Siegleman improves diversity of state#039;s leaders

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 25, 1999

Gov. Don Siegelman has made good on one of his 1998 campaign promises. He said his administration would reflect a cross section of Alabamians… men and women, black and white.

That Gov. Siegelman has made good on this promise was reflected in a recent survey which measures how well people in state leadership positions mirror the make-up of the population. Alabama moved up from 37th in this diversity test to 13th among the 50 states, a remarkable increase.

Siegelman has appointed eight African Americans to top-level positions in state government, a striking contrast to the previous administration of Gov. Fob James in which there was only one African American. Blacks make up about 23 per cent of the leadership positions in state government, they make up about 25 per cent of the state's population.

Siegelman is also running ahead of James in the inclusion of women in leadership positions. He has eight women in such roles, James had only six.

As long as most of you have been alive there has been much lamenting about how little Alabama pays it school teachers. More than one governor, including the incumbent, has campaigned on a promise to boost the pay of the teachers, perhaps reaching the national average.

A recent survey by the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama (PARCA) suggests that while Alabama teachers are still paid below the national average they are faring better than their counterparts in many states.

For example the pay for beginning teachers in Alabama is $27,388…which is higher than it is in 41 other states, and six per cent above the national average.

The average salary across the board for all Alabama teachers is $35,820 which is indeed well below the national average of $40,462 But for a state known for being ranked 49th or 50th (thank God for Mississippi) in so many categories, in this instance the state ranks 29th.

At the risk of riling up the teachers…and Hell hath no fury like a teacher riled… it should be noted that in Alabama they have a vastly better retirement program than many states, and another factor to be considered is that the cost of living in Alabama is substantially lower than in many states. Teachers, like the rest of us, can get by on less in Alabama than they could in many other parts of the country.

Few actions by the Siegelman Administration have drawn more applause, more nods of approval, from the taxpayers than the recent adoption of much tougher rules on welfare payments to mothers, most of them unwed.

The Board of Commissioners of the Department of Human Resources…with Gov. Siegelman as the point man…made several changes regarding welfare payments to these mothers, all of them aimed at getting the women off welfare and back at work.

One of the rules specifies that if a woman who has been receiving such aid for two years fails to show up for a job interview or a training class she will have her checks cutoff.

Another change mandatesthat mothers must begin employment three months after the birth of a baby. Previously they were given one-year before launching a job-hunt.

Finally, any welfare recipeint who rejects a valid job offer will be cut off immediately.

Gov.Siegelman expressed the sentiments of a lot of taxpayers in commenting on the tough new rules:

"Being responsible for children means you get off your duff and get a job."