Gov. Kay Ivey has come up with some good initiatives during her short tenure as governor. But one proposal that is not so good would change Alabama’s elected State Board of Education to an appointed board.
Personally, I just oppose any legislation that would take governance power out of the hands of the people and give it to the politicians.
The state currently elects members from eight districts so there is geographical and racial diversity. In addition, the governor is an ex officio member who serves by virtue of his/her office.
Thus, if the legislation were to pass, the governor would be the only elected member of the board. Why not just appoint her too? Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Appointing the board is about as crazy.
Ivey and the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Dale Marsh (R-Anniston), say the board is “dysfunctional” but if that is the case, the issue is with the board members who are not doing their jobs, not the whole system. The Legislature would be fixing something that is not broken.
Previously, the board governed the K-12 system, as well as Alabama’s junior and community colleges, but now a separate board oversees the two-year colleges, so the board is not over-worked.
Marsh and Ivey back up their claims by pointing to state standardized test scores that are not very good. They would task the new board to develop a new curriculum and especially to dump “Common Core,” the nationwide course of study that is an initiative of the national governor’s conference and seeks to have students in the various states studying similar matters in the various grades. Critics claim that Common Core removes local control.
One problem with their argument is that the board was an appointed board years ago and test scores were low then comparatively.
Marsh is offering separate legislation to dump Common Core as a course of study in Alabama. The measure has been met with widespread opposition from educators and business and has stalled in the House after passing the Senate. Opponents fear that one unintended consequence would be a “dumbing down” of Alabama standards.
The best form of school governance, in my opinion, is an elected board and appointed superintendent. The worst form, used in many counties, is an elected board and elected superintendent. The superintendent can do whatever he or she wants because he does not answer to the local board.
The state board is normally not in the news much, but it is a very important panel – deciding what books students use, the state course of study, and who will serve as state superintendent and even has the authority to take over an under-performing local system.
While the officials are right about test scores lagging statewide, that could not be said about affluent districts where parents are reasonably educated — in other words where the students have a chance due to parental support.
Take Auburn and some of the cities that are Birmingham suburbs, for instance. Course of study does not matter; the students are going to succeed with strong family support. So maybe the officials should be working on improving salaries and school opportunities to produce smarter students.
On improving Alabama school test scores, I am sort of like the late Gov. Lester Maddox was about improving the prisons in Georgia. He said something to the effect, “You will never have better prisons until you get a better grade of prisoner.”
Retired Auburn attorney Don Eddins is publisher of The Auburn Villager newspaper and the online publication, auburnvillager.com. He is a former state Capitol reporter for The Huntsville Times and former state editor for The Columbus Ledger. Email him your comments about The Villager to firstname.lastname@example.org.