Former LSU System President John Lombardi. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Saturday, May 12, 2012 3:15 PM
Eliminating some of the red tape that universities and colleges have to deal with would be a benefit to higher education in Louisiana.
That is the goal of House Bill 395 in the Legislature. It is intended to clarify the relationship between the Board of Regents, the state’s higher education policymaker, and the different management boards overseeing the Southern, LSU, University of Louisiana and Louisiana Community and Technical College systems.
The bill, approved recently by the House Education Committee, would give more control to the Board of Regents in determining how Louisiana’s college systems spend their state funding allocations.
The opponents of the bill contend it would turn the Regents into a “super board,” rendering the other university management boards irrelevant. But is that so bad? Do these multiple layers of bureaucratic boards really help higher education in Louisiana? Past experience would seem to argue that the answer to that question is no.
Rep. Thomas Cormody, R-Shreveport, the bill’s sponsor, said the legislation’s intent is to make the different boards better respect the Board of Regents’ policy intentions.
“They are supposed to be the captain of the ship; they set the direction,” Carmody said.
Carmody’s companion bill, House Bill 396, was also approved by the committee. It proposes a constitutional amendment to establish the relationship between the Board of Regents and the management boards.
Backers of the legislation voted to require the management boards distribute money within their systems based solely on the Regents’ formula instead of shifting money around as they see fit.
An amendment by Carmody to allow the management boards discretion to spend 5 percent of their state allocations as they wish was approved by the committee.
Recently fired LSU System President John Lombardi said the two bills would be “radically restructuring how you manage higher education in Louisiana.”
“If you want to create a super board in the Regents, then I think you need to pass a constitutional amendment for that,” he said.
Another opponent of the bill, State Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite, said neither the Regents nor the system management boards truly have the final say on how state dollars are spent because the state Legislature ultimately decides how much money to allocate to higher education.
Allowing the institutions to be rewarded for performing well is the key to the issue, said State Commissioner of Higher Education John Purcell.
“It’s like traditional behavior modification,” he said. “Institutions are working hard to get their money, they should be rewarded.”
Louisiana government in general is too big and bureaucratic, a trait it shares with the federal government. Doing things that make higher education more manageable and less bureaucratic is a step in the right direction.
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Dennis Spears, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.