Both Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon and Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh recently spoke at a meeting of the West Alabama Chamber of Commerce in Tuscaloosa. Here is the coverage provided by the Tuscaloosa News.
McCutcheon and Marsh spoke about urgent needs in infrastructure and education. It was what Marsh said about education that got my attention:
“If you look at lot of problems in the state, it is related to education,” Marsh said.
Marsh hopes for a comprehensive approach that considers needs at every educational level and ways for K-12 and post-secondary education to work together.
“My hope is before the next quadrennium, the governor, whoever he or she maybe, will have a plan that all these entities of education have signed off on and all agreed to a comprehensive plan that best serves that state. And that would help us with the budget process,” Marsh said.
The president pro tempore said he would continue to push the issue.
“There is no single entity, I don’t care what you say, that affects more in this state than education,” Marsh said.”
There is not a single educator in Alabama who disagrees with Senator Marsh. I certainly don’t.
But when you try to match the good Senator’s words to his actions in the last few years you begin to scratch your head. Instead of sitting down with our own educators and trying to understand their perspective and every day challenges, Marsh has latched on to most any lame-brained “education reform” touted by Jeb Bush and his followers or any model piece of legislation cooked up by the American Legislation Exchange Council (ALEC).
For some reason Marsh apparently thinks that Alabama educators are incapable of having good ideas about education policy and that the only worthwhile notions must be hatched a long way from here.
Remember, he has been a strong advocate for the Alabama Accountability Act from day one. This past session he tried hard to amend this bill to allow a very select group of businesses to send their tax dollars for vouchers for private schools instead of supporting public schools. And when the House defeated this effort soundly on the last day of the session, Marsh killed a $41 million supplemental appropriation for schools in retaliation.
And recall the legislation session in 2016 when the senator concocted something he called the RAISE act–with the help of the group StudentsFirst–and ran into a buzz saw of opposition. So much that he never introduced the bill.
He is an advocate of charter schools and loves to talk about “school choice” these days.
Del Marsh holds a powerful position in our legislature. One that could be used to help education in very meaningful ways. But until he shows he is willing to work with Alabama teachers, principals and administrators, the people who know Alabama public schools better than anyone else–even those with Washington think tanks–his words really don’t mean very much.