Connect with us

Guest Columnists

We Can’t Have Education Without Educators

Craig Ford

Published

on

By Minority Leader Rep. Craig Ford

One of the biggest problems we have in education right now is the shortage of teachers. This is true both nationally and in Alabama.

Today, fewer college students are enrolling in education courses. Eric Mackey, the executive director of the state superintendents association, recently told the Times Daily that there are about 40 to 45 percent fewer college students studying to be teachers than there were just five years ago, and that there are school systems in Alabama that do not have any certified math, science and special education teachers.

More and more, college students are looking at the teaching profession and saying, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

And who can blame them? Since 2008, public education funding in Alabama has been cut more than 20 percent per student. State leaders have eliminated thousands of teaching positions, resulting in larger class sizes, while cutting educators’ pay and now toying with the idea of cutting retirement, tenure and other benefits.

How can we get people interested in becoming educators when Republicans are undermining them at every turn? We cannot have education without educators! Yet, we continue to punish those who have stuck with the profession, as well as their students. Teachers have less one-on-one time with students, and now, the possibility of no defined benefits package and even more changes to the tenure system and pay scale.

Of course, then there’s the fact that educators haven’t had a true pay increase since 2008, and now Republican legislators are considering a pay raise just for teachers in certain fields.

Public Service Announcement

The suggested changes to the defined benefits package alone complete undermine the work our educators do. State leaders have already removed educators’ association representatives from the board that oversees the retirement system. Republicans tried to replace the elected members of the board with their political appointees. The most recent blow is looking at doing away with the defined benefits package and replacing it with something similar to a 401k.

And even if Republicans weren’t waging a war on public schools and teachers, it’s hard enough to encourage young people to become educators.

As it stands right now, teachers make considerably less than other college graduates and certified professionals. In fact, on average teachers make around $14,000 less than those with certifications in other fields, like certified public accountants and registered nurses.

ADVERTISEMENT

And it’s true that teachers don’t go into their profession for the money. But neither do nurses, and they still make considerably more.

According to a recent article from The Washington Post, civic-minded public servants coming out of college just simply aren’t interested in serving in public education. They would rather form advocacy groups, studying public health with plans to go home and give back to their communities, or prepare to become social workers because they feel they can accomplish more in these professions.

Current college student want to be “agents of change”—not a person who reads from a script and administers standardized tests all day, which is how they see what we have made public education become in this country.

We cannot afford to continue losing talented, motivated young people. Without educators there is no education. Is that what we want for the future of our children?

Unless state leaders start supporting public education instead of undermining it; unless state leaders start appreciating our educators instead of attacking them, we are just going to continue losing the best and brightest young people to other professions.

We must also make sure that state leaders do not undermine the work of our current educators. Right now, on average 30 percent teachers in America will leave the profession after just three years because they get burned out. By year five, 45 percent will leave. If we don’t support these hardworking people properly, that number will just continue to rise with fewer and fewer capable people coming in to replace them. We have to give our educators the support they need to be successful.

Successful teachers mean successful classrooms, which means successful kids. It’s that simple. If our teachers are not successful, then our children won’t be successful. We trust teachers with what is most important in our lives: Our children and their future. If we want the best CEOs or the best doctors, we have to pay the best rate for them. The same is true with educators.

Asking our teachers to do more with less for less money is unacceptable. Going after their retirement, paychecks and job security will only make things worse. We have to make education and attractive profession again, because our children can’t get an education if we don’t have any educators to teach them.

Rep. Craig Ford is a Democrat from Gadsden and the Minority Leader in the Alabama House of Representatives.

Rep. Craig Ford is an Independent who represents Gadsden and Etowah County in the Alabama House of Representatives. He served as the House Minority Leader from 2010-2016.

Advertisement

Guest Columnists

Opinion | On the Nov. 3 ballot, vote “no” on proposed Amendment 1

Chris Christie

Published

on

(STOCK PHOTO)

On Nov. 3, 2020, all Alabama voters should vote “no” on proposed Amendment 1. Vote no on Amendment 1 because it could allow state law changes to disenfranchise citizens whom the Legislature does not want to vote. Because Amendment 1 has no practical purpose and because it opens the door to mischief, all voters are urged to vote no.

Currently, the Alabama Constitution provides that “Every citizen of the United States…” has the right to vote in the county where the voter resides. Amendment 1 would delete the word “every” before citizen and replace it with “only a” citizen.

In Alabama, the only United States citizens who cannot vote today are most citizens who have been convicted of a felony of moral turpitude. These felonies are specifically identified in Ala. Code 17-3-30.1.

Without Amendment 1, the Alabama Constitution now says who can vote: every citizen. If voters approve Amendment 1, the Alabama Constitution would only identify a group who cannot vote. With Amendment 1, we, the citizens of the United States in Alabama, thus would lose the state constitutional protection of our voting rights.

In Alabama, no individual who is not a United States citizens can vote in a governmental election. So, Amendment 1 has no impact on non-citizens in Alabama.

Perhaps the purpose of Amendment 1 could be to drive voter turnout of those who mistakenly fear non-citizens can vote. The only other purpose for Amendment 1 would be allowing future Alabama state legislation to disenfranchise groups of Alabama citizens whom a majority of the legislature does not want to vote.

In 2020, the ballots in Florida and Colorado have similar amendments on the ballots. As in Alabama, Citizens Voters, Inc., claims it is responsible for putting these amendments on the ballots in those states. While Citizens Voters’ name sounds like it is a good nonprofit, as a 501(c)(4), it has secret political donors. One cannot know who funds Citizen Voters and thus who is behind pushing these amendments with more than $8 million in dark money.

Public Service Announcement

According to Citizen Voter’s website, the stated reason for Amendment 1 is that some cities in several other states allow non-citizens to vote. My understanding is that such measures are rare and only apply to voting for local school boards.

And why would a local government’s deciding that non-citizens can vote for local school boards be a state constitutional problem? Isn’t the good government practice to allow local control of local issues? And again, this issue does not even exist in Alabama.

The bigger question, which makes Amendment 1’s danger plain to see, is why eliminate the language protectingevery citizen’s right to vote? For example, Amendment 1 could have proposed “Every citizen and only a citizen” instead of deleting “every” when adding “only a” citizen. Why not leave the every citizen language in the Alabama Constitution?

ADVERTISEMENT

Amendment 1 could allow Alabama new state legislation to disenfranchise some Alabama citizens. Such a change would probably violate federal law. But Alabama has often had voting laws that violated federal law until a lawsuit forced the state of Alabama not to enforce the illegal state voting law.  

The most recent similar law in Alabama might be 2011’s HB56, the anti-immigrant law. Both HB56 and Amendment 1 are Alabama state laws that out-of-state interests pushed on us. And HB56 has been largely blocked by federal courts after expensive lawsuits.

Alabama’s Nov. 3, 2020, ballot will have six constitutional amendments. On almost all ballots, Amendment 1 will be at the bottom right on the first page (front) of the ballot or will be at the top left on the second page (back) of the ballot.

Let’s keep in our state constitution our protection of every voters’ right to vote.

Based on Amendment 1’s having no practical benefit and its opening many opportunities for mischief, all Alabama voters are strongly urged to vote “no” on Amendment 1.

Continue Reading

Guest Columnists

Opinion | Amendment 4 is an opportunity to clean up the Alabama Constitution

Gerald Johnson and John Cochran

Published

on

(STOCK PHOTO)

The 1901 but current Alabama Constitution has been amended about 950 times, making it by far the world’s longest constitution. The amendments have riddled the Constitution with redundancies while maintaining language and provisions — for example, poll taxes — that reflect the racist intent of those who originally wrote it.

A recompilation will bring order to the amendments and remove obsolete language. While much of this language is no longer valid, the language is still in the document and has been noted and used by other states when competing with Alabama for economic growth opportunities.

The need for recompilation and cleaning of Alabama’s Constitution has been long recognized.

In 2019, the Legislature unanimously adopted legislation, Amendment 4, to provide for its recompilation. Amendment 4 on the Nov. 3 general election ballot will allow the non-partisan Legislative Reference Service to draft a recompiled and cleaned version of the Constitution for submission to the Legislature.

While Amendment 4 prohibits any substantive changes in the Constitution, the LRS will remove duplication, delete no longer legal provisions and racist language, thereby making our Constitution far more easily understood by all Alabama citizens.

Upon approval by the Legislature, the recompiled Constitution will be presented to Alabama voters in November 2022 for ratification.

Amendment 4 authorizes a non-partisan, broadly supported, non-controversial recompilation and much-needed, overdue cleaning up of our Constitution.

Public Service Announcement

On Nov. 3, 2020, vote “Yes” on Amendment 4 so the work can begin.

Continue Reading

Guest Columnists

Opinion | Auburn Student Center named for Harold Melton, first Auburn SGA president of color

Elizabeth Huntley and James Pratt

Published

on

Auburn University's Student Center (VIA AUBURN UNIVERSITY)

The year 1987 was a quiet one for elections across America but not at Auburn. That was the year Harold Melton, a student in international studies and Spanish, launched and won a campaign to become the first African American president of the Auburn Student Government Association, winning with more than 65 percent of the vote.

This was just the first of many important roles Harold Melton would play at Auburn and in an extraordinarily successful legal career in his home state of Georgia, where his colleagues on the Georgia Supreme Court elected him as chief justice.

Last week, the Auburn Board of Trustees unanimously named the Auburn student center for Justice Melton, the first building on campus that honors a person of color. The decision was reached as part of a larger effort to demonstrate Auburn’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

In June, Auburn named two task forces to study diversity and inclusion issues. We co-chair the task force for the Auburn Board with our work taking place concurrently with that of a campus-based task force organized by President Jay Gogue. Other members of the Board task force are retired Army general Lloyd Austin, bank president Bob Dumas, former principal and educator Sarah B. Newton and Alabama Power executive Quentin P. Riggins.

These groups are embarking on a process that offers all Auburn stakeholders a voice, seeking input from students, faculty, staff, alumni, elected officials and more. It will include a fact-based review of Auburn’s past and present, and we will provide specific recommendations for the future.

We are committed to making real progress based on solid facts. Unlike other universities in the state, Auburn has a presence in all 67 counties through the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Our review has included not only our campuses in Auburn and Montgomery but all properties across our state. To date, we have found no monuments or statues recognizing the history that has divided our country. We will continue our fact-finding mission with input from the academic and research community.

Our university and leadership are committed to doing the right thing, for the right reasons, at the right time. We believe now is the right time, and we are already seeing results.

Public Service Announcement

In addition to naming the student center for the Honorable Harold Melton, we have taken steps to highlight the significant role played by Harold Franklin, the student who integrated Auburn. We are working to enhance the historical marker that pays tribute to Mr. Franklin, and we are raising its visibility in campus tours as we pay homage to his contributions as our first African American student. Last month, we awarded Mr. Franklin, now 86 and with a Ph.D., a long-overdue master’s degree for the studies he completed at Auburn so many years ago.

We likewise endorsed a student-led initiative creating the National Pan-Hellenic Council Legacy Plaza, which will recognize the contributions of Black Greek organizations and African American culture on our campus.

In the coming months, Auburn men and women will work together to promote inclusion to further enhance our student experience and build on our strength through diversity. The results of this work will be seen and felt throughout the institution in how we recruit our students, provide scholarships and other financial support and ensure a culture of inclusion in all walks of university life.

ADVERTISEMENT

Our goal is to identify and implement substantive steps that will make a real difference at Auburn, impact our communities and stand the test of time.

Naming the student center for Justice Melton is but one example. In response to this decision, he said, “Auburn University has already given me everything I ever could have hoped for in a university and more. This honor is beyond my furthest imagination.”

Our job as leaders at Auburn is more than honoring the Harold Meltons and Harold Franklins who played a significant role in the history of our university. It is also to create an inclusive environment that serves our student body and to establish a lasting legacy where all members of the Auburn Family reach their fullest potential in their careers and in life.

Continue Reading

Guest Columnists

Opinion | Alabama lags behind the nation in Census participation with deadline nearing

Paul DeMarco

Published

on

(STOCK PHOTO)

The United States Census is starting to wind down around the country with a Sept. 30 deadline for the national population to be completed. However, a United States District Court has recently ruled that the date may be extended another 30 days to allow more time for the census to take place.

Regardless of the deadline, Alabama has work to do when it comes to the census.

To date, the national average for participation around the country has been almost 65 percent for the census.

Unfortunately, Alabama residents are providing data to the census at a lower percentage, around some 61 percent of the state population.

There is already concern among state leaders that if that number does not reach above 70 percent, then the state will lose a seat in Congress, a vote in the electoral college and millions of federal dollars that come to the state every year.

The percentage of participation has varied widely around the state, from a high of 76 percent in Shelby County to a low of 36 percent in neighboring Coosa County.

State leaders are making a final push to request Alabama residents fill out the census in the last month before it is closed.

Public Service Announcement

We will find out later this fall if Alabama passes the national average of participation in the census compared to other states to retain both its future representation and share of federal dollars.

In the meantime, Alabamians need to fill out their census forms.

The state is depending on it.

ADVERTISEMENT

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement