Speaking Truth to Power: Higher Education Edition
In today's Charleston Gazette, two Marshall University professors should get a slap on the back for speaking truth to power. In a forum on cuts to higher education spending, the two professors had the following reactions when Delegate Nancy Guthrie and other legislators said they couldn't raise taxes on coal and soda to fund higher education budget gaps because of powerful corporate interests:
"These meetings are supposed to be a way for you to get input from us -- you said explicitly that you need our ideas -- and some fairly reasonable, straightforward ideas have been presented here, and the reaction is, 'well, we can't do that. That's not possible politically,'" said Dan Holbrook, chairman of Marshall's history department.
"I guess I'm saddened that our elected representatives find this sort of thing impossible because they're -- let me put this harshly -- 'held hostage' by some lobbyists, when the vast majority of the population, if it's presented correctly, would absolutely support paying slightly more for goods and services if we got some broad-based future economic development that included support for higher education."
Eldon Larsen, faculty senate chairman at Marshall, said the state's decision for an across-the-board cut showed an inability to prioritize, and a future fund for education does nothing to bolster students and educators hoping to improve futures now.
"We have to decide what's most important in this state. Nobody in the legislature is willing to make the hard decisions because it's 'too political,'" he said. "When are you going to stop being political -- and I know you can't -- and start making the hard decisions about what's important, instead of treating everything the same when it's not."
Not sure I could have said it better myself (minus the Future Fund statement, we need that!).
For the last couple of years we have been a lone voice on the issues surrounding state budget cuts, so it is nice to see someone else pointing out the truism that the state budget is all about our state's priorities. And, as we've pointed out time and time again, these budget cuts were never necessary. In fact, they were self-inflicted.
The good news is that our elected leaders can reverse course by either ending these tax cuts or by finding additional revenue. Of course this won't happen if they fail to grasp that you can't have a strong economy without a an educated workforce. And that you can't have an educated workforce by continuing to cut business taxes and hiding behind lobbyists.