Saturday, August 31, 2019

Craig Ford: Democracy isn’t the cause of our problems. It’s the solution.

  There is nothing more American than democracy. But to our leaders in the Alabama Senate, democracy just gets in the way of pushing their radical, anti-public education agenda.

  That’s why Sen. Del Marsh, the pro-tem of the Alabama Senate, has made it his personal mission to eliminate the state’s elected school board and replace it with one appointed by the governor.

  At the end of this year’s legislative session, Senator Marsh pushed a constitutional amendment through the legislature that would replace the state’s elected Board of Education with an education commission appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Alabama Senate. Because this plan means having to change the state’s constitution, the people of Alabama will get the chance to vote on the amendment this coming March.

  Perhaps the only good thing about this plan is that it has managed to unite Democrats and Republicans in opposition to it.

  This past weekend, the Alabama Republican Party’s executive committee voted to oppose the amendment and preserve our elected school board. And the vote wasn’t even close! Sixty-four percent of the 461-member committee voted in support of keeping the elected school board and rejecting the Senate Republican leader’s plan.

  When the leader of the Alabama Senate loses 64 percent of his own party’s support for his chief policy agenda, that speaks volumes about just how bad that policy is!

  Like Republicans, Democrats in the Alabama Legislature also overwhelmingly opposed Senator Marsh’s amendment, arguing that the state can’t improve our test scores and quality of education by taking away the people’s voice.

  This isn’t the first time Senator Marsh has subverted democracy to ram through his education agenda. The first time was when he and former House Speaker Mike Hubbard abused the legislative process to ram through the “Accountability Act.”

  Knowing that the voters would never support taking money out of public schools to pay for private school scholarships, Marsh and Hubbard used bait-and-switch tactics to change out one education bill for another after the first bill had already passed and then limited debate on the new bill to just one hour so that the people of Alabama and even the members of the legislature had no idea what was going on or even what bill they were voting on.

  Now, Marsh and the leadership in Montgomery are trying to take democracy out of the equation altogether. They claim their motive is to improve the quality of education in Alabama, but we all know the real motive is to take away the elected board that has opposed his charter school and taxpayer-backed private school scholarship agenda.

  Ask yourself this question: How does having an appointed school board improve the quality of education in Alabama? It’s not like if we switch to an appointed school board all of a sudden we will have pre-K in every community, new technology in every classroom, or hundreds of new teachers in our schools.

  If we want better results then we have to have better investments in education – not just how much we spend but HOW we spend it. And the education budget is written by the Alabama Legislature, not the school board.

  And keep this in mind: some of the same people who are arguing for an appointed state school board are the same ones who just last year were arguing for an elected school board in Gadsden.

  Democracy isn’t the cause of our problems. It’s the solution. And if your agenda is good and justified then you shouldn’t have a problem getting the voters to support it. The only reason to fear democracy is if you know you are on the wrong side.

  About the author: Craig Ford is the owner of Hodges-Ford Insurance and the Gadsden Messenger. He represented Gadsden and Etowah County in the Alabama House of Representatives for 18 years.

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