophisticated as the Yankees in dem big cities dere in da Nawth.

That, of course, was the case among just the "white" schools. Thanks to the mass insanity spread by ol' Jim Crow, Louisiana also had to support a "separate but equal" (heh, heh, heh) system of higher education for African-Americans. These schools got the crumbs from the white schools' "wish sandwich" (two pieces of bread, and you wish you had some meat -- or resources, as the case may be).

Meanwhile, Louisiana's few state universities worthy of the designation suffered from rampant underfunding and the mediocrity a chronic scarcity of resources brings. The monetary and human-capital "pie" is only so big in a state like the Gret Stet -- even when you're soaking the oil industry -- and the flim-flam men's greatest scam was in slicing that pie into paper-thin pieces while proclaiming a piping-hot educational feast for all.

And the people bought it. Then again, most people's concern for higher ed begins and ends on the sports page of the Daily Blab.

Pray God, those days won't be able to endure the New Austerity, where not only is a mind a terrible thing to waste, but a dollar is too. Pray hard, because legislators' solution to most everything is to make insane across-the-board cuts rather than put somebody's half-assed "Harvard on the Bayou" out of its misery.

1 comment:

Colleen said...

This inspired me to pen a modest proposal for something I think would help LA.