Education underfunded

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 11, 2003

The report comes as no surprise.

It says, quite simply, that education in Alabama is "grossly underfunded." And only tax reform - which will generate new revenues for education - will fix the problem.

The report was released Tuesday by a group of education officials called

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together by Paul Hubbert, executive secretary of the Alabama Education Association. All educators, the panel approached their report from a biased perspective. But nonetheless, the points made in "Alabama Public Education: Standing at the Crossroad," merits attention.

Citing the disparity between tax structures in Mississippi and Alabama - the former ranks 49th in per capita taxes and Alabama ranks 51st - the educators said if Alabamians were taxed at the same rate as Mississippians, we could generate an additional $836 million each year for education.

That’s a sizeable difference.

But so is the tax structure, and Alabama lawmakers and property owners have long resisted sweeping changes to the property tax structure.

And the Legislature has long shied away from seriously considering tax reform.

We suspect that may change this year. Gov. Bob Riley has vowed to address the budget shortfalls in the state and the shortage of education funding. And it’s likely that any answer he offers will include some type of tax reform.

What’s difficult to predict is the willingness of lawmakers and lobbyists to seriously consider the issue. The bottom line is Alabama’s educational system is in dire need of funding

and management. We are at a crossroads in our state, and our students will be

forced to travel the path we set for them as we make decisions that impact

education funding.

We must choose the right path, for the sake of our students and our state.