It’s time to invest in our children’s education

April 20, 2012 chris
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  Last Saturday, thousands of educators rallied on the steps of the state capitol to send a powerful message: It is time to invest in our schools!

Educators from all over Alabama came to Montgomery hoping to stop another round of drastic cuts to their classrooms.

The rally came just as the state legislature is beginning work on next year’s education budget. What these hard-working educators know, and what the rest of the state will find out over the coming weeks, is that the Republican Supermajority is planning major cuts to our schools.

But many of these cuts can be avoided. Because of the Rolling Reserve Act that the Republican Supermajority passed last year, our schools are losing $150 million this year alone. That is money just sitting in the bank instead of going into our classrooms. The Rolling Reserve Act, which was passed despite vehement objection by Democrats, locks in the economic losses for years to come.

Because of the economic downturn, education has lost more than $1 billion over the last four years.  As a matter of fact, it has been years since we bought textbooks, and class sizes are increasing. These cuts have negatively impacted learning opportunities for an entire generation of stu-dents.

Now, the Governor and Republican leaders in the legislature have proposed a fifth year of cuts to our schools. But how can we improve our schools if we keep cutting funding and eliminating programs that have made a difference?

Take for example AMSTI, Alabama’s nationally recognized math and science program. This program has been shown to be so effective that students in AMSTI schools gained an extra 28 days of learning in these critical subjects. Yet, the AMSTI program is in only 40 percent of our schools due to budget cuts.

Withholding critical school funds is wrong. Now we are finding out why they are doing it. Recently, the governor said he wants to use the reserve fund created by the Rolling Reserve Act to pay for prisons and other non-education uses, making the Rolling Reserve Act a tool to redirect education money and combine the state’s general fund and education trust fund budgets without the approval of the voters.

Many people asked educators at the rally on Saturday why the rally was held on a Saturday instead of a weekday when the legislature meets. The reason is because these educators did not want their students to lose a day of learning so that their teachers could come to Montgomery, even if the point of their trip was to fight for more funding for our schools.

Let us hope that the Republican Supermajority shows the same dedication to our children’s education that these educators have shown. It is time to repeal the Rolling Reserve Act and give our students the resources they need in order to receive the education they deserve.

Statement from Democratic legislative leaders 
regarding Montgomery County grand jury ruling
By Senate Minority Leader Roger Bedford and House Minority Leader Craig Ford  
The action of a Montgomery County grand jury, regarding what any reasonable person would call illegal activity, confirms that the ethics laws passed by the Republican Supermajority in the closing hours of the Riley administration are a sham.
Upon reviewing numerous documented examples of PAC to PAC transfers, making contributions in the name of another, and other acts supposedly made illegal by the Supermajority’s eleventh hour legislation, the grand jury concluded that nothing in the law makes solicitation or receipt of illegal contributions a crime.
Citing numerous problems with the law, the grand jury said, “It is not a crime for a PAC to solicit or receive an illegal contribution, such as from another PAC.”
“According to this grand jury, there is no ethics law in place,” said Senate Minority Leader Roger Bedford. “The Republican Supermajority passed laws they knew were unenforceable and then immediately went about violating these laws knowing they were safe.
“It is clear the passage of the ethics laws was nothing but political theatre designed from the beginning to deceive the public and preserve the ability of Republican officials to commit the acts they were claiming to outlaw,” Bedford added. “The law is a farce and the people of Alabama have been lied to.”
“Our state has just endured two years of investigations regarding corruption in government,” said House Minority Leader Craig Ford. “Now, with violations more clear-cut and definitive than any charge brought in the bingo trials, a grand jury concludes solicitation of an illegal contribution is not a crime. This is incredible, and the people of Alabama have been duped by the Republican Supermajority.”
Both Bedford and Ford said the Democratic leadership of the legislature would begin drafting legislation to make the prosecution of illegal activity possible under the new ethics laws.