Letters to the Editor

House speaker doesn't get it

During the recent session of the Louisiana Legislature, House Speaker Jim Tucker, R-New Orleans, and his hand-picked Chairman of Appropriations Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, fought mightily to inflict severe and destructive cuts on higher education, doing little to nothing to mitigate this budget problem.

I understand the need for cuts given the current budget forecasts, but it was Speaker Tucker’s angry tirade against the state’s colleges and universities that revealed how little respect our purported leaders hold for higher education in Louisiana, and how little understanding they have for the critical need to properly invest in higher education. In his fury, he made all sorts of negative accusations, but basically declared higher education to be dysfunctional.

As a retired university administrator of 46 years, I can say with some authority that he is right. Higher education in Louisiana is dysfunctional. It is so because of short-sighted, arrogant politicians like Tucker who devalue and insult the most important economic development engine driving this state. His immature demagoguery is an unpleasant tactic that attempts to justify severe cuts on the very colleges and universities that produced people such as himself. This under-funding ultimately cheats our young people from getting the best education possible.

His relish for unnecessarily debilitating higher education is ironic, as he was one of the prime leaders of the move to triple his own legislative pay, an effort rejected by the citizens of Louisiana. Tucker seems to believe that our campuses can adequately educate our people and be nationally competitive on the same short budgets of yesteryear. Thankfully, Senate President Joel Chaisson, D-Destrehan, and Senate Finance Chairman Mike Michot, R-Lafayette, had the foresight and courage to mitigate the severe cuts to higher education, forcing Tucker and company to come to the negotiation table.

I highly recommend that Gov. Bobby Jindal rein Tucker in as quickly as possible or he will find that instead of retaining and bringing our best and brightest home, he will be the governor saying to our best and brightest, “Last one to leave, please turn out the lights.”