Education dies again

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 10, 2001

Drama played out recently in the Alabama House of Representatives when Representative Nelson Starkey tried to get his bill through the House. For years, he has introduced a bill that would require increased local funding for schools.

Representative Starkey, a Democrat from Florence, knows the facts about education monies in Alabama. He knows that Alabama is almost at the bottom when it comes to local funding; however, the State of Alabama ranks seventh from the top in state funding for schools.

Alabama law requires that local systems provide 10 mills in property tax, or its equivalent, to get state funding, and they all do that. Starkey's bill would double the amount of property taxes required to obtain the state funds. Today there are some systems which are much more willing to levy additional local school taxes than are others. We find ourselves underfunded in many systems with very little hope of increasing local support.

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Education is primarily a state function. All of Alabama's citizens are responsible for educating her children. We cannot turn our heads and ignore these pockets where local support is minimal. That's why Representative Starkey's bill is so positive. It would raise the minimum millage from 10 mills to 20 mills. Systems which already have 20 mills or more of local support would be unaffected. Those with less would have to adjust to keep state funding.

Starkey's bill would help raise the quality of education across the entire state. Even though the well-to-do systems might not see additional funds, we all benefit when Alabama's children are well-educated statewide.

Unfortunately, his bill lacked nine votes for passage in the House. It needed 63 votes and only received 54 votes. Starkey's bill would require a constitutional amendment and to pass the vote must be a three-fifths majority. Even though the final vote was 54 "yes" and 39 "no", the number was short of the total needed.

We hope that lawmakers will wake up on this statewide need, put aside politics, and vote for the children and the schools! We need leadership!

John Draper is the executive director for the Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools (CLAS). CLAS is the only statewide professional organization dedicated to meeting the needs of school leaders. CLAS is composed of 11 affiliate groups, each representing a different area of school administration and supervision. More than 2,200 members comprise the state's voice for school leaders.