Letter to the Editor

Published 5:40 am Wednesday, March 16, 2005

By Staff
Riley must not siphon education money
What would benefit public school students most? You'd think, amidst all the political bickering going on between Paul Hubbert and Gov. Bob Riley, that would be the central question. But it isn't.
The governor, in an otherwise student-friendly budget proposal, is determined to siphon about $70 million from the Education Trust Fund to bail out the ailing General Fund. Hubbert, in typical AEA fashion, wants to take every available dollar – including that $64 million – for a hefty 7 percent employee pay raise.
While they duke it out in a flurry of radio ads, newsletters, hyperbole and rhetoric, we can't forget that tangibly improving students' education should be the top priority for the money. Thus, Alabama school boards are urging lawmakers to consider another option: Give education employees the 4 percent raise Riley has proposed and use the $64 million to add four extra days to students' school year. This Raise Plus Days plan would benefit both students and teachers since lengthening Alabama's unusually short school year would give students more learning time and raise teachers' pay.
Only six states have fewer instructional days than Alabama. On average, we shortchange students five instructional days a year – 65 days over the course of their K- 12 career. If we're going to require them to perform at nationally competitive levels, we owe them at least as much instructional time as their peers.
Like our teachers, students have Suffered during the lean years. Many of this year's graduating seniors have spent their high school careers watching course options fall by the wayside. They have seen advance placement courses curtailed, tutoring programs dropped and fine arts phased out.
As lawmakers mull various plans to raise teachers' salaries, it is imperative that students be a priority too. With Raise Plus Days, they will be.
Sandra Sims-deGraffenried, Ed.D.
Executive Director
Alabama Association of School Boards

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