Gerald Dial’s possible retirement could be a catastrophe for public education in Alabama

August 31, 2017

By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter

There is an impending catastrophe for public education in Alabama.

Sen. Gerald Dial is considering not running for re-election and running for Alabama Agriculture Commissioner instead.

I know that sounds odd.

First, it’s odd that the resignation of any one state lawmaker could be a catastrophe. And second, it’s odd that I would believe a Republican’s resignation could have such a devastating effect.

That should tell you how serious this is.

Over the course of the last several years, the pro-public education lawmakers in the Alabama House and Senate have dwindled to pathetic levels. The Republican takeover in 2010 ushered in a whole crop of young, naïve lawmakers who seemed perfectly happy to just be in office.

And why wouldn’t they? I wouldn’t trust some of them to cut my grass.

These guys went along with pretty much anything the GOP leadership that filled their campaign coffers asked them to.

That’s how we ended up with attacks on public school teachers – remember when they were overpaid government mooches back in 2011 and 2012? – and how the atrocious Alabama Accountability Act was passed? It’s also led to the ongoing push for “school choice,” which is better defined as funneling public dollars to private companies to mostly do a worse job educating children.

Through it all, few Republicans have stood in the way of the leadership’s shameful attempts to get their hands on public schools’ pot of money.

Gerald Dial has.

If not for Dial and his experience, standing and influence, Lord knows how much money the GOP leadership would have grabbed from the Education Trust Fund during the last few years of general fund crises.

It was Dial who blocked efforts to take hundreds of millions from the ETF on multiple occasions. It was Dial who squashed efforts to combine the general fund and ETF budgets, which would have made it easier for lawmakers to funnel money away from education. And it was Dial who pushed for a cigarette tax increase in 2015 instead of a transfer of ETF dollars.

Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been all rainbows and unicorns as far as Dial has been concerned, and I’ve disagreed with him on a number of things.

But when it comes to public education, I’m significantly worried about what could happen without Dial’s leadership.

Especially considering the monumental turnover that’s going to occur in the 2018 election cycle. As it stands, at least a dozen senators are giving up their seats.

That’s a lot of newbies – most likely a majority of GOP newbies who will be led around by Senate President Del Marsh and the other anti-public education senators. With no one to even serve as a speed bump to bad, harmful ideas.

We can’t have that.

The general fund budget is going to be a mess. We’re losing the BP oil spill money, and there doesn’t appear to be another natural disaster on the horizon to dump a few hundred million into the state, and there are no new revenues.

God forbid we implement a lottery, or legalize and tax gambling, so we’re looking at a general fund budget that could be monumentally short, and a GOP-led legislature that’s just itching to take anything it can away from public education.

Maybe it’s unlikely that Dial can stop the onslaught, but there’s no one with enough clout to do so if he’s gone.

And where’s he going, anyway? To check gas pumps and make sure farmers get irrigation supplies? Ooooh, fun.

Stop this nonsense.

It’s truly a shame that protecting public education in Alabama comes down to convincing a guy not to retire so his fellow partymates won’t pilfer the education funds to give to a fly-by-night charter school or just directly to Bob Riley.

But this is the reality. Gerald Dial is the only shot we have.

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