AL House District 104
The Alabama Accountability Act (AAA) has been a “gift” to the State that, for our public schools, is about as bad as a full-body pink bunny suit for an 11-year-old boy on Christmas morning! This piece of legislation has done nothing to improve public education or help students succeed in the classroom. In fact, this legislation has done much more harm than good. It has taken much more than it has given. During this Christmas season, let’s look at what this legislation has “given” to us in Mobile County.
This year, the estimated loss of funding (AEA analysis) to Mobile County Public Schools is $3,144,649.001. This amount is the “share” that MCPSS has “contributed” to the overall $40 Million cost of the AAA. Simple math, based on current enrollment listed on its website as 59,117 students, indicates that this cut to the MCPSS budget results in a loss of $50.74 in per pupil spending.
At first, this per pupil spending loss does not appear to be substantial. However, when I investigated what the overall cost would be to schools located in District 104 based on current student enrollment at each school, the following figures were more concerning:
Griggs Elementary (-$34,250)
Meadowlake Elementary (-$22,500)
Burns Middle (-$51,000)
Dodge Elementary (-$51,000)
Kate Shepherd Elementary (-21,250)
Breitling Elementary (-$29,000)
The total loss for MCPSS schools in District 104 totals $239,000.
How much more could these schools have done for students, in order to ensure that they make progress academically and developmentally, with that $239,000 of taxpayer money? Children in many classrooms in these very schools are not able to take home textbooks for use in completing homework or study because of the shortage of books for subjects like Math and Science. Equipment that needs to be fixed, like copy machines, printers, and any computer systems that the schools are lucky enough to have in the first place, is not maintained adequately in many cases due to lack of funding. Library funding has not been available since 2008. Most classroom and library aides have been cut. Parents are constantly asked to bring in paper towels, toilet tissue, and hand sanitizer, and to donate copy paper for teachers who do not have sufficient supplies on hand to support their students. Fundraisers are so numerous in these schools that one would think that those who continue to cut education budgets must have a business interest in the fundraising companies. The list of issues that a lack of adequate funding for schools creates is nearly endless.
The State of Alabama ranks 39th in the nation on cost per pupil spending, according to reports from 2012. With the enactment of the AAA, the cost-per-pupil cost went down, and so did Alabama once again in National rankings related to education.
So who did the AAA benefit?
Well, 9 children in MCPSS schools were able to transfer from a public to a private school. Not 900; only 92. Based on the cost to MCPSS, that translates to $349,405.44 per child. The per-pupil cost in Alabama is only $8,383. Parents who pursue this program are able to apply to a private school in the area, but no guarantee is made that the private school will accept the child seeking the transfer. If the child is accepted, tuition cost for the private school is paid by the parents and they are eligible to apply for a tax credit at the end of the year in order to recoup a portion of the total amount of tuition. A tuition cost to private schools is generally much higher than the tax credit that is offered by the AAA, which is $3,500.
Beyond the tuition expense, parents must then provide uniforms, transportation, school supplies, food costs, fees of various sorts for participation in extracurricular programs, etc. These extra costs alone, even if the AAA covered the full amount of tuition, puts this transfer option out of reach for most families. Students are able to seek a transfer from a “failing” school to another “higher functioning” public school in the district, something they have been able to do for some time under the No Child Left Behind legislation. Additionally, most private schools do not, or will not, offer services for students in Special Education or those with an Individual Education Plan (IEP). However, if a child in a private school is identified as being in need of special services like testing or evaluation, the public school system is expected to provide those services. Both the label of “failing” schools and the NCLB law are discussions for another time.
In the end, the AAA is a “gift” that has taken much more than it has given. It has “given” our public schools more of a funding problem than we already had in the State. It has “given” our teachers less to work with in the classroom. It has “given” private schools the opportunity to participate in more government bureaucracy. (Isn’t this something that the GOP always says that it does not want to do – create more bureaucracy and government intrusion?) It has “given” our future generation of leaders less chance to excel in the classroom, and it has “given” the supermajority Republican Party in Montgomery just one more reason to justify throwing them out of office!
I am not endorsed or funded by AEA or any other special interest group. I am simply an Alabama man who cares about teachers and all of our students, and I believe that we must invest and support our public schools if we want them to succeed. Continuing to berate teachers, cut their budgets, and tell ourselves that they are “failing,” will inevitably ensure that they do fail. We have to change this defeatist way of thinking if we want to change the outcome, and that change needs to happen now.
Vote for me on January 28th and I will work with all my might to make sure that this terrible “gift” is taken back to the garbage heap from which it came.