State should either pay up or shut up

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 29, 2000

Staff Editorial

Aug. 28, 2000 10 PM

The state of Alabama has apparently made promises to the Pike County School System that it seems reluctant to keep.

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At stake is more than $400,000 in school-to-work funds that the school system had already budgeted based on promises from the state that the money was headed our way. The contract was, it seemed, at the very least signed and sealed, if not delivered.

Now the state is balking on that promise.

Maybe it’s just more bureaucratic sludge that has come between the school and its promised money. Maybe the money is on its way, but there has been a communication meltdown somewhere along the way.

If those maybes are true, then it’s poor business management on the part of the state and if those maybes aren’t true and the state plans to renege on the promise, then shame on them all.

Rep. Alan Boothe and Sen. Wendell Mitchell are working to find out where the meltdown occurred. And at this point, they seem to be the only two people in state government who give a hoot about the education of the children in Pike County.

We concede that there are only 27,000 people here, and those funds aren’t likely to win state officials the support and the mileage they would get should those funds head to Birmingham. But this is where they are needed and needed desperately.

Last year, the Pike County School System was forced to close classrooms because they were ruled to be unfit for educating children.

Gov. Don Siegelman has said that he wants to rid the state of portable classrooms and Pike County Superintendent of Education John Key says the schools portable classrooms are some of its best.

Something is terribly wrong with the way our officials do business. More and more our state passes mandates for programs and salary increases that it doesn’t plan to fund. More and more of the school system’s local money gets invested to meet state mandates and things like renovations to deteriorating structures fall farther and farther down the priority list.

More and more, our local school board officials become reactors instead of proponents of good education as they scramble and claw tooth and nail to meet the demands of big government while our children are being educated in rooms many people would be ashamed to walk into, much less spend eight hours in.

But for the fact that grants and funds are available in some areas to help compensate for the shortfall our local school systems face in funds, these mandates would be grounds for revamping the way we think about education. Schools have become political hotbeds that politicians have targeted to promote their own agendas at the expense of our children’s lives and futures.

And now, once again, our confidence and belief in our state to help us educate our kids is further eroded as broken promises, lost jobs and lost opportunities for or kids hit here in Pike County.

Already, the school system has been forced to terminate an employee that the money would have funded.

We urge our state officials to either put up or shut up. It’s time for our leaders to take an interest in all of our schools by funding the programs they use to get votes, or it’s time for the state to let our systems manage themselves without the bureaucracy.

Until either of these things happens, residents of our state will continue to watch and wonder why our children in Alabama aren’t academically up to par with the children in other states.  

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