By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
The Alabama Education Association is asking voters to vote “NO” on a measure that is ostensibly designed to remove racist language from Alabama’s 1901 Constitution. The AEA is saying that removing that language from the Constitution would weaken or eliminate the state of Alabama’s commitment to provide a public education for school children. ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ discussed these developments with Amendment Four supporter Alabama State Senator Cam Ward (R) from Alabaster.
Senator Ward said that the sole purpose of Amendment Four is removing racist language and terminology from the Alabama Constitution. Ward said that there is no hidden backdoor in the amendment to end public education in the state of Alabama.
The state’s largest education employees union wrote in ‘The Alabama School Journal’ that Amendment Four, “Sounds good, but what is not spelled out on the ballot could be devastating to public education.”
Sen. Ward said that the AEA, “Wants a clause guaranteeing a right to education inserted in there.” Sen. Ward said, “The legislature wants a clean amendment.” Sen. Ward said that a guarantee to education means that every child has a right to an education; but that raises the question of what is the correct amount of education and what is an adequately funded education. Sen. Ward said that AEA has supported efforts in that past to sue the state to demand adequate funding. A “right to an education” means that the teacher’s union could by-pass the legislature and go to the court system to increase taxes for education. This issue came up in 2004 when voters rejected an amendment removing racist language in the state constitution, precisely because that amendment had an education guarantee clause in it.
Sen. Ward said having racist language and provision in our state constitution, “Is a stain on our reputation to have that in there. We don’t need that stain on our reputation.”
Sen. Ward said, “We can all agree that racist language needs to be removed from the Alabama Constitution.”
‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ asked Sen. Ward: Why should the state not just leave the state Constitution alone and stop tinkering with the wording in it? Sen. Ward said, “We are reforming it article by article. Language that is racist or no longer applies (like the state printing its own money) needs to be removed from the state Constitution. A constitution represents who we are as a people and racist language is not who we are.”
The AEA wrote, “A clear indication that Amendment Four is not simply about eliminating racist language is that no black legislators voted in favor of it when it came for a vote in the Statehouse.” “Amendment Four is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and all education employees should vote it down.” “Voters going to the polls on November 6 will see the amendment removing racist language on segregation in schools and poll taxes in the state Constitution. These two ugly sections were passed during periods of racial strife. They are not in effect, having long been suspended by court rulings. Unfortunately, Amendment Four also eliminates constitutional language guaranteeing that the state will “establish, organize, and maintain a liberal system of public schools for the benefit of the children.”
Sen. Ward said, “The AEA is just trying to manufacture an issue.”
‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ asked Sen. Ward: “Would it be a major embarrassment if Alabama voters rejected an amendment that removes racist language from the state constitution when everyone in the nation is glued to their TV sets watching presidential election returns? Sen. Ward said, “Yes, it would I think it would be a sad day for the state of Alabama.”