YOU’RE A DOCTOR: Yes, governor, your chosen profession matters here. Physicians don’t give their patients treatments that haven’t been thoroughly vetted. Before medicine is prescribed to patients it is subjected to clinical trials, peer reviews and countless hours of research. Why then would you sign a measure that was conceived in secret and never given the chance for experts to weigh in on its pro’s and con’s?
PUBLIC TRUST: Alabamians traditionally have a very low opinion of the politicians they send to Montgomery. What’s worse, too many of Alabama’s lawmakers and governors have lived down to that reputation by pulling stunts like the one used to pass this school-voucher bill. The voters have long memories, governor, and if you sign this bill, you’ll be held accountable for the sordid way it was devised.
TEACHERS: It’s conventional wisdom in Montgomery that Republicans don’t like the Alabama Education Association and vice-versa. Very few, it seems, ever contemplate why. We’d suggest the AEA has power because educators feel like an endangered species. Their union tells them they are under attack by Republican legislators. These Republicans lawmakers typically introduce legislation that runs roughshod over teachers’ concerns; such is the case in the Alabama Accountability Act. A wise governor might try to sell his plan rather force it through, and in the process create one more wedge issue for the AEA to exploit.
IT’S SUNSHINE WEEK: Seven days are set aside each year to extol the virtues of open government. In 2013, Sunshine Week began Sunday and ends Saturday. Darkness creates distrust. Signing a bill that barely saw the light of day until it was voted on by the House and Senate a couple of weeks ago sneers in the face of open and accountable government.
BICE DESERVED BETTER: Tommy Bice, the state superintendent since January 2012, got sand-bagged — no doubt about it. The governor’s office should never go along with such Neanderthal political tricks. Likewise, it is Bice’s department that will be most affected should this bill become law. And, there’s more: Bice — or his successor, should he balk and leave — will always wonder what other tricks the GOP-led Legislature will employ to get its way.
DO-OVERS ARE ALLOWED: Nothing, governor, requires you to sign the bill in its current form. While there’s still time, you could send it back to the Legislature with a to-do list of fixes that might even gain the measure a few more friends.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Per the bill’s guidelines, about 150 schools are considered failing. The bill’s authors use backdoor logic to assume that by allowing students to transfer out of failing schools, administrators and teachers at those schools will be motivated to improve their performances. Under that same flawed logic, those schools are apparently OK with their substandard results. What a crock.
While voucher programs may have merit, the correct approach should be to put as much energy into repairing the problem schools as it does to allow eligible students to just up and leave.
STUDENTS: C’mon, Gov. Bentley, you know this isn’t the best way to educate Alabama’s children. They — and their schools — deserve better than to become pawns in a political struggle. If public education needs improvement — which it does — then improve it. Moving kids like puzzle pieces and creating questions about where they can go to school is beset with potential problems.
CONFUSED LOOKS: It’s impossible to believe any governor would want to have his signature affixed to a bill that is swathed in confusion and concern. Those in leadership should fix problems without making more (which this does) and create confidence in those who look to them for guidance (which this doesn’t).
LEGACY: The hard truth, governor, is that you haven’t built much of a legislative legacy in your first two years in the office. Major provisions of the anti-immigration law have been wiped away by federal courts. Unfortunately, no court can remove the bad PR Alabama endured because of a law you signed. In 2012, the state used deficit-financing to pass a General Fund budget. Worse still, the state didn’t initially obligate itself to pay back the cash it drained from a trust fund. There’s a pattern here where the fine details and larger implications of laws are missed until it’s too late. We know you can do better than this, governor.