Attacks on education are disguised

Published 9:23 pm Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The attacks on public education continue unabated. The first week of the 2012 Legislative session produced a bounty of such attacks. We are in for a long hard fight for attacks on public education continue unabated.

The Governor of Alabama submitted the Executive Budget to the Alabama Legislature on Tuesday evening, the first day of session. It proposes to take $225 million from the education trust fund by sleight of hand. It’s hard to explain the tricky maneuverings, but it allots $225 million dollars to items traditionally funded by the general fund. Instead of transferring money from the Education Trust Fund to the General Fund, it expends $225 million on General Fund entities placed in the Education Budget. Some calculations show $308 billion less this year for public education. Any way you look at it, the attacks on public education continue unabated.

With Alabama already near the in education funding bottom (40th out of 50 states), we cannot afford for any monies to be transferred from either the education budget or education programs. Either action robs our children of an adequate education. The attacks on public education continue unabated.

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A bill was introduced in the Alabama House of Representatives dubbed “ Alabama Job Creation and Retention Act.” It’s a flim flam because it’s really an education killing bill, not a job creation bill. It is complicated but it allows companies to not pay income taxes to the Education Trust Fund on the theory that the money will be used to create jobs. It robs our children of their education future on the bare wings of possible job creation. The attacks on public education continue unabated. Alabama has among the lowest corporate tax rates in the country. It also has the richest incentives for businesses in the country. Now they want to lower the lowest tax rates and increase the richest business incentives. It is estimated that this bill will cost public education $300 million. It will rob public education, enrich the rich and create little or no jobs. The attacks on public education continue unabated.

This bill was introduced on Tuesday and made it to the floor of the Alabama House of Representatives by Thursday, just two days later. It has explosive speed and great power but AEA (Alabama Education Association) and other organizations fought back valiantly. As a result, the bill did not pass on Thursday for it was defeated on a procedure maneuver by six votes. However, we can be certain that it will be back for further consideration. The attacks on public education continue unabated.

A bill was introduced on Tuesday and considered on the Senate floor on Thursday. It takes away retirement benefits for any public employee convicted of a felony connected with a public office. This may appear not to be so bad at first blush. However, consider this scenario: a teacher works for forty years and retires. Then serves as a constable or city councilperson or dog catcher and is convicted of something connected to that office. They lose certain retirement benefits from their forty years of hard work as a teacher. The attacks on public education employees and other state employees continue unabated.

I went to the Senate podium on the Senate floor to challenge this bill. After some debate, the sponsor of the bill said he was open to amending the bill to make it less onerous. It was carried over so amendments could be drawn up. Even with amendments, it just goes from being a “terrible bill” to being a “Bad bill.” The attacks on public education and public employees continue unabated.

The charter schools initiative is still in full swing. However, Republican leaders have said they will not consider the charter school bill until after Spring Break. I still cannot get a copy of the proposed bill from any legislator. However, the intent to have charter schools operated by corporations, not traditional educators, is becoming increasingly clear. The only thing public about the proposed charter schools initiative is public funding. Everything else will be private, private, private. The attacks on public education continue unabated.

There are numerous other destructive bills that attack public education lurking in the legislative arena. We will address more as the session develops. We in the Alabama Legislature will just have to fight until we cannot fight anymore and then fight on anyhow. The fight, however, must not be just for those in the legislative arena, but for all of us from whatever our stations in life. If we don’t fight now, it will be a much bigger fight later with much greater losses.

Attacks are increasingly disguised in the political arena. They come in good sounding names. They come in the name of ethics and accountability. They come disguised as proposals for excellence in public education. They come in the name of jobs for our people.

We must cut through the disguises for it’s not what they are called but what they do and who they hurt.