Here’s how it’s supposed to go: Mention increased taxes and Alabama politicians, who typically fear the wrath of Alabama voters, start ducking for cover. In the mind of many in this state, taxes are always too high and the institutions that depend on tax revenue don’t need any more and could probably use less.
That’s not exactly how things played out during Thursday’s Oxford candidate forum at the Quintard Mall.
Candidates pointed with pride to how lavish spending of city funds had made Oxford’s public schools the envy of the region. The evidence is before the voters. Across the highway from the mall sits a sparkling diamond of a high school campus. The facilities are top-notch. The students don’t want for anything. Administrators and faculty take pride in their jobs. The well-equipped athletic teams are successful. And the system is growing as more families decide Oxford is the best place for their children to be educated.
How much money is enough? Candidates made it clear that until school administrators applied the brakes, they would keep on spending.
Hold on a minute. That’s a different story from the one usually told in Montgomery when the Legislature is in session. At best, the Statehouse line is: Well, education is darn important but money for it is scarce, so schools will have to make do the best they can.
What’s also usually scarce is the will to raise money to improve Alabama public schools.
Not so in Oxford, where a 1-cent sales tax is dedicated to public education. Not so in Oxford, where residents are rightfully proud of results of increased spending on the Yellow Jackets. Not so in Oxford, where politicians are connecting the dots between tax dollars and quality schools.
That’s the kind of thinking that could radically turn around Alabama. Just imagine if we changed the state’s mindset on schools from “poor but proud” to just plain “proud.”