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Lawmakers have opportunity to make difference

Alabama lawmakers have a busy six days ahead of them. Legislators return to Montgomery today to wrap up the 2002 regular session, with several key issues unresolved.

Among those are:

· The general fund and education budgets, including a 3 percent pay raise for

teachers and a 3 percent pay raise for state employees.

· A bill to limit driving privileges for 16-year-olds and some 17-year-olds.

· A bill requiring voter identification at the polls.

· And Gov. Don Siegelman’s proposal to allow local school districts more

freedom to raise taxes to generate local education funding.

It will be interesting to see which of the remaining issues – and there are many more than this – are resolved. We believe legislators will tackle the

politically easier ones – changing the method of capital punishment to lethal injection or creating restricted driver’s licenses for teens.

But we don’t believe they will tackle the tougher issue of home rule or of

teacher pay raises. And that’s a shame. Because they should.

Our local communities deserve the opportunity to consider tax increases for

education without the hurdle of seeking approval from Montgomery’s lawmakers.

It’s a key step in a self-governing democracy, and the concept of home rule needs to be extended throughout out state.

And, as we’ve said before, we believe teachers deserve a pay raise; they’ve

earned it. But we also believe lawmakers shouldn’t shortchange students or

other areas of education simply to give these teachers a public pat on the

back. We suspect many teachers would agree.

Instead, lawmakers should work to keep the education funding level and to

increase them to provide the payraises. Then, they should allow

municipalities the opportunity to consider local taxes to fund additional

educational needs.

Lawmakers have an opportunity to make a difference in these next six days. We hope they will rise to the challenge.

 

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