David Tarwater served for six years on the Baldwin County board of education. He did not seek re-election this year. In October, he introduced a resolution, which the board passed, calling for the repeal of the Alabama Accountability Act. (Baldwin County was the first board to do this. Since then, Mobile, Montgomery, Tallapoosa and Randolph counties have done the same thing.)
Rachel Bryars with the Alabama Policy Institute took Tarwater to task for opposing the accountability act. Tarwater took exception to this attack and responded here.
Let’s look at some of his response:
“Dear Ms. Bryars,
I read your criticism of the Baldwin County school board’s resolution calling for a repeal of the Alabama Accountability Act (AAA). Having been a member of this board at that time, I felt the need to respond.
While running my own business, I put in countless hours in my board position, all to benefit the children of our county. This could be said about any other member of the board as well. I point this out to strongly disagree with your suggestion that our resolution was offered for any other purpose than to benefit students, and the idea that we are choosing “systems over students” is categorically false.
I also offer a response on a few of your other points.
First, to address your data on school funding for Mobile, Montgomery, and Baldwin Counties, there are other factors when looking at these statistics. First, let me point out that school systems received less state monies in 2018 on a per pupil basis than they did in 2007. When we consider inflation, state funding has been cut by 20 percent. Less than ten years ago Baldwin County Schools had to release 1,100 employees because of drastic reductions in state funding. Alabama continues to be way behind in the country in education funding. Our funding per pupil is over $2,000 less than the national average and our K-12 achievement Index ranks 45th in the nation.
To suggest that education funding is where it needs to be for Alabama, and that we should be happy with recent tiny increases, is an insult to our great teachers and faculty. Anything that decreases our already deficient funding of education, which the AAA does, is unacceptable for the students and people of Alabama.
The AAA has meant $5 million less in funding for Baldwin County alone since its adoption.
Five million dollars could mean more teachers, support staff, technology, and extracurricular programs for our students, the type of things that will allow our schools to be truly world-class places.
My other concern with the AAA is the lack of accountability. Public Schools must report academic success but there are no such requirements for vouchered students.
In response to your biblical example and idea that those opposed to the law do not want students to have the “best learning environment possible”, I feel as if we cannot honestly say that we are caring for ALL of our children if, instead of investing heavily in the schools and communities that have the greatest need, we are choosing to brand them as failing and leaving the vast majority of their students at a disadvantage.
The children of my community deserve better than the Alabama Accountability Act, and that is why I will continue to call for its repeal.
Our children deserve the best, and I hope you will join me in reaching out to your local Board of Education and state legislators and letting them know it is time to repeal this law.”
I know David Tarwater. He is a good guy (even though he pulls for the wrong football team) and I believe he has a much better understanding of public education than anyone at the Alabama Policy Institute.