Much to the chagrin of students everywhere, homework is an essential part of a good education. When students do math problems or go over a history lesson at home, homework solidifies what they learned in class.
Yet, one in five Alabama students don’t have a textbook to bring home. Many Alabama textbooks are in terrible shape because they are simply too old. Even in the best schools, textbooks gets worn and tattered with years of use. Countless rolls of duct tape are being used today to hold together crumbling bindings and torn covers.
Our students cannot receive a quality education if they do not have quality textbooks. That is why Alabama House Democrats are sponsoring a bill requiring the state to provide all students with textbooks that are no more than five years old. This legislation is part of a series of common sense measures that Democrats are promoting to provide a basic foundation for our children’s education.
Democrats understand that if our state is going to move forward economically, we have to invest in the next generation. Yet, when it comes to investing in our children’s future, the Republican Supermajority is failing.
This year’s education budget is 20 percent less than it was four years ago. We have lost more than 2,400 teachers and support personnel over the last year, while those that remain have seen a 2.5 percent cut in their take-home pay. The loss of teachers has led to larger class sizes, while school budgets across the state have been cut to the bone. We must reverse this trend.
Overcrowding of classrooms is a detriment to all of our students. The research shows that larger classes hold student achievement back. Common sense says that if there are 25 students in first grade, the teacher will have very limited time to work with any child having trouble.
House Democrats have offered a solution to this problem. This year, House Democrats have sponsored legislation to limit class sizes to 15 students from kindergarten to third grade, 22 students from fourth to eighth, and 25 students for ninth through grade 12. Not only will this provide our students with a better quality education, it will also create teaching jobs at a time when our statewide unemployment is soaring.
But in order to make these investments, we will need to increase the state education budget. The good news is that as the economy recovers there will be more funding available for the education budget.
We can also generate more revenue by closing certain tax loopholes that allow multinational corporations like Exxon Mobile to pay little or no state income tax in Alabama. These loopholes are unfair to Alabama business owners who do have to pay these taxes, and the money we can raise from closing these loopholes could be used to buy classroom supplies or give teachers and state employees their first cost-of-living pay increase since before the recession.
This year, the legislature has taken several steps to recruit new business and retain jobs. We have passed tax incentives legislation in the name of economic development. But the best investment we can make for our long-term economic development is to invest today in our children’s education.