Has the federal government found one more excuse to sue Alabama?
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.
State Sen. Sam Givhan (R-Huntsville), an Auburn University graduate, said on Thursday's broadcast of Huntsville radio WVNN's "The Dale Jackson Show," "I think this was just a political tool used by the Biden administration to try to gin up strife."
"This has to do with extension. This has to do with the balance of the extension programs between Auburn and A&M. A few weeks ago maybe now a month ago I had breakfast with or coffee with the President of Alabama A&M and the President of Auburn University at Alabama A&M which is I think only the second time that the President of Auburn had been to Alabama A&M. We had a great meeting," Givhan said. "Talked about lots of things that we can do together but the idea that the state of Alabama is going to write a half-a-billion dollar check to Alabama A&M, I mean that ain't going to happen. I think this was just a political tool used by the Biden administration to try to gin up strife."
Givhan said, "There are some people that are trying to gin up some drama at Alabama A&M within the alumni base."
He said one solution "could look like more programs that actually kind of evolve into education more than just extension."
"I just got back from Virginia Tech looking at a program they have up there that is just incredible and I wish Auburn would just copy it. I could conceive of a situation where it would be a joint venture between Alabama A&M and Auburn to train Alabama's next generation of farmers which by the way are getting pretty old."
Givhan continued, "A&M probably gets some more love in the budget on the extension, but I don't see any drastic changes coming."
"This is all political. I mean, we're not talking about capital projects here. It's not like back when we had the lawsuit when I was in high school or college where they were litigating over the fact that Alabama State and Alabama A&M had not gotten the money that other state colleges had had and there had to be some makeups there to build them some dorm rooms and some buildings. That's not what we're talking about. That's not what extension has got. There is some capital involved there but we're not talking about big expansive footprints. We're talking about salaries and expenditures for extension," Givhan said. "The way the extension has typically worked in this state is Alabama A&M and I guess at some level Tuskegee (University) which is while a private school still a land-grant institution. Now, it's gotten to be really we're talking about just A&M and Auburn. Alabama A&M has been the urban arm of that so they would go take care of people whether they had shrub issues or something like that, worms in your yard, gardens in urban areas, and stuff like that. Auburn has been more of the farming operation which is going to have more travel expense to get out to the area, presumably more personnel so these are monies that have been spent. Auburn has got a bigger footprint. You just don't make that up by saying, 'Oh, we're going to flip flop it now.' Or, 'Here's a large sum of money.' I'd say while there's a turf war and there always has kind of been a turf war because Alabama A&M has asked for more money. They come in and say, 'Hey, we'd like some more money for this.' It's relatively a spark and the federal government is trying to throw gas on the spark and make something out of it that is way more than is there."
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