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Opinion | What a stupid, stupid day Tuesday was in the Alabama Senate

Alabama lawmakers think you’re stupid. And they’re working hard to make sure you stay that way.

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Tuesday was a really stupid day for the Alabama Senate, and it will go a long way towards ensuring our young people, and particularly our most at-risk young people, remain that way.

The senate pushed forward with two incredibly dumb bills – one that will have a devastating effect on public education and Alabama’s poorest children, and another that will undercut any chance the state has to turn the already present gambling in this state into educational opportunities for our young people. 

In a surprise move, the senate’s education committee passed through the voucher program bill. That bill is appropriately called the “CHOOSE” Act, since a whole bunch of people are choosing to ignore the absolute lunacy of paying for wealthy kids to attend private schools by taking money from schools serving impoverished students. 

In any other context of public service, this plan would be laughed out of the room. Imagine a guy saying he doesn’t like his local park so he wants his “park dollars” to follow him to the country club. Can Black citizens who are tired of unfair treatment from local cops take their “police dollars” and hire private security? 

Such stupidity is the basis for the “school choice” argument – that tax dollars paid by parents should follow the child. 

It’s an ignorant person’s notion of how tax dollars work and of the mechanics of public education funding. We don’t pay taxes per pupil. We fund a school per pupil in theory, but those funds are pulled from the pool of all tax dollars because we determined long ago in this country that an educated populace serves us best as a civilized society. Thus, public schools funded by the public. 

Now, if you don’t like those, you do, in fact, have education freedom. You are free to pay for your child to go anywhere else. 

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But instead, because so many people have salivated for decades over getting their greedy, greasy hands on those public school dollars, and because you can convince a lot of white people to do incredibly stupid things if you slyly mix racism in, we’re now going to suck hundreds of millions of dollars from those public schools – most of which have been underfunded in this state since forever – and direct them to private businesses. Private businesses, mind you, that will be held to dramatically different standards, not audited by the same standards, not open to public inspection or required to achieve at the same levels. 

Want to know how dumb this is? If a private school takes in a special needs student, the private school is NOT required to provide the necessary educational tools to properly serve that student. 

Guess who is? If you guessed the local school system, which is also losing $7,000, you’d be right. 

The overwhelming majority of Alabama kids are in public schools – schools that y’all love and support, and that employ teachers you treat like family. And y’all are just going along with this lunacy that will suck dollars out of those schools and away from those teachers. 

But hell, I guess it’s not like those poor kids that are going to be hosed by this are going to get to go to college anyway. 

That ray of hope died this afternoon as well, as a different Senate committee passed a gambling bill that is somehow dumber than the absurdly dumb way we handle gambling in this state currently. 

The bill passed by the Tourism Committee stripped casinos and sports wagering out of the package passed by the House. Now, a handful of senators, led by Chris Elliott and Sam Givhan and April Weaver and a few others, want this: a lottery, some historical horse racing machines at seven casinos around the state and a compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians that would allow for full casinos at only their three current locations in Montgomery, Wetumpka and Atmore. 

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So, if you’re scoring at home, that’s the same amount of gambling locations as proposed in the House bill but with roughly a quarter of the revenue. 

Apparently, these people aren’t aware that a compact with the Poarch Creeks, because of the way such a thing has to be negotiated through the federal government, would reap a fraction of the revenue that a state might receive from taxing a traditional casino. But never mind. We’re going to allow casinos at only the three places where we can get the bare minimum in return. 

No casino in Birmingham. No casino in Mobile. No casino in northeast Alabama. The three locations where the state was projected to make the most money and attract the most tourism. 

And no sports wagering. Alabamians spent more than $2 billion dollars betting on games last year alone. Playing on shady local websites and through off-shore casino websites. But nah, why let reputable companies come in here and clean that up? 

All of this will leave the lottery funds paying the bulk of the costs of implementing a gambling commission that has a law enforcement arm – an expense that will eat through tens of millions of dollars annually. And the third of the revenue, under this plan, that would go towards “education-related activities” (whatever the hell that means) will be further reduced. 

There’s no way we can offer even free two-year college tuition to state students, much less a program like Georgia’s HOPE Scholarships. 

But then, here I am pretending like any of this is real. It’s not. The House is never going to concur on this bill. 

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This gambling bill was designed to do one thing and one thing only: give the senators who are trying to kill gambling legislation on behalf of special interest groups and out-of-state interests the necessary cover to say that they tried to pass a lottery but it just didn’t work out. 

Because they think you’re stupid. And they’re trying their dead level best to keep you that way.

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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