Musgrove not alone on hot seat
March 28, 2001
Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove isn't the only Deep South chief executive whose desire to become the "education governor" is falling on hard times.
In Alabama, Gov. Don Siegelman, emphatic when he kicked off his campaign for governor three years ago, has seen changes he'd rather have avoided.
Alabama voters rejected his education lottery. An economic downturn has forced him to cut spending for all levels of education. His approval rating in public opinion polls has fallen faster than the state's economy. And university students have picketed the Capitol over his budget cuts and choices for college trustees.
Even his fellow Democrats are piling on: He's bleeding. He's bleeding badly,'' state Rep. Alvin Holmes told his fellow Democrats at a recent party meeting.
A governor who pledged no new state taxes is having to balance the budget by paring programs he championed: the Alabama Reading Initiative, testing of new teachers, and tutorial assistance for the tougher high school graduation exam.
Siegelman called the Legislature into special session in late February to address education funding by shifting money from universities to K-12 schools, but none of his bills passed.
Now, with the lawmakers meeting in regular session, the man who wanted to be known as the education governor'' hasn't come with a Plan B. Instead, he's asking business and civic leaders for ideas.
Alabama House Speaker Pro Tem Demetrius Newton, D-Birmingham, isn't surprised there's no Plan B. He said Siegelman has boxed himself in by telling voters what they want to hear: No new taxes.''
Political operatives in Alabama are convinced Siegelman's political future depends on how long it takes to solve the education funding crisis. They say the longer it goes unsolved, the more Siegleman is hurt.
His fortune is tied to what people have identified as the single most important issue in Alabama education,'' Hubbert said.
In Alabama, the next statewide election comes in 2002 and candidates can start raising money in June. That means anyone considering a race for governor has a few more months to decide.
In Mississippi, the next statewide election is a flag election on April 17. Musgrove has a lot of political capital riding on that election, yet, even as it approaches, the demand for solutions to education woes in Mississippi continues to grow.