Funding program creates difficult dilemma

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Alabama’s "Robin

Hood" funding program presents a difficult dilemma for our state.

While its goal is admirable – creating a vehicle to provide equitable funding to guarantee a more adequate education for all Alabama school students – the method is flawed.

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In fact, according to independent research, 17 school districts receive less money from the state than they actually commit through their millage match to the Foundation Program. And, 38 districts whose per-student spending is above the state average receive more money from the state than they contribute.

The program works well for Pike County schools, which benefit by receiving an estimated more than $175,000 annually to offset local local millage rates. But, we wish it would work better.

In fact, even state education officials and lawmakers admit the program is flawed. But what to do to fix it? That’s a question no one seems ready to answer at this point.

Perhaps because the answer is the same one we’ve heard over and over again in Alabama: We must get serious about funding education. In this case, that serious focus needs to start at a grassroots level, where communities are willing to set taxes to fund education. Troy residents proved their willingness earlier this year, when they approved a 27-year millage for education.

But in some communities – like Elmore County and Alexander City – residents have defeated tax referendums. And that’s a shame.

Because unless we commit to funding education at a local level, we cannot expect – or more to the point, we cannot force – our state lawmakers and legislators to do the same.

We must prove that we are willing to pay for more than just an "adequate" education for our children, through increased taxes if necessary. And, we must demand increased accountability and better budgeting within school districts.

Because until we get serious about it, Robin Hood will keep raiding the forest …  

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