Our children have to be the priority

Published 9:25 pm Thursday, May 21, 2015

Dear Citizens of Dallas County, 

Our children’s education matters! We all know that a quality education is the bedrock of a successful and productive life.  Personally, I believe education is the most important thing we can offer to our children outside of Christ.

I’m sure many in the community would agree on the importance of education, even if we may not always agree on the means to get there.

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Over the past three weeks, there has been an ongoing conversation about the half-cent sales tax for education. I want to be sure that the community understands my awareness of the issue so there will be no confusion about where I stand. I have not introduced a piece of legislation that would redistribute the lawful distribution of the half-cent sales tax.

According to state law, if there is more than one school system in a county, the revenue from the sales tax would have to be divided per student in each school system.

Currently, there are approximately 3,300 students in the Dallas County School System and 3,600 in the Selma City School System. Based on the enrollment of each school system, the current equitable distribution of the revenue from the half-cent tax is 49 percent to Dallas County School System and 51 percent to Selma City School System.

From my understanding Dallas County School System has improperly received 100 percent of the half-cent sales tax and Selma City School System received zero percent since 2012. Once this discrepancy was recognized, Dallas County School System was held responsible for repaying the money owed to Selma City School System — approximately $1 million. To date, the $1 million has not been paid and the school boards have agreed to resolve this problem at a later time, meanwhile distributing the proceeds from the tax according to state law.

Since that time, there were efforts made to create local legislation to bypass state law and give the Dallas County School System 90 percent of the half-cent sales tax, leaving the Selma City School System with only 10 percent.

I was not involved in those initial conversations, and the legislation was only presented to me after the public was made aware of this plan.

It has always been and will continue to be my standard that I meet with those involved in local legislation before the bills are drafted, not afterwards.  I believe this gives integrity and accountability to the legislative process by ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to have their concerns addressed and reach compromises where interests may conflict.  That wasn’t the case with this piece of legislation — I was never involved in the discussions prior to the bill being drafted.

If legislation is not introduced to circumvent current state law, the half-cent tax distribution will remain, as is, 49 percent to the Dallas County School System and 51 percent to the City of Selma School System. Any effort to circumvent state law may lead to possible litigation that will cause our school systems additional money, and cost our children precious resources in the classrooms.

However, there are other options and avenues that are out of my authority and can be taken without the involvement of the state legislature. Whatever options that are explored on a local level, we should keep our children as the priority. When it comes to our community, especially our children, we should never create winners or losers — we can all win together.

I will always work to bring our community together, never to divide us.

Together, we can do more for both school systems than we can do apart. I know our community has a great appreciation for the parents, educators, business owners and all constituents who work together to mold our leaders of the future, and I look forward to your continued support as we continue that progress.