Today is a red letter day of sorts as I have now had 10,000 “hits” on this blog since beginning it in late April.   No clue as to whether this should be considered good, bad or somewhere in between.  But that hardly matters as I think it’s great.  Especially that when it comes to today’s technology, I am certainly a 2-lane road in a 6-lane world.

To everyone who has stopped by.  THANK YOU SO MUCH.

When I started this effort my intention was to tell the side of public education in Alabama that too often does not get exposure.  To talk about real students, real teachers, real principals and real schools.  Someone has said that the “farther from a classroom a decision is made, the worse the decision.”   I totally agree and find it unfortunate that too many policy decisions are made by people who don’t visit many schools.

I ran into a great example yesterday (July 10) that vividly points out how detached some folks are from the “real world” of education.   I spoke to a group of educators about 100 miles from Montgomery, then hung around for lunch.  A state representative dropped by and made some comments to the crowd.

He first bragged about Alabama’s “Rolling Reserve” act and the fact we have not had proration of an education budget in several years.  As he spoke, I thought about my friend Debbie Deavours, principal at Berry Elementary in Fayette County and her struggles to just keep her school doors open.

(The Rolling Reserve act was passed by the legislature to prevent proration, which occurred when revenues were overestimated for the Education Trust Fund and expenditures had to be slashed substantially toward the end of a school year in order to stay within the budget.  Put simply, the Rolling Reserve looks at a certain time frame in arrears, figures what the average revenue is during that period and caps ETF at that number.  Say you made $30,000 ten years ago and $40,000 last year.  And over that period your average income was $35,000.  So you decide that next year you will not budget for more than $35,000 in expenses, regardless of how much income you have.  The remainder goes into savings.)

While this has some merit on paper, what it actually does is insure that schools are in perpetual proration.  They are never able to catch up to where they need to be.  And all the while the reserve grows.

It’s about like someone bragging about how much they have in savings, while telling their kids they can’t go to the dentist because they can’t afford it.

So I asked the legislator to tell the group how the Rolling Reserve was helping schools and teachers when so many are like Debbie Deavours and just scraping by.  He responded that the state could not be expected to pay for everything and that the local community should raise more money.  Interestingly enough, Fayette County does a better job of providing local school funding than the country he represents.

He also said that since his part of the state has good schools they will not be impacted by charter schools–but since Birmingham, Montgomery and Mobile have bad schools, they need charters.  I reminded him that Montgomery is home to LAMP, a high school that is consistently recognized as one of the nation’s best, and that Mobile has had more Torchbearer schools than any other district in the state.

I do not mean to imply that this legislator is a bad guy at all.  From all I know, he works hard at his job.  But when it comes to knowing what is going on in Alabama schools, he is woefully uninformed.

Which means that we all must re-double our efforts to get the message of public education to policymakers.

Thanks for joining me in this effort by letting others know about this blog.