Sunday, March 1, 2020

Craig Ford: Vote NO on Amendment 1

  Whether you vote in the Democrat or Republican Primary Election on Tuesday, all voters will get the chance to vote on Amendment 1. This is an extremely important amendment, and I encourage every voter to vote NO on it.

  Alabama currently elects our representatives to the state Board of Education. Each member of the board represents their district, just like each Congressperson represents their district in the U.S. House of Representatives.

  Amendment 1 would disband the Alabama Board of Education and eliminate the position of Alabama Superintendent of Education. In its place, the amendment would create a “commission” on elementary and secondary education. This commission's members would be appointed by the governor and approved by the Alabama Senate.

  And if Amendment 1 passes, we will no longer have a state Superintendent of Education. Instead, we will have something more like a Secretary of Education in the governor’s cabinet. And this position would also be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate.

  In an effort to try and sway more voters to support Amendment 1, the Amendment also includes language saying that this new “commission” would have to replace the Common Core standards.

  Never mind the fact that our ELECTED Board of Education already voted and has taken steps to repeal the Common Core standards.

  Supporters of Amendment 1 are trying to claim that this amendment is about taking politics out of education policy. But the truth is that this amendment does the exact opposite by injecting politics into education policy.

  The same politicians who created this amendment have been in the Alabama Legislature for decades and have had total control of the legislative branch for more than 10 years. They’ve never had an issue with our state having an elected school board until that elected school board refused to go along with their anti-public education goals like charter schools and taxpayer-funded scholarships for private schools.

  In other words, the politicians can’t win the support of the people, so they want to go around the will of the people.

  Having an elected school board means that our state school board members are accountable to the voters who elected them rather than the politicians who appointed them.

  If we switch to an appointed school board, we will lose our power as voters to control what happens in our schools. This “commission” will not answer to the people in any way.

  Instead, the members of this “commission” will answer only to the politicians in Montgomery. And if those politicians tell them they have to vote in favor of charter schools and other harebrained ideas like that, then those commission members will have no choice but to do it or lose their appointment.

  An elected school board is still political, but at least it’s a political board that answers to us. An appointed school board answers to no one but the politicians.

  An elected school board is democracy in action. The only reason to be opposed to it is out of a desire to go around the will of the people, and that’s exactly what Amendment 1 is all about.

  Don’t believe the misinformation coming out of the pro-Amendment 1 camp that claims in states that have an appointed school board, students perform better on the standardized tests. The reality is, there is no connection between having an appointed school board and higher test scores. Test scores are influenced by a lot of things, most of which have nothing to do with how a school system is governed.

  Having an appointed board isn’t going to change the mental health needs many kids are facing, change the effects of poverty on a child’s ability to learn, turn around the general lack of interest or motivation in academics among many students, or change state funding of public education.

  The real problem isn’t how our schools are governed, nor is it a matter of not knowing what works and what doesn’t. The real problem is politicians (and their campaign contributors) who stand to make money off of alternatives like charter schools.

  And if you have any doubt about what a failure charter schools are, just take a few minutes to do a Google search on Lead Academy in Montgomery.

  Our children’s education is too important to give up our right to control it. Parents and professional educators should be the ones running our schools, not a bunch of politicians and their handpicked “yes” men and women in Montgomery.

  On Tuesday, vote NO on Amendment 1.

  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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