• 66°

Lt. Governor envisions Alabama

as star of Southeast

By AMY S. LANSDON

News Editor

Jan. 12, 2000 11 PM

In spite of the "rough and tumble" year at the State House, Lt. Gov. Steve Windom thinks the state of Alabama is on its way to stardom.

Windom was the guest speaker at the Troy Kiwanis Club meeting Tuesday night and shared with the members plans to improve the state. Windom’s plans include improving education in the state, buckling down on crime and increasing the importance of values among the people of Alabama.

"The biggest problem in education is the loss of the parents in the education process," he said. "Tax increases will not get support without parents. Parents don’t think they have a voice anymore and we have to get them back."

One of Windom’s proposals for getting parents more involved in the education process is a Sight-Based Management Parent Teacher Council. According to Windom’s plan the council will be comprised of three parent who are elected by the parents of the school, three teachers, who are elected by the school and the principal.

"These people will serve as the board of directors and will run the school including the budget process," Windom said. "I would like to see this pilot program on a statewide basis. It will make the parents feel more involved."

Windom also shared the plans for the higher education and how his plan would work.

"When the lottery was defeated, we were challenged to come up with a plan," Windom said. "The plan we came up with was the Alabama Scholarship Assistance Program."

Under ASAP a student must have a 3.0 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale in the core curriculum in high school and score a 20 on the American College Test, Windom said. More detailed qualifications for the program include, 16 core curriculum units, adjusted-gross income of $50,000 or less in a family with one child, with another $3,000 added for each additional dependent child. Windom said if a student is qualified for ASAP, tuition and fees will be free.

Windom said this program has been a success in other states and greatly reduces the cost of remediation once the students get into college.

Windom said one of the most important parts of the program is having the students prepared for college when they get there.

"When students don’t take core curriculum or don’t do well, they are not prepared for college," he said. "We want to make exit exams more difficult. But we don;t need to put up barriers for the kids, we need to give them incentive."

Other items Windom included in his plans for education are teacher compensation and safety.

"Teachers pay needs to be tied to merit and to a performance standard," he said. We need to raise all Alabama teachers to the national level.

"In the case of safety, we need a search of backpacks and lockers to make sure no drugs or guns are in our schools."

In the area of crime Windom had several plans of improvement.

"We need a truth in sentencing commitment," he said. "For example in Troy a burglar could get a six-month sentence, while in another place a burglar could get a 10-year sentence for the same crime. Right now there is no standard where the minimum should be set and we need uniformity across the state."

Windom also said the time before the death penalty needs to be shortened. Alabama has the longest time before an execution because of the appeal process. But Windom said eliminating the court of criminal appeals before an appearance in the State Supreme Court will shorten an accused’s time on death row.

Finally, Windom discussed the values of the state referring to welfare reform.

"We want to limit welfare to two children," Windom said. "Additional money will not be given for more children."

Alabama is one of the only states that does not require photo identification at the polls, and Windom said he also it is necessary for all voters in the state to present identification.

"Other states cannot believe we do not have to show identification to vote," Windom said. "The way it is now anyone can commit voter fraud by going from poll to poll and place a vote."

Senior citizen property tax exemption is also in Windom’s plans for Alabama.

Windom said senior citizens with a taxable income of $7,500 or less can be exempt for paying yearly property taxes.

"Many people don’t know about tax exemption," he said. "We need a set age that they will be automatically notify them when they are 65 so they can be exempt."

Even with the improvements Windom would like to see in the state he said he still thinks the state is on the road to success.

"It is encouraging that international world-class companies want to come here," he said. "Politicians may fight and scrap but in the end everyone comes together to do what it takes to bring new businesses to the state. We have in place a Commerce Commission that is establishing an economic development plan for the long term. An economic development plan combined with a willingness of businesses to come here and a strong tort reform package is good for the states economy.

"A lot is going on and I’m excited about it. The future of the state looks good. I believe Alabama is poised to be the star of the Southeast in this century. I am excited to have been given the chance to help lead Alabama as we become the best."