Published 1:12 pm Wednesday, November 19, 2003
The eyes of the state are upon us
The entire state is watching us to see what will happen here on Dec.9, and reading into that decision where education in Alabama is headed.
If you don't believe that, what follows is an editorial that appeared in the Nov. 14 edition of the Anniston Star:
If you want to see where the current crisis in education is leading us, go to Escambia County. Declining local revenue and less money from the state has forced officials to pink slip more than 30 teachers, reduce administrative staff and consider closing at least two of the system's smaller schools. Students sell fruit to buy copy paper, bands cannot attend all the football games, art, drama, chorus, vocational classes are virtually gone, all field trips have been cancelled. And things will get worse, community leaders say, unless on Dec. 9, voters approve a proposed 10-mil tax increase.
It is easy to see why things are so bad. Escambia levies the second lowest property tax for education in the state. Other sources of school funding – sales taxes and oil severance taxes – do not produce the revenue they once did. And now state funds are being cut.
Supporters of the increase warn that if the referendum does not pass another 30 teachers will lose their jobs, the highly regarded Turtle Point Science Center will be closed, so will the alternative school, and those small schools will be shut down. And of course, there will be no more athletics and no more bands.
Opponents claim it is all a hoax, a scheme to get more money for schools that are overloaded with administrative personnel – ignoring the fact that the central office has already cut 25 percent of its staff and 66 percent of the instructional supervisors.
Critics claim that to save money the smaller schools should be closed – though doing so would increase the size of classes in the other schools, classes that are already too large. Critics argue that aides are a luxury teachers can do without – apparently unaware that the aides are paid with federal funds. Some even insist that students don't need air conditioned classrooms – ever been to Escambia County, down on the Florida line?
But efforts to reason with the opposition seem to be a losing cause. As one supporter put it, folks have "either already made up their minds or they are just not concerned." Well, hopefully citizens down there are concerned enough to come out and vote yes. For they will be voting on more than money. They will be voting on whether or not local people will support their local schools. And if the cuts continue and the economy does not improve, that is a question Alabamians all across the state will soon be asking themselves.