Saturday, February 27, 2010

An Open Letter to the Georgia General Assembly

If you've read my blog before, you know that the subjects dear to my heart are education and food.  Today I am writing an open letter to the members of Georgia's General Assembly on the more important of those two subjects.
Dear Senators and Representatives:

We are at a critical moment in the future of higher education in Georgia.

I’m sure you know that Governor Perdue has recommended in his budget for the coming fiscal year a cut of nearly $300 million in the appropriation to the University System of Georgia.  According to the Atlanta Constitution last week, you who are elected to the General Assembly are considering cuts of an additional $385 million.

This cannot be allowed to happen because a cut of this magnitude threatens Georgia’s economic future.

Some of you may not know that a study conducted by Georgia Tech in 2003 determined that University System of Georgia students who graduated from 1993 to 1997 contributed $1.25 billion to the state’s economy in 1998 alone, solely because of increased earnings due to their USG degrees.  Imagine how much more University System graduates are contributing to Georgia's economy today.

Although I am a teacher in the University System, I’m not particularly worried about my own job because I’m old enough to retire and spend the rest of my days reading and writing if I need to.  I am worried about our students.  Cuts of the magnitude proposed will mean reductions in faculty and staff throughout the University System.  That, in turn, will mean larger and fewer classes.  Fewer classes will mean delayed graduation, suspended job searches, postponed weddings, and, for some, the end of the dream of a college degree.  Those people won’t be making the contributions to Georgia’s economy that our graduates have made in the past, or their contributions will be delayed, perhaps for years.

Declines in tax income are a grim reality, and cuts have to come from somewhere to keep Georgia’s budget in balance.  I understand that.  I also understand that the General Assembly has a harder job than ever this year to find the cuts necessary to balance the budget.

However, I hope those of you elected to the General Assembly will consider the future implications of this year’s budget and find a way to continue the investment in Georgia’s economic future that is represented by the University System.

With best regards,
Bob Brown
If you want to let your elected representatives know what you think of their plans to decimate higher education in Georgia, you can find information on your elected representatives by starting here: http://www.congress.org/ and put in your ZIP code.  Then fill in your complete address on the next page.  You'll find links to your state senator and state representative just below the information about the governor's office.

Write an actual letter... yes, on paper... and send it to them by fax or even {gasp!} by postal mail.  Do it soon, Monday or Tuesday, because they'll likely be voting on this matter next week.

In your letter, tell your elected representatives how such cuts will affect you personally and those whom you know.  Express politely that you believe education is an investment in Georgia's future, and ask politely that they reconsider priorities in setting the budget for the University System.  (And remember, all they can do is "reconsider priorities."  They cannot borrow money or otherwise make this problem go away.  Be sympathetic to the difficult job they're doing.)

You might also consider writing to Representative Earl Ehrhart, Chairman of House Appropriation Subcommittee on Higher Education, email: earl@ehrhart.4emm.com, and Senator John Wiles, Senate Appropriations Committee – Higher Education, fax: (404) 657-0459.

If you're on Facebook, there's a Facebook group, USG Students for Quality Education, devoted to this issue.  The link is http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=355956350406 or just type "USG Students for Quality Education" into the search block.