Politicians are fascinated with the BIG idea, something that goes BOOM, something that will make voters stand up and listen. Don’t believe me? Then listen to some of the things Senate pro tem Del Marsh says about education.
On an appointed vs. elected state school board: “If we look at some of the problems we see in education, I think we can track them back to that the elected board isn’t working as smoothly as you like it to.” So the fact that only three other states have a higher poverty rate than Alabama and poverty is the greatest indicator of school and student performance has nothing to do with education in Alabama?
Or what about this doozy, “This proposal would take politics out of K-12 governance.” Really? So you have an elected official, the governor, appoint all the members of a board and these folks must be approved by the senate and you remove politics from the process? And the public is so dumb we are expected to believe such babble?
“Right now they (governor and legislature) have no say in education other that the budget process.” Has he forgotten the Alabama Accountability Act he passed in 2013 that has diverted $145 million from the Education Trust Fund? What abut the charter school law he sponsored in 2015, or his effort this year to abolish the Alabama College & Career Ready standards? This is having no say so in education?
But put aside statements like these, the truth is that neither Marsh, or anyone else I can find in the Montgomery halls of power, are willing to face up to the hard truths that confront education in this state.
If poverty impacts education attainment more than anything else, which it does, when your poverty rate is one of the lowest in the United States, you have your work cut out for you in the classroom. This also translates into the amount of resources available per student.
Right now we are looking at math scores of the top five states according to their scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. These are Wyoming, Virginia, New Jersey, Minnesota and Massachusetts. One list I found says Alabama spends $9,236 per student. How does that compare to the five states we are studying? New Jersey is almost double with $18,402. Then comes Wyoming with $16,442, Massachusetts with $15,593, Minnesota with $12,232 and Virginia with $11,432.
Could there be a correlation? According to the logic of Del. Marsh, there isn’t. Instead, it’s all about having an appointed school board instead of an elected one. It’s all about coming up with another BIG BOOM idea–instead of facing reality. Let’s just be like the ostrich, bury our head in the sand, and don’t confront our real challenges and roadblocks.
Let’s go to another conference put on by Jeb Bush and his Excellence in Education Foundation and do what Jeb did in Florida. Which, as we point out here, ain’t all he would have us believe.
I am familiar with two elementary schools here in Montgomery. They are about four miles from each other. Both are K-5. One has 528 students, the other has 489. The larger has 800 PTA members. The other has ONE parent who belongs to the PTA.
This is the kind of info that speaks volumes about the challenges our schools face. Info that is far more significant than any school board governance plan Del Marsh conjures up or any new strategic plan the state superintendent develops.
Folks, we don’t have failing schools. We have FAILING SCHOOL COMMUNITIES. Plain and simple. Until we see that schools are a key part of community development efforts, we are basically spinning our wheels. Until we come to understand that teachers can not solve all the ills society sends to their classrooms every morning, we will make little meaningful progress. Politicians can cry about the “status quo” until the cows come home, but they are only sticking their head in the sand like the ostrich when they do so.
And claiming we will magically change student performance by changing education governance is just another example of how clueless so many of our elected “leaders” truly are.
Yep, any full-blooded ostrich would feel right at home in Montgomery.