From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
May 25, 2006
Contact: Kenneth Besserman, 512-463-0113

Senator Rodney Ellis and Representative Garnet Coleman Call for Fair Funding of Texas Southern University and Prairie View A&M University

(HOUSTON, TEXAS) -- Texas State Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) and Texas State Representative Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) held a news conference on the campus of Texas Southern University (TSU) today calling for state officials to continue their efforts to strengthen the Texas' historically black universities.

Standing in front of a statue of former Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, one of TSU's most prominent graduates and Texas' first black woman State Senator, Senator Ellis quoted the late Congresswoman Jordan, "What the people want is simple. They want an America that is good as its promise."

"Today, Representative Coleman and I are calling on our fellow leaders, both state and federal, Democrat and Republican, to take a close look at the promises they've made, the promises they have kept and those they have not kept when it comes to strengthening education and ending vestiges of segregation in our two historically black universities in Texas."

"Our historically black universities have traditionally been under-funded and neglected compared to other schools across the state," said Rep. Coleman. "We call on our state's leadership to continue the commitment that was made to right that wrong by treating TSU and Prairie View A&M like the flagship universities that were intended to be."

"We are also here to congratulate TSU and Prairie View A&M on the progress that has been made to bring quality education programs to these students among us. Representative Coleman and I are working with Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee to see that this progress continues and ensure that racial funding disparities for higher education in Texas will some day be a thing of the past," Ellis said.

Referring to a historical timeline, Senator Ellis and Representative Coleman recalled a 1970 federal lawsuit that marked the beginning of an investigation by the Office for Civil Rights of continuing discrimination in higher education in six states. In 1983, Texas negotiated with the federal government to come up with a plan to address the problem of discrimination in Texas' historically black universities.

The first "Texas Plan" pledged to provide comparable funding for our historically black universities, to resolve disparities in enrollment, retention and graduation rates for minorities, to increase minority faculty and to increase the number of minorities appointed or elected to governing boards.

Ellis said the first "Texas Plan" was voluntary, never fully funded and never fully implemented. Later two more Texas Plans were adopted and approved by different Governors from different political parties and they too lacked the dollars needed to make them a reality and while some progress was made, the Office for Civil Rights still found serious disparities in funding at TSU and Prairie View compared to other state universities.

In 2000, former Governor George Bush signed a fourth plan called the "Texas Priority Plan," in which the state made another round of recommendations and for the first time in nearly three decades the state funded the plan.

Senator Ellis pointed with pride to examples of recent OCR state funded programs that have improved the quality of education at Texas' historically black colleges. He sited construction of four new Prairie View A&M campus buildings, including the School of Architecture, and The Colleges of Nursing, Juvenile Justice and Electrical Engineering. He also listed OCR stated funded achievements at TSU which include improved programs in law, pharmacy, business and educator preparation. TSU has also developed ten new degree programs and upgraded facilities including contraction of a new Public Affairs building.

Senator Ellis also thanked Mr. Ted Shaw with the NAACP, Mr. Wade Henderson with the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and Mr. Raymond Pierce, Dean of North Carolina Central University Law School for their legal advice.

"Unfortunately we need not look far to find evidence of funding disparities, which sadly, add up to more empty promises for these students. So again, Representative Coleman and I pledge to continue to fight for what is right and we will all be proud to look back up and Congresswoman Jordan and say we gave the people what they want and that is what makes America as good as its promise."