From my perspective, the Decatur Daily does a better job of standing up for public education than any other newspaper in the state. They frequently run stories that highlight education activities in north Alabama and their Montgomery reporter, Mary Sell, does a great job of covering education issues at the state level.
And they are not afraid to step up on their editorial page in support of logic and common sense when it comes to public schools. This in spite of the fact that Rep. Terri Collins, who heads the House Education Policy committee, lives in Decatur and often pushes positions that do more tho hard our public schools than help them. For instance, she is the primary reason we have invested countless time and resources to develop the meaningless A-F school report cards.
Here is the latest example of a Decatur Daily editorial that pulls no punches.
When a state GOP executive committee member raised concerns about legislative efforts to erode the authority of the State Board of Education, Republican lawmakers responded with a collective gasp. “Who, us?”
It sounded as if all is cozy between legislators and the leaders of the state’s public schools. GOP Executive Committee member Billy McFarland was either misinformed or just having a bad day when he proposed a resolution that would “denounce any effort to amend, alter or change the method by which members of the Alabama State Board of Education are elected.” McFarland’s statement in an email to fellow committee members that he “recently learned of plans to further reduce our elected State Board of Education’s powers” was baffling, to hear the puzzled response from lawmakers.
Legislators’ denials ring hollow.
Every legislative session since Republicans “stormed the Statehouse” has included legislation that damaged the state’s public schools. Some of it has been purely financial, shifting millions of dollars of non-educational expenses from the General Fund to the Education Trust Fund. Lawmakers also passed the Alabama Accountability Act, which annually drains tens of millions of dollars from public schools to private ones, and did so with no input from the State Board of Education or the education department. Charter school legislation, which largely circumvents the expertise and authority of the State Department of Education, also will drain money from public schools. A legislatively mandated report card system for schools and districts has added enormous burdens on the education department, with no benefit other than creating more obstacles for schools already dealing with high poverty rates.
And as if there was any mystery to the point of these efforts, the House Education Policy Committee chairwoman, a Decatur lawmaker, last session filed a bill seeking to make the state superintendent an appointee of the governor, not of the State Board of Education. That came one year after the same lawmaker sought to remove the state board from the confirmation process of the new charter school commission.
On Monday, Decatur native and former Gov. Albert Brewer died. He was lauded around the state for his service on the Legislature and as governor. It was during Brewer’s administration and through his efforts that the board of education became an elected body, and that it became the appointing authority for the state superintendent. Brewer also increased funding for public schools and increased teacher pay.
Brewer’s efforts to strengthen schools stand in stark contrast to lawmakers’ attacks on public education over the last six years.
Whether McFarland was correct on the specifics, he was certainly correct on the basics. The Legislature has been a persistent and powerful opponent of public schools generally, and the State Board of Education specifically, since 2010.
Thank you Decatur Daily for being a constant voice for the 740,000 students in Alabama public schools.