Responses in Depth:
Our society has a desire for quick short answers and sound bites. This page is for those that want to read positions in depth. For the concise answers you will find them on other pages on this website.
1. How do you propose to ensure our schools are properly funded to provide the resources students as well as teachers need AND how would you define/describe “properly funded?” At a recent ADC conference, I was talking to Sherry Tucker, president of AEA, this past Sunday and I followed up that discussion with an email to Ms. Tucker asking her this very question. We cannot spend money we do not have and even if we could “throwing” money at a problem this approach has never proven effective. Using money effectively, however, is different. Alabama is near the bottom in education EXCEPT for Pre-K where we are near the top for the 32% that are lucky enough to participate. Obviously, the other 68% of our children need access to this fabulous program. The best possible start makes all the difference. Turning education around in Alabama should start with the youngest students and follow them up the chain as they grow. What I mean by that is a systematic approach--highlight Kindergarten the first year and then following that up with 1st grade the next year, and 2nd grade the next year building on a firm foundation. This would dramatically help improve our system. Following this approach would mean it would take twelve years before we get to the high school seniors and this is not acceptable so while this will help in the long run, we must do a number of things to move all grade levels higher. For example, another need in Alabama is a workforce trained for 21st century jobs. All high schools, capable of doing so, should support combined high school/post-secondary enrollment. In communities without local post-secondary opportunities, then enhanced vocational programs in the high school itself must be once more a major goal. Communities have a definite need for electricians, plumbers, skilled automotive mechanics, etc. Graduating kids who can get a decent job should be a bare minimum goal and a high school diploma needs to be a job-ready credential for employment that provides a living wage. . Another thing we can do immediately is address class sizes. This has been proven in numerous research studies. Our minimum class sizes should be targeting under 25 in middle school and high school and under 20 in the elementary schools. Besides this we need to PAY teachers better. If you have cancer and need to go to a doctor, do you pick the cheapest doctor you can find? Not on your life. You pick the best one you can afford. The idea that all of these teachers should work two jobs to make ends meet because they are dedicated and love your kids is not reasonable. Good teachers are leaving the profession all the time because they can’t raise a family on the salary. Remember teachers are professionals with degrees. We need to pay teachers accordingly. Go into ANY school in ANY community and you will find in those four walls the largest concentration of professionals per square foot in any building in that community. If we don’t pay our teachers, we lose many of our best resources. Besides pay and class sizes, buildings should be well maintained and comfortable. The children of Alabama spend about 25% of all their growing years inside those four walls as do their teachers.
2. How do you propose to protect our schools from the possibility of a mass shooting? This is a very difficult question in the current American culture. Arming teachers is a STUPID idea and I am an ex-army officer and a teacher for 37 years. This is a STUPID idea. Identifying children with problems is something that isn’t stupid and getting students with personal problems help isn’t stupid. Besides stopping mass shootings before they occur increasing the number of trained counselors or other people targeting these issues, will also help give us better adjusted students who will grow up to be better adjusted adults and become an asset to Alabama. Better counseling would almost certainly positively impact Alabama’s over-crowded prison population too. There are some ideas that might help strategically. For example limiting the numbers of entrances into school, but being sure there are sufficient exit doors capable of opening from the inside providing maximum safety for things like fire, etc. This is a stopgap solution and will not actually solve the base problem. We need to make cultural changes for safe usage of guns period. This means safe storage of guns in the home, as many school shootings make use of family-owned guns. The other thing we need to do as a state is use some of the ideas proposed by groups like Mom’s Demand Action and pass legislation to support a number of their proposals while protecting the Second Amendment.