The staff editorial is the majority opinion of The Murray State News Editorial Board.
[The camera cuts to GOV. MATT BEVIN, a mask pulled from his face and thousands of dollars in his hand.]
BEVIN: “And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids!”
[The screen goes dark as ATTORNEY GENERAL ANDY BESHEAR high-fives SCOOBY-DOO, and members of the Kentucky Supreme Court cheer].
That scene is what we hope happened Sept. 22 when the court ruled that Gov. Bevin’s cuts to higher education were unconstitutional. After more than half a year stressing over the governor’s decisions and facing the consequences of them, students at Kentucky’s public universities should take a moment to celebrate.
We’ve had quite the ride with this issue, and it’s been an involved battle. When we joined Kentucky State and other students to protest the proposed cuts to higher education in February, we heard again and again that our efforts didn’t matter.
When the governor officially passed the budget in April, that reminder rang through our heads as we looked toward defeat.
And as we geared up to pay higher tuition costs and face cuts to programming, staff and resources, it was clear that Bevin had won and all of the hard work was in vain.
Now, as we near midterms, the Supreme Court’s ruling has become a light in the dark. But we must celebrate warily – this isn’t a clear-cut victory or loss for anyone yet.
Attorney General Andy Beshear, who rallied with the students in February, called on Bevin to release the $18 million he illegally withheld from universities. For Murray State, one of the eight universities affected, our fraction of that equals $960,000.
Despite the ruling and aggressive action from politicians like Beshear, though, it’s uncertain whether or not we will actually receive the money we’re due. Currently, that $18 million might as well be sitting in the Disney Vault. Bevin has 20 days to make a decision about his next steps, and according to a report from Cn2, he’s in the process of “looking at [the] options.” It’s unclear what options there are besides admitting guilt and releasing the funds, but the 20-day period will no doubt be arduous and dramatic.
If we’re playing best case scenario and we do get that money returned to us, where will it go? Unfortunately, the statement the university released was fittingly vague and noncommittal: “Today’s Kentucky Supreme Court decision represents a sum of $960,000 that was included in the previous fiscal year’s appropriation for Murray State University but rescinded from the final quarterly allotment. As we do with all state funds, if these funds are released, the monies will be used to advance the rigor, relevance and excellence of our academic programs for the benefit of our students.”
Advancing relevance? What a relief – we were worried the funds might actually go to something specific, like restoring cut programs, department funds, salaries or incomplete renovations.
Unfortunately, we can almost count on our new tuition model staying right where it is. Because the 4.5 percent cuts were not included in our current biennium budget, they can’t be restored and are not part of the $960,000 we’re owed, Adrienne King said.
If we must wait 20 days to even get a clear statement from the governor, how long will it be until we discover where our funds, if returned, will land? In this waiting period, we must be as vigilant and demanding as we were in February on the steps of the Capitol. We have to demand that the university release detailed plans and be as transparent as possible. If these funds aren’t used properly to restore what had to be broken – or if we cannot even be confident in what they’re being used for – we haven’t done our job as meddling kids, and Bevin has gotten away with the ultimate crime.