For much of his term in office, Robert “Gov. Shrug” Bentley has taken the path of least resistance as key functions of Alabama state government have crumbled.
Not enough money to operate the state’s crime labs. Shrug, and shut the doors on several, including one in Anniston.
A financial crisis in Medicaid. Shrug, and ask voters to raid a state trust fund to make ends meet.
An upside-down tax structure that punishes Alabama’s poorest and rewards its wealthiest. Shrug, and boast about how you’re going to cut the budget even more.
The latest shrug comes from Statehouse Republicans, who in the last legislative session were pushing the establishment of charter schools.
As Tim Lockette reported in Sunday’s Anniston Star, the legislators’ passion for creating charter schools has cooled. Dramatically.
State Republicans ran in 2010 promising to establish charter schools, which are publicly funded alternatives to traditional public schools. They use state dollars and must meet state standards yet are free to explore new methods to educate children.
During the 2012 session of the Legislature, the drive for Alabama charter schools hit a roadblock. The Alabama Education Association opposed them, which was to be expected. What caught lawmakers off guard was fervent resistance from local school superintendents.
“It was the superintendents who really killed it,” state Sen. Dick Brewbaker, R-Montgomery, told The Star.
Sadly, Brewbaker and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, indicated that the drive for charter schools is most likely stalled for the foreseeable future.
Please, not another Alabama public-policy shrug.
Nobody ever said improving the way the state goes about educating children was going to be easy. These things take time and effort, usually via a long, hard march filled with disappointments. Supporters of charters would be smart to continue to charge up that hill, tweaking the bill and making the case to the public. The effort might take years, but it’s worth the fight.
If done smartly, charter schools could become a worthwhile option for Alabamians, particularly those stuck in failing public schools with virtually no other options. The good news is that the vast majority of states already have charter schools, so it shouldn’t be hard to assemble a list of best practices.
Republicans, who until winning majorities in the Alabama House and Senate in 2010, were out of power for more than 130 years. They should know a thing or two about waging difficult but ultimately successful campaigns.