Monday, March 20, 2000
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 114

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March on UH confronts funding issues

UH delegation meets with gathering to answer claims of educational "apartheid"

By Jim Parsons
Daily Cougar Staff

A crowd of several hundred students, administrators and supporters from Texas Southern, Prairie View A&M and UH gathered March 10 at the University Center for a rally calling for more funding for Texas' traditionally black state universities.

The rally followed a march from the TSU campus to UH led by the Rev. Jesse Jackson. A UH delegation consisting of President Arthur K. Smith and other officials and students met the group as it turned from Wheeler Avenue onto Cullen Boulevard at the southwest corner of campus.

Pin Lim/The Daily Cougar

Several hundred students, officials and supporters of Texas Southern University, Prairie View A&M and UH marched down Cullen Boulevard on March 10 to call for equal state funding for all Texas universities.

"Rev. Jackson has often used the term 'Rainbow Coalition.' We're proud to welcome you to the university whose student body is the living embodiment of 'Rainbow Coalition,'" Smith said, emphasizing the diversity of UH's student population.

The speakers stressed that the rally was not only an attempt to get additional funding for TSU and Prairie View, but for all state universities.

"With your support ... we can make sure that funding is equal between TSU, Prairie View, UH, UT-Austin and A&M-College Station," said state Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston. Coleman's district includes both the UH and TSU campuses.

"I've said this before, and I'll say it again: There are two schools that get everything: UT-Austin and A&M-College Station," Coleman said.

Jackson, who spent Thursday touring both campuses and leading an evening rally at the Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, urged the students to make a difference using their voting power.

"Hands that once picked lettuce, hands that once picked cotton, will now pick senators and presidents," he said.

Jackson reiterated the comments he made the day before the march during a press conference at TSU, and in late February at a meeting of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board's civil rights committee comparing alleged underfunding of black universities to an uneven athletic playing field.

"Today, we seek to even the playing field, to make real the American dream," Jackson said. "When the playing field is even and the rules are public and the goals are clear, we can all make it."

The funding allegations center around the "Texas Plan," which the state government formed almost 20 years ago to correct instances of underfunding at TSU and Prairie View A&M. TSU student leaders said the school has been underfunded since its founding in 1947, claiming the state owes TSU at least $300 million.

"When I ride down Scott Street and look at UH on one side and look at TSU on the other, I see two school systems under one state flag and in one nation," Jackson said. "On one side, the grass is green, the flowers are blossoming, the research is abundant, and the growth is phenomenal.

"On the other side, inadequate computers, old dormitories, not enough teacher pay," he said. "We want equal protection and equal funding."

Jackson is calling Gov. George W. Bush to convene a special session of the state Legislature -- which is not scheduled to meet until next year -- and urge legislators to change the way the schools are funded.

The source of some of the protesters' data remains unclear, however.

For example, proponents of equal funding, including Jackson, have claimed the state spends $14,000 per student at traditionally majority schools vs. $11,000 per student at minority schools. But state budget figures show that TSU receives a larger portion of state funding per student than UH does -- $4,916 per capita in general revenue at TSU as opposed to $3,620 at UH.

No one at TSU was able to explain the source of the larger figures to The Daily Cougar.

And although Jackson had said he did not accuse Bush of causing the alleged funding discrepancy when he spoke at UH on Feb. 28, the mood at the March 10 march and rally was strongly accusatory toward the Republican presidential front runner.

"I want to thank each and every one of you ... because you have made this a demonstration of power," said Houston City Councilman and Mayor Pro Tempore Jew Don Boney. "Even the governor cannot be confused by his own rhetoric."

Boney then led the crowd in a chant: "George W. Bush, you can't hide, we charge you with school apartheid."

The next move in the campaign for equal funding has not been announced, although several marchers suggested a protest might be staged at the Governor's Mansion in Austin.

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