Several weeks ago we put together a brief questionnaire for all candidates running for State Board of Education in the March 1 primary. The state Republican party sent questionnaires to all Republican candidates. Both candidates for the District Five seat are Democrats. I contacted them directly.
Here are the responses for Republican Adam Bourne of Mobile County. He serves on the Chickasaw City Council and his wife, who teaches at Davidson High School, serves on the Chickasaw School Board:
Because of short falls in the state General Fund budget, there is continuing talk of combining the Education Trust Fund and the General Fund. Do you think these funds should remain separate or be combined?
Without question, the ETF should remain separate. That is the only way to protect it from politicians reaching for funds for pet projects. The ETF has been cut by over 17% since 2008. Alabama is now 49th in education funding, with only Oklahoma behind us. Alabama’s children cannot take any more cuts.
In 2013 the legislature passed the Alabama Accountability Act. Reports from the state revenue department show that as of Dec. 31, 2015, has now diverted $66 million from the Education Trust Fund to be used for scholarships to private schools. At least 1,000 scholarships have gone to students who were already attending private schools. Do you think the Accountability Act is working as it was supposed to? Do you feel that it has helped students in your district?
I am not aware of any students in District 1 that have benefited from the Accountability Act. Diverting funds from public education accomplishes nothing. Those funds would be better used to improve existing public education programs in Alabama.
Recently the draft of a bill known as the Rewarding Advancement in Instruction and Student Excellence (RAISE) Act of 2016 became public. Educators across Alabama have expressed their opposition to this bill. Do you oppose it or support it?
I am opposed to the so-called RAISE Act, which is premised on the ridiculous notion that the problems in public education are caused by a bunch of “bad teachers.” The reality is that teachers in Alabama are overworked, underpaid and unfairly held responsible for parental shortcomings. We need to do more to support educators in this state. The RAISE Act would take us in the other direction, driving educators from the profession.
Educators were not asked for input on either the Alabama Accountability Act, or the RAISE Act. Do you believe the legislature should formulate education policy without input from Alabama educators?
It seems legislators are not spending enough time with educators, and they are not consulting with educators prior to formulating policy. As a State Board member, I will listen to frontline teachers in the classroom and parents.
Do you think education is a profession and do you consider teachers to be professionals?
There is no doubt that education is a profession. The misconception of some that anyone can be a teacher is sad, and we need to do more to explain to the public the demands on teachers, who must attempt to teach and discipline children who often have terrible home lives.
What past involvement in public education do you think most qualifies you for a seat on the state board of education?
I am married to an 11-year public school teacher, who is also the coach of the award-winning Davidson High School robotics team. Additionally, as a member of the Chickasaw City Council, I played a major role in founding the new Chickasaw City School System, an experience that gives me unique insight into the needs of local school systems.
Did you attend public school for your K-12 education?
I attended only public school from kindergarten all the way through law school at the University of Alabama.