Alabama’s cruel summer: Has the tourism industry put one over on us?
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
May 04, 2012 | 2883 views |  0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In the past, school superintendents and teachers questioned the educational value of starting the school year later and ending it earlier. This year, the state tourism industry — which supported the plan — finally found the wedge issue it needed to get its way.

The just-passed Alabama Senate budget could eliminate as many as 948 teaching jobs, according to the state Department of Education, which ramps up the possibility of education being hurt even more by massive layoffs. Meanwhile, critics of a longer summer grabbed at a straw tossed to them when they accepted the argument that adding two to three weeks of vacation would generate as much as $22 million for the Education Trust Fund. That, the argument goes, would save teacher jobs.

Hoping this was true, former opponents agreed with Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, who said that if “I didn’t believe it would generate more dollars … I assure you I wouldn’t be supportive of it.” So they fell into line and approved a plan that would ban any city or county school board from starting the next school year before Aug. 20 (Aug. 19 this year) or from ending it later than May 24.

This will take away a great deal of local flexibility in scheduling and will require schools to teach longer classes. But if it means there will be teachers to teach these classes, opponents reasoned that the sacrifice of these school days will be worthwhile.

After the bill passed, the Legislative Fiscal Office, which is charged with estimating the revenue that legislation will raise or lose, reported that it was not predicting much of an increase in tourism from the extra weeks and that the financial impact will be nowhere close to what supporters predict.

Why, it seems reasonable to ask, wasn’t the Legislative Fiscal Office’s opinion brought forward before the voting? Or was it, and then buried beneath the rhetoric of the plan’s supporters? Was the idea of saving teachers’ jobs without having to raise taxes so appealing that former critics flocked to the plan, even though the logic was flawed?

Unless Gov. Robert Bentley vetoes the bill and his veto is sustained, a plan of questionable educational value and questionable economic value will become law, teachers’ jobs will still be lost and the quality of education in this state will take another blow.

Did the tourism industry put one over on us?

Or did we put one over on ourselves?
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