Phillip Tutor: Education on the cheap carries costs
Oct 18, 2012 | 2251 views |  0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Let’s improve public education in Alabama.

We already spend too much, per-pupil, than is necessary. So let’s drop these liberal, progressive-minded notions that our schools will perform better if we increase their budgets.

Money doesn’t fix everything.

And here’s how we’ll help struggling students without using taxpayer money to pay for tutors or enhanced academic programs. We’ll take the brightest kids from public schools and the “smart” schools — you get my drift — and have them tutor those who underperform. No reason to pay for tutors when the smart kids can learn-’em-up for free. We’ll bus them from one school to another in the afternoons.

That’s how we’ll improve education in Alabama.

Really.

Stop wincing. Those aren’t my thoughts.

They came a few years ago from a short-lived candidate for governor, who once described his education plan to The Star’s editorial board. No joke.

We already throw too much money at public schools, he claimed.

And he wanted students, not professionals, to tutor students.

Heaven help us.

That frightening episode is relevant this week as voters ponder one of the many constitutional amendments on the upcoming Nov. 6 ballot. Amendment No. 4, if passed, will remove some (though not all) of the segregationist language from the 1901 Constitution, that evil document that remains the law of our land.

A similar amendment failed in 2004, though not because voters wanted to protect a few century-old, racist passages. In part, it was over over-hyped, trumped-up fears that if the Alabama Legislature guarantees the right to public education, lawmakers would raise taxes to pay for it.

Here we are again, eight years later. The segregationist language still exists. And again lawmakers of both parties are disagreeing — not necessarily along party lines — about the amendment’s viability. There are opinions on all sides: black lawmakers who support it; black lawmakers who don’t because it doesn’t remove all of the language; lawmakers of both races with various concerns about the state’s guarantee of providing public schooling for all.

Let’s agree on this much. The language needs to be removed. It is racist, demeaning, dehumanizing and wholly embarrassing. Take it out.

But that language, damaging as it is, is the easy sell. Who wants to keep it? No one who matters. The more essential issue is guaranteeing Alabamians’ right to a public education and shelving cranks’ outcries about having to pony up to pay for better schools.

Unless, of course, schooling isn’t important to you.

Thank goodness that the Enlightenment’s ideals brought the world to a better place. Granted, there is no guarantee of public education in the Declaration of Independence or Bill of Rights; once the duty of parents and the church, education has been left up to the states — and, obviously, some states do it right while others do it on the cheap.

Alabama is the latter.

Times like these make me remember that gubernatorial candidate slapping the table, emphatically, while trying to convince us that his asinine way would work.

Alabama’s age-old quandary remains: How much do we truly value public education? How good do we want it to be? Our history doesn’t have to be our future.

Phillip Tutor — ptutor@annistonstar.com — is The Star’s commentary editor. Follow him at Twitter.com/PTutor_Star.
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