A question for Alabamians: Are you confident that the state Legislature can orchestrate a successful overhaul of public education?
A second question: If so, why?
Let’s be honest. Alabama legislators are good at one thing (proclaiming support for public education) and terrible at another (doing anything to substantially improve it). Any suggestion otherwise is hogwash.
Alabama can’t escape its systemic and historical acceptance of public education that ranks among the nation’s least-impressive examples. In our lifetimes, at least, Alabama’s public schools have never resided among America’s best. Exceptions exist, of course. But as election years near, lawmakers try to prove their mettle by pushing for better teacher pay, improved funding and academic reforms.
And, yet, salaries for Alabama teachers brand them as non-priorities, as expendable employees. And resources in many districts don’t cover teachers’ classroom supplies. And only the state’s First Class pre-K program can be counted as an unmitigated legislative success. Taken as a whole, Alabama lawmakers’ track record with public education ranks somewhere between lackadaisical and negligent.
This spring, state Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, has launched an all-out assault on public education’s status quo, saying he’s tired of Alabama’s schools producing reprehensible levels of academic success. On that, we agree. Alabamians’ expectations of public schools must be higher.
So Marsh, president pro tem of the state Senate, wants Alabama to drop its use of Common Core curriculum guidelines. That’s an awful idea. And he’s joined with Gov. Kay Ivey to call for a dismantling of the state Board of Education and creation of a governor-appointed education commission. We’re curious what Marsh may come up with next.
Given that an overwhelming majority of states do not elect school-board members, Marsh’s call is worth at least a conversation, though let’s end any thought that an appointed board would remove politics from the process. Any board appointed by elected lawmakers will be inherently political. It’s lunacy to think otherwise.
We’ll ask a few other questions:
Why is the poor academic performance of Alabama’s public schools only now becoming a priority for the most powerful politicians in Montgomery?
Why have our politicians -- and Alabamians themselves -- been so accepting of public education that consistently underperforms?
And, to repeat, who has confidence that Marsh and Ivey know how to solve this endemic Alabama problem?
The answers, whatever they are, will explain so much about our state, our lawmakers and our true value of public education.