Alabama Scene



Passing school funding down the line

Hello there, local school boards, county commissions, mayors, city councils. Are you ready for what the Legislature just handed to you?

Hadn’t thought about the consequences yet, huh? I suggest you should.

Your legislators, in their infinite wisdom, just handed off a larger chunk of funding education to you. Yep, and they did it with glowing words. “We will break the cycle of proration,” said Sen. Greg Canfield of Vestavia Hills. Well, I suspect Sen. Canfield’s constituents won’t worry too much. A few dollars a year on those high-end homes in Vestavia probably won’t disturb the distribution of wealth there.

House Speaker Rep. Mike Hubbard of Auburn said, “The legislation ushers in a new era of fiscal responsibility. It was the right thing to do.” Of course those well-to-do folks in his district likewise won’t have to worry. A few dollars more in taxation won’t hurt… and by the way just raise the tuition at Auburn and Southern Union Junior College… that’ll take care of us fine and dandy. Besides those college professors are overpaid anyway.

Hey, man, this is fiscal progress. The Democrats let this education stuff get out of hand.

And, oh yes, our new governor chipped in as he signed his first piece of legislation since taking office. “The budgets have been too unstable and this is a way to stabilize the education budget and spending,” he said.

The whole idea behind this new way of funding education, the so-called rolling reserve, is to do away with proration of school budgets. But what the proposal will do, ladies and gentlemen of local governmental bodies, is push more of the responsibility of funding schools on your shoulders. Don’t believe me? Just wait a couple of years when the next big state proration takes place or perhaps you can observe it this year. By the way, when was the last time lawmakers did anything to help your school budgets? And you just inherited the wrath of parents whose children may end up in an under-funded school district… instead of legislators.

The truth, however, is that the “hurt” will be more severe on the poorer cities and counties, not in Mountain Brook, Shelby County, or Montrose. Wrote columnist Josh Moon in the Montgomery Advertiser: “Is there anything else we’d like to ask the schools to give up? In Montgomery they’re already laying off support personnel and teachers and slashing budgets down to the bone.” If Montgomery is “slashing to the bone” what is happening in Wilcox County? And what about those bingo jobs, governor?

Gov. Bentley, you stated in The Birmingham News on Nov. 4, 2010, that “the (gambling) task force is gone.” You were correct that you dissolved the task force former Gov. Riley had established. However, the truth is you merely shifted it to Atty. Gen. Luther Strange, a person who is committed to keeping those six or seven thousand employees who lost their jobs at bingo operations in Greene and Macon Counties out of work. Some of those workers marched from Selma to Montgomery this past week demonstrating their jobless plight. Did you notice?

Gov. Bentley, you told WSFA-TV on Nov. 3, 2010, the following: “If they (GreeneTrack, etc.) open back up and they are legal, then they can open back up. We have to go by what the law says. And we’ve passed constitutional amendments that have allowed bingo in certain areas. I mean, these have been passed. Now if the people of Alabama want to get rid of that, we’d have to have a constitutional vote like I’m talking about to get rid of it. If they open back up under the law and they’re legal, there’s nothing we can do about that.”

And said Atty. Gen. Strange, also on Nov. 3, 2010, in answering a WSFA reporter’s question about re-opening of the bingo casinos: “ … if it’s (bingo) legal … if it’s legal they’ll (the bingo casinos) be allowed to operate. And if it’s not, then we’ll shut them down.”

Gentlemen, the bingo operations at GreeneTrack and VictoryLand have never been declared illegal by Alabama’s courts. These two facilities, established by valid constitutional amendments, bring in millions of tax dollars for the state and provide decent paying jobs in our poorest areas. What are your actions by keeping them closed, Gov. Bentley, doing to these thousands of former taxpaying workers and their families whose taxes helped support education in their counties? Think about that. Pray about that.

Bob Martin is editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent. E-mail him at: