A recent letter from U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack to Gov. Kay Ivey alleges the state should begin closing a "financial gap" of almost $527 million due to "underinvestment" in Alabama A&M University compared to Auburn University over the last three decades.

Cardona and Vilsack told Ivey in the letter, "The Departments of Education and Agriculture, working with your state budget office, would welcome hosting a workshop to fully examine the funding data that we shared in this letter. We are committed to working with you to bring balance to the state investments in institutions that have been severely underfunded through the years."

The letter was one of 16 sent to various red state governors in September alleging land-grant historically black colleges and universities have been underfunded over the last 30 years compared to predominantly white land grant institutions.

Cardona and Vilsack cited the Second Morrill Act of 1890 in their letter as requiring that "states choosing to open a second land-grant institution to serve Black students, provide an equitable distribution of funds between their 1862 and 1890 land-grant institutions." 

Ivey responded to Cardona and Vilsack recently, calling the law unconstitutional.

"In the letter, you cite an unconstitutional, Jim Crow-era federal law from 1890 that allowed states to establish so-called 'separate but equal' universities for the education of African Americans. That law reflects a dark time in our Nation's history, and I am proud of the work that has been done since that time to shed the injustice of 'separate but equal' and to create opportunities for all students no matter their race to learn and thrive in Alabama," Ivey said in a letter responding to Cardona and Vilsack. "As the United States Supreme Court has recognized, "things have changed in the South." We are "separate but equal" no longer. I am proud of the important work being done at both Auburn University and Alabama A&M University. My administration is committed to enhancing educational opportunities for all Alabamians, and I have been proud to sign into law the largest education budgets in Alabama history during my tenure as Governor–generous budgets that help all our public universities thrive."

Ivey continued, "Please send my State Budget Office any data or other written materials you would like us to review. In the meantime, I am confident that, as long as I am Governor, Alabama will never return to an era of "separate but equal" when it comes to higher education funding decisions."

2023 9 28 Cardona Vilsack Re Alabama a&M Auburn by Caleb Taylor on Scribd

To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email caleb.taylor@1819News.com.

Don't miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.