This year, those who ask will learn that Alabama’s high school dropout rate, though improving, is still high. They will learn that only 53 percent of those who graduate from high school go on to a two-year or four-year institution of higher learning. And they will be confronted with figures (compiled by the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama) that 35 percent of those attending post-secondary schools are unprepared and have to take one or more remedial courses.
In other words, about a third of college-bound students who graduate from Alabama high schools are not ready for college work.
That’s not the sort of information you want to tell industries looking for a place to settle.
Rest assured that some CEOs of these companies will shake their heads and move on to states that put more emphasis on education. But others might ask, “What is Alabama doing about it?”
They won’t like the answer.
There are the usual excuses: The courses for college-bound students are taught in most high schools but the students either don’t take them or don’t take them seriously. It is the fault of youth, the fault of parents and the fault of their socio-economic circumstances. All of that is true, though that will mean little to industries that need trained and trainable employees.
Alabama’s economic development recruiters must have something else to tell these CEOs.
We can tell them that instead of finding a way to keep teachers in the classroom (like raising taxes or getting rid of tax exemptions special interests groups enjoy) we are poised to pass an education budget that will lay off nearly 1,000 instructors (plus more than 600 support personnel). This, we will point out, will mean larger classes, less technology and outdated material.
And we can tell them that we have lengthened summer vacation for no good purpose except maybe saving a little money on operating costs. We’ve also lengthened the school day, which will make it all the more difficult for the remaining teachers to teach and students to learn.
And we can tell them . …
By this time, they will be out the door and looking for another state in which to locate.
We will have shown them that Alabama is not for them.