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Why I Support Amendment 4

By Sen. Cam Ward

Election Day is almost upon us and there are many important races to be decided, both nationally and locally. As a delegate to the Republican National Convention, and an Alabama elector for Gov. Romney and Congressman Ryan, I am concentrating on the outcome of the presidential race – and polling shows “Mittmentum” is real.

While there are very few contested races in our state this year, there is quite an effort to win county and court house races at the local level. There is also the issue of amendments to our state constitution.

Many people I know say they plan to vote no on all of these not only to protest the way we govern ourselves, but also in hopes to get a full re-write of our state constitution. Nonetheless, there are several important Amendments on the ballot dealing with a host of issues including our state’s ability to issues bonds for vital economic development projects, a repeal of the legislative pay raise – and a repeal of the legislature’s ability to vote itself a pay raise ever again – and Amendment 4, which removes the racist language from the 1901 Constitution of our state.

Every year the legislature considers amendments and places them on the ballot. This amendment is no different, and was supported by 14 Republicans and 9 Democrats when it came up for a vote in the Senate. Though we often differ on which policies are best for our state, we all recognize that this language has no place in the principle, governing document of Alabama.

One could assume something such as removing outdated and wrong-headed racist language from the state constitution would be one of the easiest and least controversial issues that our state would be facing in 2012. Yet, politics makes for strange bedfellows, and assumption is the mother of many mistakes.

The Alabama Education Association has staked out a unique view on this Amendment. Though they represent an important profession in our state – teachers – they believe this Amendment to be a backdoor repeal of your right to public education. I believe they are wrong.

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First and foremost, this bill is designed to take out references to separate school facilities for different races, and remove the language that refers to a “poll tax” – which served as a de facto manner for limiting the voting rights of citizens in our state, but is no longer legal, and recognized as an outdated and outmoded way of thinking.

In regard to the language of the bill that “removes” the right to a “liberal public education,” what this bill actually does is strengthen the ability of the legislature to allocate funding to districts in a way it sees fit, and as makes better sense in 2012 than it did in 1901. Times have changed, and so has education. To say that any member of this legislature is against public education is not only wrong, but it is nonsense – plain and simple.

Public education is not now, has never been, and never will be perfect in our state. That does not mean that we should stop trying to make it so. Since the economic meltdown of 2008 almost all political discourse in our country has been focused on jobs. Jobs and economic development have been my and my colleagues’ top priority. As goes education, so goes economic development.

Please do not be fooled by those who would maintain the status quo, or search for a way to increase law suits and property taxes, into thinking that doing something right – removing racist language for our governing documents – with something wrong – removing your right to public education.

I suppose it is possible certain legislators could be against public education – but after a short time we would call them ex-legislators.

Thank you for your interest in our government and the future of our state. Please consider a yes vote on Amendment 4.

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