Superintendent talks of ‘dark day’

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Dr. James Carter, superintendent of Selma City Schools, told some two dozen members of Kiwanis at their weekly luncheon at the St. James Hotel Tuesday that the outlook for education in the state of Alabama continues to be bleak.

Carter began his remarks with reference to the &uot;dark, dark, dark voter day,&uot; when Gov. Bob Riley’s tax plan was voted down three to one in September.

People have been saying that the governmental and educational establishments have been crying wolf! wolf! but that is not the case, Carter said. The wolf, he added, is indeed at the door.

Carter commended the governor and the Legislature for having the will and the insight to create a proposal that would have generated more than $1 billion in new revenue. He said that given the overwhelming defeat of the proposal, he thought there was no chance that the February session of the Legislature would put forward any comparable proposal.

On the other hand, Carter said he does believe that there will be some kind of proposal at least to raise money for the state’s Education Trust Fund in the coming year.

Still, even if passed the gap between needs and resources will simply be overwhelming.

He pointed out that over the past three fiscal years, 24 percent of the state’s education budget has been cut, and that even if Gov. Riley’s plan had passed, there would still be a tremendous deficit.

Examples given of the hardships imposed by the fiscal year 2004 budget cuts include:

No money for library enhancement

No money for professional development for educators

No money for technology

Only $7.19 allotted per textbook purchased. The average textbook today costs $80 apiece, he said.

Carter said schools get a double whammy because the General Fund, which has also been drastically cut, contains programs that support public education, such as in the field of mental health.

The last cutting to be done, he said, will be personnel, and unless the economy picks up &045; and there are some signs of strengthening &045; or some revenue enhancement measure is passed, such as additional statewide ad valorem taxes, then 3,000 teachers statewide will be cut in fiscal year 2005 along with 2,400 support personnel.

Carter said that what it all comes down to is what the people of the state of Alabama want in the way of education for their children.

Carter was happy to report that the Selma City Schools district, unlike many of the state’s 129 districts, has more than two month’s operating budget on hand. Most other districts are much less well-positioned, he said.

Regarding what might happen in 2004 through legislative action, Carter said he felt there would be some proposal for new taxes, but that any such proposal would not address the critical needs both of the Education Trust Fund and the General Fund. Further, of the $400 million in new revenues that might be raised by some means, there would be nothing for secondary education, he said.

The draining away of quality teachers and professors will be the end result, and it will take a long time to recover, he said.