Constitution, economy education must be governor's focus

Published 5:57 am Tuesday, January 8, 2002

By Staff
By now, Gov. Don Siegelman has delivered his State of the State address.
We don't have the benefit of having heard what he has to say because the writing of this editorial came well before the governor's speech.
It was a year ago when he unveiled his plan for proration at about this point in the year. Going into his speech, he knew proration was to be a key issue and was looming before him like a guillotine blade waiting to lop off his head.
Out of his mouth came a string of Clintonesque references to the cut, referring to it in vague terms, evading discussion of realities and, instead, campaigning for the public vote.
If ever there is a need for Siegelman to make a good campaign speech to protect his own political interests, that time is now. Still, we hope he will refrain from last year's tactics and, instead, work to make Alabama a better place to live.
Alabama is still, in many ways, a state struggling to keep pace with the rest of the country as we lag behind in many important areas of development.
In no area is this truer than in our system of education.
The educational system in the state of Alabama is on life support, breathing hard, waiting for a needed miracle cure that will come along and reduce our woes. Once Siegelman thought that a lottery that would benefit pre-schoolers and college students was key to the state's educational success, as he rode a wave that came out of educational reform in Georgia.
But that wave proved to be a wipeout for the Governor, who still doesn't understand some important things about the people in this state. The first thing is that we're deep in the Bible Belt and people in these parts, as a whole, don't support games of chance.
The second thing is that any lottery that stood a chance of passing a popular vote would have been one that addressed educational at critical levels n primary and secondary levels.
In the Escambia County School System, we scored a grade of "C" on the Alabama Report Card for our work in education. What it is important to note is that Escambia County isn't going to show the scores that schools in affluent sections of Birmingham show.
Almost as important is the fact that we can do things better here. That's a constant that exists everywhere. But faced with continued educational cuts, can we bring our grade up? That remains to be seen. Our governor must address this in his speech and it would be a prime time to unveil that miracle cure we're looking for. It won't come, though, unless we change the way we fund education.
Second on our list is an item close to our hearts n the economy.
Our state must work to get key infrastructure needs in place to meet the demands of industry. We must be mindful of what needs to be done with exemptions to recruit industry here. We must find a way to bring more jobs and more money to our job-poor state.
Certainly Atmore residents are feeling the sting of a struggling economy. Still, with strong leadership that starts on the state level, we can begin to work our way toward a resolution to this critical issue.
Finally, Alabama must work to leave the past behind in the form of a 100-year-old dusty document by which our state is run.
Yes, Constitutional reform is essential to the future of Alabama. We want to Governor's plan to do something about repairing a system that was approved before running water and electricity hit most of our state.
There are many other things the Governor can and will discuss in his speech. We just hope that education, economic stimulation plans, and a new document by which to govern are among them.
With solid leadership, a commitment to refrain from political posturing and a vow to follow through on his plans, our governor can create a legacy for himself n no matter what happens in November.

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