Equal cutbacks request denied

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 16, 2001

Staff Writer

Those in higher education are optimistic the Alabama Supreme Court’s recent decision is a temporary setback.

On Wednesday, the high court refused to order Gov. Don Siegelman to apply state budget cuts equally to K-12 and higher education.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

In an 8-0 decision, the justices denied the request for a clarification of their Feb. 27 order in the legal fight over state education budget cuts.

"It really doesn’t change the way Troy State University’s leadership feels about the issue," said Tom Davis of TSU’s public affairs office.

Higher education, he said, is fighting for "equal treatment for all segments" of the education community.

"We’re optimistic the final ruling will be favorable for all of education," Davis said.

During the month of February, K-12 and higher education leaders converged on Montgomery as lawmakers met for a 12-day special legislative session on the budget cuts caused by a 6.2 percent proration declared by the governor. That session ended with no solution.

In response to the governor’s declaration, the Alabama Association of School Boards, Pike County Board of Education and the Mobile County Board of Education, were part of a suit filed, asking Montgomery Circuit Judge Tracey McCooey to stop proration.

She ruled state funding for some areas of K-12 funding, including salaries, cannot be cut.

Although John Key, superintendent of Pike County Schools, was involved in the initial suit, he sympathizes with higher education.

"I’m not wishing them to get more proration," Key said. "I’m just wishing we would get less."

While higher education considers the announcement a setback, Attorney General Bill Pryor liked the Supreme Court’s ruling.

"I am pleased that the Supreme Court, by an 8-0 vote, denied the universities’ motion to clarify the court’s earlier stay of Judge McCooey’s order enjoining proration," Pryor said.

"It is my firm belief that any decision about proration rests first with the Legislature and then, in carrying out the will of the Legislature, the governor."

Pryor said he wants to end litigation "designed to intrude upon the province of the Legislature" and pledges to work with all the branches of state government "to ensure that the law is upheld and enforced fairly and impartially."

Siegelman has said, based on Pryor’s advisory opinion, salaries cannot be included in budget cuts

But, university officials disagree because the current plan would put them at about a 12 percent proration, compared to the 3.64 percent for K-12.