It’s no secret that the last few years have been a challenge for Alabama public education. Certainly we have had legislation passed that has not been helpful.
The best such examples are a bill passed in 2012 requiring that all schools receive a letter grade of A-F and a bill passed in 2013 that allows money to be diverted from the Education Trust Fund to give scholarships to private schools. This is the Alabama Accountability Act.
The A-F report card grades were made public recently.
Educators from one end of the state to the other have denounced this bill. Four local school boards passed resolutions of “no confidence” in the legislation.
A survey of superintendents shows they think the report cards are basically worthless and of no value. The Alabama Accountability Act also requires that we label “failing. schools.” Each January we release a list of what are supposed to be the bottom six percent of all schools for this list. This year there are 75 such schools.
In the last five years AAA has diverted $116 million dollars from the trust fund..
Look at it this way.
There are 396,711 elementary students in Alabama. In five years we have diverted $294 from ETF for each one of these students.. This is $7,000 per classroom. How many elementary teachers could have used $7,000?
But here is the good news. This is an election year and there will be a lot of turnover in both the House and Senate. Because so many legislators are retiring, by my count, this time next year we will have at least 26 new House members and 11 new senators. That is 25 percent of the House and 30 percent of the Senate. That is HUGE.
So this is a tremendous opportunity for education to make new friends and we need to start now.
There are 50 Republicans and 38 Democrats running for vacant House seats. Twenty Republicans, 15 Democrats and one Independent are running for the 11 open Senate seats.
Educators and the groups representing them should be all over these candidates, explaining the details of both A-F report cards and the Alabama Accountability Act. We don’t need to wait until people are elected to try to educate them. We need to do it NOW. Education should be holding meetings with candidates for these open seats all over Alabama.
This means local school boards, the Council for Leaders of Alabama Schools (CLAS), superintendent groups, retired educators, the Alabama Education Association, PTAs and just folks concerned about our schools. Find out what House and Senate seats are open in your area, find out who the various candidates are, then invite them to attend a meeting to discuss education. Hand out fact sheets about A-F and AAA. Ask them to support repealing both of these bills.
As a layperson, I have been frustrated time after time at the reluctance of educators to tell their story. As we see, being REACTIVE has not worked well in the recent past. IT IS TIME TO BE PROACTIVE.
I will be glad to help any way I can.
Give each of them a fact sheet on these issues—as well as others you are interested in. Then ask them where they stand. Will they work to repeal the A-F report card law? Will they work to repeal the Alabama Accountability Act?
Make this a community wide meeting. Have it in the early evening after school is out so teachers and parents can attend.
Let Ryan Hollingsworth and Keith Davis explain why they think A-F report cards are worthless.
Each of you poured your heart and soul into our public schools for many years. You gave the best years of your life to our young people.
Yet today we have people who seem intent on tearing down everything you worked to build.
It is time for education to be PROACTIVE instead of REACTIVE. We have got to tell our story and make friends before they ever set foot in the statehouse.
I think what I have just suggested is a good start at doing this.