By Ron Crumpton
In looking at the Alabama House Republican Agenda, there is a lot of talk about tax breaks that only affects a limited few, and the usual, apparent, “wag the dog” but what about the children?
The one thing that is obviously missing from the House Republican Agenda is any mention of education in Alabama. The State of Alabama is currently 38th in education spending per pupil (2010), 34th in education (2011), and 36th in 4-year graduation rates (2011), yet there is no mention of the issue in the House Republican Agenda.
It is very simple, education is the silver bullet, and nothing else has as much effect on our society as the education of our citizenry.
Employment and Job Creation
A well-educated citizenry makes the state more attractive to industry. Regardless of the incentives offered, a company is not going to move into the state if it lacks the resources necessary for the company to be successful. The most important resource to business is the labor required to do business.
Furthermore, a well-educated workforce not only increases the number of jobs that we can recruit to the state, it increases the quality of those jobs. It is one thing for a state to recruit $25,000 a year jobs, it is another thing to recruit $50,000+ a year jobs, but to recruit those jobs you have to have the people qualified to fill those positions. The only way to do that is through education.
Poverty and Crime
The effect of education on poverty is common sense, if you increase someone’s ability to earn income you give them the ability to rise out of poverty, and this reduces crime because it increases the opportunity costs of the crime. In other words, you have more to lose by being caught, which makes you less likely to engage in criminal activity.
Studies show that education also reduces crime because of the difference in the social stigma of being convicted for committing a crime. Quite simply, crime is less accepted among your peers based on your other options of survival. Crime is more acceptable among those in poverty because of the “by any means necessary” approach to survival that it creates.
Most importantly, education increases your ability to effectively reason and make informed decisions, thereby increasing your ability to see that crime is an impractical means of survival when other means are available. (Lochner & Moretti)
Increased education includes the education of what foods provide better nutritional sources, and the increase in income associated with education enables you to afford more nutritional options.
It reduces destructive behaviors such as drug abuse and smoking.
It increases your general healthcare knowledge, which increases your ability to know when medical advice and treatment is warranted and it makes those services more accessible.
There are many any other issues that are positively affected by education.
So, why is there no mention of education in the Republican House Agenda?
Our Governor has shown his willingness to ignore the problems in our education system, and lower the expectations that we have for our children.
Last year, our legislature held schools “accountable” and labeled schools as failing, while making no real effort to solve the problem, as if labeling the school as failing will increase test scores and make our children more prepared for the future.
We have cut funding to our schools by over $1300 per student since 2008, yet the Republican legislature has done nothing to replace this funding. It is time that we look at new sources of revenue to fund education to replace lost revenue, repair or replace the many schools that are no longer suitable, see to it that our teachers have the supplies, equipment, and technology that they need to educate our children, and provide increased availability to higher education for all Alabamians.
The fact that the Republican leadership has done nothing to replace this funding is not only reprehensible; it is a dereliction of duty on the part of our leaders.
“Education is the silver bullet. Education is everything. We don’t need little changes; we need gigantic, monumental changes. Schools should be palaces. The competition for the best teachers should be fierce. Schools should be incredibly expensive for government and absolutely free of charge to its citizens, just like national defense. That’s my position.” ~ The West Wing
Nothing is more important than our children and the future of Alabama, and those are two things that are inseparably linked, the way to achieve a better Alabama is not through tax breaks and investment in industry, but through investment in our children.