Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Craig Ford: The future of education is at stake on Election Day

  Do you believe money should be taken out of our local public schools so that kids in Birmingham, Montgomery and other parts of the state can go to a private school?

  That is what’s at stake when you go to vote in two weeks.

  In 2013, the Alabama Legislature passed a bill called the “Accountability Act.” The idea behind it was that money that would otherwise go to our public schools would instead be used to fund private school scholarships for kids who attend “failing schools.”

  There are no failing schools in Etowah, Cherokee or DeKalb Counties.

  So our children are paying the price so that kids in Birmingham, Montgomery, and other places can go to a private school. That’s bad enough, but on top of that, we now know that the program isn’t even working.

  A study conducted by the University of Alabama showed that children who had received these scholarships were not performing any better than kids in public schools. Not only that, but the kids in the program aren’t even performing better than they did when they attended the schools they were in before!

  One-fourth of the schools that received these scholarship students are not accredited and ended up being dropped from the program over the summer. And despite the claim that this program was meant to help kids in failing public schools, many of the scholarships have actually gone to kids who were already attending a private school and not the public school they were zoned for.

  But that hasn’t stopped the anti-public education crowd in Montgomery from continuing to try to expand this failed program and divert even more money away from our local schools.

  Nearly every year since it became law, lawmakers have introduced bills to expand this program. Their most recent attempt to expand the program failed when it died in the House Education Budget Committee. I was a member of that committee, and I personally worked to kill the bill.

  But now those same forces that are behind charter schools and the Accountability Act are hoping that this election will give them the votes they need in the legislature to expand these failed programs.

  They are looking for lawmakers who will be a rubber stamp for their legislative agendas, and expanding charter schools and the publicly-backed private school scholarship program are at the top of their list.

  One of the reasons I chose to run for the Alabama Senate as an Independent is because I have worked with the leadership in both parties when they were right, but I’ve never been afraid to stand up to the leadership in both parties when they were wrong.

  I called on the leadership of the Alabama Democratic Party to resign, and I was one of the original House members to sponsor the legislation to impeach former Gov. Robert Bentley for misusing state funds.

  I am no one’s rubber stamp, and my vote always has, and always will, belong to the people I represent. But the same cannot be said for every candidate running for office this year.

  Make sure you know where every candidate stands on education before you cast your vote on November 6th. And if they won’t give you a straight answer – or even if they do – look at where their campaign contributions come from.

  The forces behind charter schools and the “Accountability Act” are spending big in this election, and they expect something in return for their money.

  About the author: Craig Ford represents Gadsden and Etowah County in the Alabama House of Representatives. He is currently running for the Alabama Senate in District 10 as an Independent.

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