Our children’s education should be a priority

May 4, 2012 chris
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What if you learned that the state had a program that could improve your child’s math and science skills so much, they could be a year ahead academically by the time they graduated? The program would make it more likely they would get into college – and get scholarships. Even if your child weren’t going to college, by participating in this program they would be ready for a variety of promising careers.

What if you learned that the state was cutting for this program?

This program, called the Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative (AMSTI), has been recognized as the nation’s best math and science initiative. A major study found that students in AMSTI gain the equivalent of 28 extra days of learning compared to other students each year. The gains are remarkable, and extend to other subjects such as reading and writing.

The AMSTI program was supposed to be implemented in every Alabama school by this year. But after nearly two years of Republican leadership, the AMSTI program is in less than half of all Alabama schools.

Our education budget has been hit so hard with avoidable cuts that funding for our schools has been reduced by one-fifth of what it was before the Great Recession. AMSTI and other critical education efforts are terribly underfunded, and our children are the ones paying the price.

Many of these cuts could have been avoided. Alabama has certain tax loopholes that allow a multinational like ExxonMobile to pay zero state income tax. Not only is this unfair to Alabama businesses that do have to pay these taxes, these loopholes are also depriving our children of millions of tax dollars that could be going to their education.

For years, Alabama Democrats have tried to close these loopholes, but Republican opposition has kept these loopholes open. Now that the Republicans have a Supermajority in Montgomery, they will not bring these bills up for a vote.

Another reason for unnecessary cuts to the education budget is the Rolling Reserve Act that the Republican Supermajority passed last year. Next year alone, the Rolling Reserve Act will cost the Education Trust Fund more than $150 million dollars.

It is clear that the Rolling Reserve Act extends the painful losses from the Great Recession while withholding desperately needed school funding in a slush fund instead of spending it on our children’s education.

The legislature has three more weeks to pass the education budget for next year. Once again, we will see more cuts to our schools and to the programs that give our children the best chance to succeed. 

Now is the time to decide what our priorities will be. Will we repeal the Rolling Reserve Act and close the corporate tax loopholes that are denying our children millions of dollars for their education? 

Or will we continue on this path that is costing an entire generation their chance at a better future?