Protesters rally to fight proposed cuts to higher education

Protesters rally to fight proposed cuts to higher education

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - People gathered on the steps of the Louisiana State Capitol on Wednesday to protest potential cuts to higher education.

They disagree with the governor's budget plan to spread $123 million amongst all of the state's public universities and colleges. The amount is $600 million less than last year, which equals an 80 percent cut.

"I'm looking for some soldiers who will join us in the fight," said Sen. Gerald Long, R-Winnfield.

This call for action was organized by statewide college students like Jesse Elliott.

"We cannot be fighting the same fight for the survival of our universities next year and the year after that. It has to change, and it has to change now," said Elliott, a junior from LSUA.

Elliott suggests a way to restore funding by scaling back tax breaks and putting some of that money into higher ed.

Following the rally, students went inside the Capitol, speaking to legislators with the House Appropriations Committee.

"Show us that our faith is not misplaced in this system. Make these changes that we need so that we can protect these institutions," said David Teagle, student president at UNO.

With limited resources, the committee asked students how they feel about possibly combining schools.

"What would be your opinion of consolidation of schools that are close in proximity to each other," asked Rep. Patrick Connick, R-Marrero.

"We're not going to allow any institution to disappear. These institutions represent communities. They represent whole communities of alumni and the students. They go there to be apart of that experience and they carry that with them forever," answered Teagle.

Governor Jindal was in Ruston Wednesday. His office provided the following response to the rally.

"We appreciate all of the students who spoke out today in support of our colleges and universities. It's a great thing when students take part in the democratic process. We have presented a budget that cuts over $500 million in corporate welfare. Our budget prioritizes higher education and healthcare ahead of corporate welfare. There are also additional solutions we are supportive of that will protect higher education."

Also happening at the Capitol Wednesday, the Senate Education Committee passed three bills.

Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, authored SB 267, which would require charter schools to accept more students with disabilities.

"An opportunity to participate or go to charter schools that should be now," Claitor said. "It shouldn't be a year from now. It shouldn't be two years from now. This is an option that we paid public funds to and all the public ought to have a right to go to it, especially kids with disabilities."

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