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Troy University students Liz Scroggins, left, and Sonya Hornsby at a rally to support higher education held at the Statehouse in Montgomery on Thursday. Gov. Bob Riley recommended the Legislature approve his $6.6 billion education budget and an $850 million bond issue for school construction and technology.
AP photo by Jamie Martin
Troy University students Liz Scroggins, left, and Sonya Hornsby at a rally to support higher education held at the Statehouse in Montgomery on Thursday. Gov. Bob Riley recommended the Legislature approve his $6.6 billion education budget and an $850 million bond issue for school construction and technology.

Riley, students rally for more higher ed funds

MONTGOMERY (AP)— The Statehouse steps took on the energy of a college sports event Thursday, complete with bands, cheerleaders and noisemakers, but it was legislators — not the football players — on the receiving end of barked orders.

Gov. Bob Riley joined hundreds of college students to tell legislators that it's time they passed a bond issue that would increase funding for higher education — especially after they voted to give themselves an $18,790 pay hike at the start of the session.

"For the last two years I have tried to get the Legislature to support a capital project not only for higher ed, but for K-12. Every time they've said 'Now's not the time, governor,' " Riley told the hyped crowd of more than 2,000 that gathered for Higher Education Rally Day.

"We have 660 million dollars in a rainy day fund, we've given pay raises, we have met all of these other requests that have been made, but the one thing that we need is to pass this bond issue," he said. "Get it done this year and put that $230 million where it belongs — where it will do the most good for economic development in Alabama and that's higher ed."

Riley budget

Riley has recommended the Legislature approve his $6.6 billion education budget and an $850 million bond issue for school construction and technology.

Under Riley's recommendation, higher education will receive $234 million — or 29 percent — from the bond issue and K-12 will get $616 million, or 71 percent.

Gordon Stone, executive director of the Higher Education Partnership, said the university lobbying group wants 30-33 percent of the bond money to go to higher ed.

Stone led the rally Thursday and played the role of football coach, stoking cheers from the crowd that included Alabama and Jacksonville State University bands and Troy University football players.

"Any time you can put a face to the message, it truly does make a difference," he said in encouraging the students "rock the Statehouse" by visiting with and contacting their legislators.

Funding work force

Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom said Alabama needs to make sure its students' college education is "fully and adequately" funded to retain a strong work force.

"There's a place for you here in Alabama so you don't have to leave and go to Atlanta, Nashville, New York City or LA," he said. "You can stay here and get the kind of job or career that you deserve right here in your home state."

Speaker of the House Seth Hammett, Rep. Richard Lindsey, D-Centre, and Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, all spoke of getting their educations through Alabama universities and pledged to support increased funding.

Troy University freshman Brian Young said he hopes the lawmakers make good on their promises.

"I want to see some funding for Troy — our school is growing so fast and we need some new buildings," the 19-year-old sports management major said, adding that high textbook prices are another problem. "I work during the summer to pay for my books and get some help from my parents, but paying for books is something students really need help with."

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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