State continues to squander future of kids
Monday, state education officials said there's a chance that another round of school funding cuts could be coming to the tune of $120 million this year due to dropping sales tax returns.
New year, same news.
The total cuts for 2002 would be, according to assistant state schools superintendent Robert Morton, between 3 and 4.5 percent unless new revenue instantly appears in state coffers.
All this at a time when state judges are raising their pay to greater levels than that offered to federal judges and other states with larger populations like California.
And where is the Alabama Education Association weighing in on this issue? I haven't heard, so I won't pass judgement other than to say I don't expect the AEA to give a hoot unless they are facing membership losses through a reduction in teachers (meaning I don't think they fear the losses of the jobs as much as the losses they will directly see when membership and revenue from membership falls).
At any rate, that's not the point of more proration.
The real problem is that our state continues to use a bad system of funding education with dollars that fluctuate greatly from one extreme to the other. Sales taxes are no way to support education. Changing this broken system is something people have said time and time again is the key to Alabama's future.
Last year, K-12 faced $179 million in losses from the projections through 6.2 percent proration (that was absorbed in less than six months, meaning schools had to "double up" on their efforts to cut cost in the last half of the year). This year, it seems likely to fall another couple of points. The governor's campaign speech, given when he was ordering proration last year a full year after taking office, comes to mind. He rallied the state together, never mentioned proration, talked about his hopes for education and walked away from the podium after he signed away the future of our children.
He rallied in the days that followed for a new way to fund education to get this valuable resource funded through tax dollars that are more predictable, more stable. And once again, he and our legislature did nothing.
So here we are. I wonder if he'll just play last year's video when he decides to try to make us feel good about slashing the throat of our struggling educational system instead of bothering to try to take a new approach to the same old problem.
I think the governor's problem is talk. Too much talk, not enough action.
As citizens and concerned parents, we need to ram down the throats of our legislators our belief that we need to move to a property-tax base for revenue for education. Using bogus calculations to make people feel good about how much we'll spend on education while we watch sales taxes go into the tank isn't cutting it.
Siegelman and the legislature need to move NOW into an emergency session to fix this problem once and for all instead of trying to reattach a lost limb with tape and gauze. We're bleeding to death and we're hurting the kids of the state in the process.
But I am not optimistic that I'll see Siegelman do much. After all, he's a talker, following in the proud tradition of Alabama governors for much of the 20th Century. He'll talk a good game, try to make us feel good, work to rally the troops until a new problem comes along and everyone quits watching and we'll be right back in the same place next year.
Governor, state legislators, show that you care for someone other than yourself. Take a stand to fix Alabama's educational mess. Do it for our kids. Do it for our future. Don't let us continue to thank our lucky stars for Mississippi landing in the 50th spot instead of us. Let's make it happen.
Brian Blackley is publisher of The Atmore Advance. Contact him by e-mail at email@example.com or call 368-2123.