Graham calls for more funding

Chuck Graham

Chuck Graham

Virginia Fairchild

In times like these, when it seems money can only be found at the end of a rainbow or in another universe, it’s nice to have hope.

And, in this case, hope disguises itself in the form of a gesture.

In a Feb. 19 meeting of the House Appropriations- Education Committee, Rep. Chuck Graham (D-Columbia), former chair of the committee, along with other Democratic members of the committee, introduced substitute amendments to “restore every institution of higher education to ’02 funding levels” for FY 2004.

College President Julio León said during the last session the Coordinating Board for Higher Education conducted a report on where college funding should be. The Board recommended $1.8 million more funding for Missouri Southern.

Graham said Rep. Kathlyn Fares (R-Webster Groves) chair of the committee, voted to cut budgets for every higher education institution.

“We believe higher education funding has been cut too much, and here’s where we need to stop the bleeding,” he said. “Cutting funding is just going to make colleges less affordable to students.”

Fares said her committee was “charged” with a job of cutting due to a downturn in the state’s economy. The committee was given a target to meet, so Fares proposed a 0.25 percent cut for every institute of higher education in Missouri.

“It was necessary to do the trimming,” she said.

To combat the proposal Graham sponsored a substitute amendment that would grant Missouri Southern $1.8 million in funding, as well as more money for Missouri Western State College and Southwest Missouri State University.

“I know that he did it because he knows there are some inequities in funding,” León said.

The substitute amendments were voted down and Fares won on party lines, Graham said.

Fares said no person on her committee wanted to cut education; she too believes higher education has been cut enough. She said the state “couldn’t even entertain” Graham’s amendments, and she should have put a stop to them prior to the vote since they had no corresponding place in the budget.

The substitutes by Graham and his fellow minority democrats would not have even been possible because the money doesn’t exist, Fares said. She said there were Republicans in her committee who had to vote down on substitutes that would benefit institutions in the areas they serve because the money isn’t there.

“He did this just so he could have on record every Republican who voted against it,” she said. “It was political bandstanding at its worst.”

She said she hopes this will be the only reduction to higher education for the FY 2004 budget.

“I have spoken to a few institutions, and most are very happy (with how little the committee had to cut),” she said.

In January 2003, Graham was reported to have said he wanted to close Missouri Southern down to save money in the budget crisis.

“I never said that,” Graham said.

He confirmed that asking for additional funding for Southern was not at all related to the articles claiming he wanted to shut the College down.

León said he believes Graham’s gesture was a way to let the College know he doesn’t have anything against it.

“He has said that he really didn’t have any intention of closing the school, just calling attention to the fiscal crisis,” León said. “I accept that, but I also appreciate, very much, the gesture that he made to increase our appropriation.”