Riley outlines education plan

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 11, 2002

BNI Newswire

Gubernatorial candidate Bob Riley’s plan for education reform – outlined this week for the first time on his Web site – calls for new commissions on education spending and reform, ending social promotion and even boot camps for disruptive children.

But Gov. Don Siegelman, who advocates a lottery for schools and higher corporate taxes, criticized his Republican opponent’s proposals because they include no new money for schools.

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"Bob Riley is writing a billion-dollar check his bank can’t cash," said Siegelman campaign spokesman Rip Andrews. "The people of Alabama are tired of hearing the same old promises without a funding plan to back them up."

Still, Riley said money can be saved for schools by eliminating waste and corruption in Montgomery. And he disputes a claim by Siegelman that his proposal to stop earmarking tax revenue would take money from schools.

"I will not take one dime from the education trust fund," Riley said in Monday night’s debate. In fact, Riley said, that could result in more money for schools.

But some state education leaders, while they had praise for aspects of Riley’s plan, wondered where the money to pay for it would come from.

Many of the reforms in Riley’s plan are also included in a $1.6 billion improvement plan proposed by state Superintendent Ed Richardson. The Birmingham News estimated Riley’s reforms would cost about $400 million, based on figures from the state department plan.

Both candidates have said they want to make education a top issue.

Siegelman ran his first campaign on the promise to be the education governor, and he has pushed the issue first and foremost in his re-election bid.

On Monday night, Riley also said "education is going to be my No. 1 priority."