Washington – The House passed an amendment Monday proposed by Rep. Artur Davis,D-Birmingham,that restored $3.5 million in funding to the 18 historically black land-grant universities across the nation.
The 2004 Agriculture Appropriations Bill would have cut federal funding to historically black land-grant universities such as Alabama A&M and Tuskegee in Alabama by $200,000 to $300,000 each. State matching funds to the black universities would have also been reduced by $120,000 to $180,000.
Funding cuts for majority white land-grant universities such as Auburn were minor.
“We have said since discovering this issue several months ago that it was a matter of fundamental fairness,and I am glad that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle viewed it in the same light,” Davis said in a statement Monday.
N. Joyce Payne,national director for the Advancement of Public Black Colleges,said the money is used for agricultural research and community outreach programs in rural areas of the country.
In a teleconference before the House vote with Davis,Alabama A&M President John T. Gibson said his university near Huntsville uses this money for community outreach programs that give poor rural farmers advice on farming. Universities also use the funds to educate math teachers and to prevent rural health problems,said Clinton Bristow,chairman of the Council of 1890s and president of Alcorn State University in Mississippi.
The black land-grant universities are called 1890s because of their establishment in 1890,whereas majority white land-grant universities were founded in 1862,earning them the title 1862s.
The amendment is the first legislation proposed by Davis to pass the House since he joined Congress six months ago,no simple task in the Republican controlled House.
Bristow said Congress has already authorized $25 million in funding for each of two research and community outreach programs at historically black land-grant universities. Only about half that amount has been appropriated,causing supporters of the funding to see today's action as an important step in reaching the $50 million mark.