The March 3rd vote on Amendment One, that will switch Alabama to an appointed state school board if approved, is not about education. It is about control. The old-fashioned kind that is fueled by lots and lots of money.
How else do you explain that special interests, which have shown little interest in public education, have raised $446,000 to support a “yes” vote?
If approved, Amendment One will take away the right of the people of the state to elect their state school board and instead, allow the state senate to have the final say in who sits on the board and who is hired as state school superintendent.
Proponents of this amendment never mention that it will disenfranchise voters. Instead, they say that Alabama will join a list of states with an appointed board. But again, they don’t tell the whole truth which is that Amendment One would make Alabama the ONLY state in the U.S. to allow legislators to have the final say in who controls our public schools.
We have had an elected board since voters approved an amendment in 1969 to go from an appointed to an elected board. Now some of the major special interest groups in the state want to go back to a system once considered a failure.
Folks like the Alabama Farmers Federation. which is coordinating the campaign, and Great Southern Wood have contributed $100,000 each. Manufacture Alabama and the Alabama Association of Realtors gave $50,000. Blue Cross/Blue Shield, the Alabama Forestry Association and the plaintiffs law firm of Cunningham Bounds LLC added $25,000 each. Millennium Health Services, NHS Management LLC, Northport Health Services, Northport Holding LLC and Senior Care Pharmacy gave $10,000.
However, the education community is staunchly opposed to Amendment One.
Because since the Republican supermajority took control of the legislature in 2010, public education has been under attack.
Just look at the record.
Begin with the A-F school report card bill passed in 2012. If this bill serves a useful purpose, I have yet to find a decent educator who knows what it is. It has put emphasis on devoting too much attention to what is being tested, rather than what a child may need to truly be educated.
In 2013 we passed the tax break bill dubiously called the Alabama Accountability Act that has now diverted $155 million from the Education Trust Fund to give a few thousand students scholarships to private schools and done precious little to help our most challenged students.
And in 2015 we passed a charter school law that has ignored accountability, winked at provisions of the law itself and created an on-going disaster in Washington County.
If Alabama education has had a jewel in its crown, it is the Alabama Reading Imitative started 20 years ago. Its success attracted attention throughout the country. Even Massachusetts, considered by most to be among the very best school systems in the nation, came to Alabama to check out ARI.
The 2009 Education Trust Fund had $64 million designated for ARI. But by 2018 it was $41 million–a cut of 35 percent.
And while we hear a lot of talk about teacher shortages, what did the supermajority do? They cut benefits for new teachers.
Now special interests with deep pockets want us to ignore all of this. They want us to give up our right to vote while they try to get the best school board money can buy.
Alabama should vote NO on Amendment One. Tell the special interests our kids are not for sale.