By Representative Allen Farley
On February 28, 2013, at the close of the Alabama Legislature’s ninth day of our 2013 thirty day session, the Republican majority passed “The Alabama Accountability Act of 2013” in both the House and the Senate. What immediately followed were verbal attacks against the legislators who voted for this piece of legislation. The intensity of the attack from AEA, the Alabama School Board Association, and the Alabama State Superintendent’s Association, was nothing short of remarkable. Why has there been such a deafening outcry of objection from these Alabama associations who we have depended on for years to operate our public schools? Why would these professionals attack a piece of legislation that focuses on accountability?
Question: Could the answer be found in the National Assessment of Education Progress report? Who is accountable for Alabama’s public schools being ranked 43rd in the nation for K-12 Achievement? (I located this information in an online report posted on May 15, 2012 by The Anniston Star.)
Definition: Accountable – 1.subject to the obligation to report or justify something; responsible; answerable. 2. capable of being explained.
At no time during my two years in the Alabama House of Representatives have I received such angry emails from School Board and Union executives. (Wait a minute, could there be a connection here?) Words like “blindsided” and “disappointed” were used quite often. (You know, the verbiage by all these angered associations was pretty much the same.) Was it just a coincidence? I know that AEA couldn’t have that kind of influence? Well………….
Let me address my accountability. Who, as an elected State Representative, am I obligated to answer to?
Is it all of the 45,000 families in my Legislative District?
Is it every mom, dad, and grandparent, no-matter their income level?
Is it the 7%+ adult population who are unemployed?
Am I more accountable to the school teacher or the families of the 30+ students that teacher is paid to teach?
Am I just as accountable to the families who continue to have family members incarcerated in our state prisons?
Is there a correlation between Alabama’s K-12 public school system’s national ranking of 43rd and Alabama’s prison overcrowding at 190%?
Am I obligated to report to AEA, AFT, the School Board Association, or the Superintendent’s Association, before deciding to give children, who have been zoned to attend a consistently failing school, an opportunity to apply to a non-failing school to get a quality education?
You see, The Accountability Act of 2013 is about more than consistently failing schools. It’s about everyone, and anyone, who has the ability to provide a means for a child in Alabama to receive a quality education. The Alabama Legislature is at the top of that list. The state legislature has provided the budgets year after year for schools to teach Alabama’s children. Do we share the responsibility for consistently funding Alabama High Schools who graduate less than 50%? Yes we do!
Alabama’s 2012 Budget Facts: The state general fund for FY2012 spends $1,769,103,104.00, which is an increase of 11.44% over FY2011. Medicaid and Corrections are the two largest line items in the General Fund. Medicaid received $601.1 million and Corrections received $365.5 million. Education spending for FY2012 was $13.3 billion.(This data is located on the internet at Alabama state budget – Sunshine Review.)
My opinion: There is a correlation in Alabama between the tremendous number of individuals having to depend on Medicaid, the 190% prison overcrowding, and the consistently failing public schools. An improved public education system will directly affect the Medicaid and prison population numbers. The Republican majority in the Alabama Legislature had to become more accountable by passing The Accountability Act of 2013.
The part of The Accountability Act of 2013 I am most excited about is the scholarship opportunities. This will give private citizens and corporations a chance to step up to the plate and make a difference in a child’s life. We can see the Bible story of “The Good Samaritan” come to life before our eyes. Can you imagine the stereotypes that can be destroyed by individuals from different communities throwing a financial life-line across community and racial barriers? (I couldn’t help but think it fitting that The Accountability Act of 2013 was passed in Alabama’s State Legislature within a few days of the anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery March.) Now, hopefully poor black and white school children can overcome being chained to a poor school and therefore sentenced to unequal opportunities in their future.
Luke 10:29-37But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (30) Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. (31) Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. (32) So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. (33) But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. (34) He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. (35) And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, “Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.” (36) Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” (37) He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
God Bless America!!!