News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion
SUNDAY, APRIL 29, 2007


State board still stalling on issues in 2-year system

The Birmingham News recently won the most coveted prize awarded to the nationís newspapers for its articles on corruption and political influence in the state two-year college system.

The tremors from that Pulitzer Prize rumbled through Calhoun Community College on Thursday when the State School Board met there.

The meeting was civil but the tension was high. It was clear that change will take more than Gov. Bob Riley occasionally presiding at a meeting. School board members are in a fight to retain their political muscle.

Although he rarely attends a meeting, Gov. Riley is board president by law. He shows up to cast critical votes or to put the weight of his office behind a proposal.

He wants legislators banned from holding public office while working in public education. He says that is a conflict of interest. He also did not vote to approve a $248,000 contract for interim Chancellor Renee Culverhouse, who is on leave as president of Gadsden State Community College.

The governor also is unhappy that the chancellor questions the cost of his workforce development program.

Board members should be ashamed of putting Ms. Culverhouse in as chancellor given her reported links to the good old boy system that runs the two-year colleges. But board member Ella Bell made the valid point that voters are the final arbitrators of governmental practices. She said if voters are concerned about legislators receiving money from colleges, they can kick the politicians out of office.

That also may be the remedy to the boardís entrenched position of defending the system. Even Chancellor Culverhouse earlier warned employees about leaking more of the two-year systemís problems to the press.

If not for The Newsí hard-hitting articles, there would be no impetus to change. Itís the governor rather than the school board majority who is more interested in addressing the major issues The News exposed.

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