State leaders sneaky on bill

Published 9:32 am Thursday, March 7, 2013

While the state’s GOP leadership was patting themselves on the back last week for their political “courage” — which consisted of passing a damaging public education bill after shady backroom meetings — they were probably privately chastising two of the Republicans who represent our area.

Alan Baker of Brewton and Mike Jones of Andalusia — both of whom serve residents in Escambia County in the state House — voted their conscience last week when presented with a last-minute mangling of what was supposed to be a school flexibility bill.

Baker, a retired teacher, and Jones, an attorney, said they didn’t have enough time to study the bill before voting to approve it. In voting no, they stood up for the schools in their districts, for the educators who had collaborated on the original bill and for the disadvantaged students across the state who will not benefit from this bill, no matter how hard the leadership tries to sell it to us.
We’re proud that Baker and Jones represent us — and that they chose to do what was right rather than blindly follow party leaders’ sneaky dealings.

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Republicans have ruled this state for the past four years, after taking over the Legislature in a historic sweep.
But while they promised to do things differently than Democrats had done for decades, we’re right back in the thick of backroom politics.
What happened last Thursday night was a slap in the face to voters, to educators who toil in public schools that are underfunded and unappreciated, and to parents of children in truly failing schools who need help, not a feel-good measure that will further divide us economically.

If this law stands — a judge blocked it Tuesday, but Republicans  will appeal — we believe it will be damaging to public education and to the continued imbalance between the haves and have-nots in this state.

Do GOP leaders — who, by the way, apparently did not do any financial homework on this hastily drawn-up bill — really think than an 80 percent tax credit on the value of a child’s education is really going to benefit families in the Black Belt, where unemployment is so high that paying even for a fraction of private school education is an impossibility?

We recognize that this bill would help some families in our community financially, but at what expense? This bill hurts public schools — the public schools that companies look to when they want to locate in a community.

We hope that courts continue to block this bill because of the sneaky way it was passed — and we hope that if it stands, it does not continue to divide us economically in this state.