Monday, April 21, 2014

No More Duck Wrestling in Louisiana

A Real Plan for Higher Education

Dayne Sherman
April 21, 2014
Column / 700 words

Did you hear about the new bill to make “duck wrestling” the Louisiana state sport? It will honor Duck Dynasty, the popular reality TV program based in West Monroe.

No, this is not a bill filed this year, but don't be surprised if it's filed next year. In Louisiana, politics is entertainment. If it's not Huey Long leading the LSU band in Tiger Stadium, then it's Gov. Edwin W. Edwards, known as a “wizard under the sheets,” unlike former Klansman David Duke, a wizard wearing sheets.

The latest imbroglio with freshman Rep. Vance McAllister, R-Swartz, the “Kissing Congressman,” is a mere sideshow. It ranks right there with “chicken boxing,” the Bible as the state book, convicted felon Edwin Edwards running for Congress at 86, “Sinator” David Vitter's “very serious sin,” and Gov. Bobby Jindal being parodied by an Iranian woman on Saturday Night Live.

Louisiana politics is nothing more than a comedy routine.

At home, however, we have problems, serious ones. The Jindaleconomic miracle” is gifting the next governor with a billion dollar shortfall for the state budget beginning on July 1, 2015, just a few months before Bobby leaves office. Could this be a coincidence?

Keep in mind that $700 million has been cut from funding to Louisiana higher education, 80 percent of state dollars. Likewise, recall that midyear cuts were announced at 6:30 PM on Friday, April 4. It's being called a “spending freeze,” but it's a midyear cut.

Since 2008, I have seen almost nothing come from of the Legislature to fight the destruction of higher education in Louisiana. No, gun auctions on college campuses won't help. Thanks, but no thanks, Rep. Chris Broadwater, R-Hammond. HB 244 is no help at all.

Sure, there has been some entertainment such as the WISE Plan, an unfunded scam to keep university leadership quiet, allow for some positive PR spin for the governor, and provide more meddling in the affairs of state colleges and universities by Jindal's minions. An alleged money pot of $40 million is a pittance compared to the $700 million of vaporized support.

The one legitimate plan I have seen is HB 142, a bill filed by Jerome “Dee” Richard, I-Thibodaux, and championed by Treasurer John Neely Kennedy. In short, the law would call for a 10 percent reduction in contracts per state agency and would reroute the $500 million saved as revenue earmarked for higher education. All of this with no new taxes.

Why do you suppose very little has been said in favor of HB 142 by college leaders?

I suspect they'll be fired for supporting it. It's simple. I know it, the leaders know it, and now readers know it. College presidents don't have to receive a memo from Jindal to see the handwriting on the wall.

Remember, most major leaders of Louisiana higher education showed up for a staged announcement of the WISE Plan on January 21 in Baton Rouge. The camera lights must have blinded the chancellors and presidents to reality. Perhaps it was just Jindal making a rare appearance in the state that stunned the leaders into happy submission.

A few Louisiana higher education advocates pine for the good old days when we had the Stelly Tax Plan, which gave stable funding for state government. But most of this was trashed in 2008 by Jindal and his lapdog legislators. I want to be clear: The Stelly Plan is never coming back. It's over. Move along.

HB 142 is a real plan for higher education. The WISE Plan and the activities of the Louisiana Legislature are mere comic relief cloaked in the trappings of democracy.

Louisiana higher education needs a funding plan. We can do without duck wresting and the unWISE Plan.

Dayne Sherman resides in Ponchatoula, Louisiana. He covers the South like kudzu and promises that he never burned Atlanta. He is the author of Welcome to the Fallen Paradise: A Novel. His website is

Dayne Sherman, Writer & Speaker
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