Dear Editor:

On March 3, Alabamians will have an opportunity to vote on many political candidates.  Most have no opposition, but don’t let that discourage you.  There are still important matters to address.

Amendment One will be on the ballot and it is critical that our citizens understand what this amendment seeks to do.   This is the language of the bill:

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to change the name of the State Board of Education to the Alabama Commission on Elementary and Secondary Education; to provide for the appointment of the members of the commission by the Governor, subject to confirmation by the Senate; to change the name of the State Superintendent of Education to the Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education; to provide for the appointment of the secretary by the commission, subject to confirmation by the Senate; and to authorize the Governor to appoint a team of local educators and other officials to advise the commission on matters relating to the functioning and duties of the State Department of Education.”

Maybe this doesn’t look to bad on the surface, but read closely.  It is an attempt to remove your right to have a voice in the State Board of Education.  It is concentrating the power in the Senate and taking it from you.  Currently you can vote for State Board of Education members (Dr. Wayne Reynolds is ours) and then the State Board appoints a state superintendent.  Many of you can remember when we elected both the Board and the Superintendent, but that changed a number of years ago.

There are several models of how State Boards of Education and State Chief School Officers are put into office.  Alabama is one of 11 states that elect their state Board members and the Board hires a superintendent.  Ten states have governor appointed Boards and superintendents. Twelve states have a governor appointed Board and board appointed superintendent.  Eleven states have elected superintendents and governor appointed Boards.  There are other states that have hybrid models to select these positions.  NONE, however give the final authority to the state senate.

This amendment is sponsored by Senator Del Marsh and co-sponsored by our own Sen. Livingston.  Del Marsh has a fixation on Alabama education.  We can thank him for diverting millions of dollars from public education into the hands of private schools through the Alabama Accountability Act.  You can thank Del Marsh for the 6% failing schools bill that will always mark some school as failing, even with a grade of “C” or better because there will always be a bottom 6%! 

You might be led to think Sen. Marsh has a real concern for the quality of Alabama K-12 education, but he has absolutely no record of talking to educators about how to improve.  If he wants improved education for our children, then he must talk to educators and have respect for their experience and their training.

This is not “party” politics.  This is bad legislation seeking to control power.

I strongly encourage you to vote NO on Amendment One.  It will not improve education.  It will not remove politics from education.  It will not get a better outcome on superintendents.  It WILL take away your right to vote and it will secure the power of the senate.  Neither of those outcomes will be good for Alabama and Jackson County.  Vote NO on Amendment One.

—Toni McGriff


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