March 04, 2013
Roll Tide!Yes, I said it . . . Roll Tide! Alabama just joined the ranks of states that have embraced choice-based education reform with an exciting new tax-credit program. Financial assistance for kids attending Catholic school in Alabama . . . I think of this as Fr. Coyle's revenge against Hugo Black!
I second that motion!
Posted by: N.D. | Mar 4, 2013 5:05:22 PM
Allow me to add a note of caution to Rick's elation, as happy as I am to hear him say "Roll Tide." The process was farcical and disturbing. In a GOP-controlled legislature, with a GOP governor and a GOP-appointed superintendent of education, the legislation was created by gutting and remaking a publicly debated bill at the last minute. The governor kept his own superintendent--who, by reliable accounts, is a responsible and thoughtful official--in the dark about all of this. This was not just a matter of keeping public education lobbyists out of the loop; it was a matter of keeping everyone out of the loop. The superintendent does not support the legislation, and has perfectly reasonable questions about its effects--understandably so, since he wasn't informed about it and the governor, frankly, still can't or won't answer those questions in any meaningful way.
As Rick knows, I am not an opponent of vouchers, charter schools, and other educational reforms intended to incentivize low-performing public schools to improve, provide funding access to private schools, or both. Perhaps this legislation will do good things and avoid doing bad things. But there's little way of knowing that yet, because the bill was not the product of serious or public deliberation. And it's not irrelevant to me that there is a long history of Southern states starving public education, while at the same time doing their utmost to ensure that white parents, and particularly wealthy ones, are given every opportunity and support for sparing their children the indignity of having to sit at desks next to black children. It is no coincidence that many of the private schools in my own part of Alabama started up in the period between roughly 1954 and 1970.
If the legislation ends up providing meaningful incentives to failing schools and providing reasonable access to funding for private schools, while avoiding subsidies for those who can already afford private education and want a lower-cost method of maintaining segregation academies, then I'll be cheering with Rick. If it encourages the further segregation of the state's educational system, further starves the public school and higher education budgets, and fails to yield actual benefits for those who need and deserve it most in this state, then I'll hold off on the cheers. I will certainly be happy if it succeeds. But I would feel a lot better, and more confident about the outcome, if it had been the result of a meaningful democratic process instead of a back-room rewriting.
Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Mar 4, 2013 9:08:04 PM
Given the reality of union-edublob hostility to real reform, always and everywhere, and the added fun of vouchers in Klansman Hugo Black's home state, I can't bring myself to be bothered by what Paul describes. I am all for "meaningful democratic process", but Lord know that teacher-unions and choice opponents are not.
Posted by: Rick Garnett | Mar 4, 2013 9:17:25 PM
Well, I want to sympathize with Rick, and as I said, I don't oppose vouchers, charters, and other educational reforms, whether they're opposed by teachers' unions or not. But I would add two friendly rejoinders: 1) Bad processes can lead to bad results, even if they're unintended. The GOP has substantial majorities in both houses of the state legislature, plus the governor. If it can't get a bill passed in open session, with debate, and with the inclusion of the GOP-appointed state superintendent of education, we have some reason to worry that this legislation might have unintended consequences. 2) The fact that it's Klansman Hugo Black's home state is why we might want to be concerned. Not opposed, necessarily--but concerned.
Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Mar 4, 2013 9:49:14 PM
As always, Paul raises important concerns.
Posted by: Rick Garnett | Mar 5, 2013 8:07:03 AM
Professor Garnett, and Professor Horwitz, according to the article, the schools that will be effected by this ruling are in the bottom 10% with three consecutive D's or one F as an overall rating. Not only is a tax credit given, but a scholarship program will be created.
It is important to note that Section 256 relating to segregation in schools is null and void, and should have been removed in 1954, the right to a State funded public education in Alabama remains, vouchers, charters, and other educational reforms can still be implemented, and the desire to lower the cost of education for all persons, including those persons of greater means, does not mean that persons with greater means simply desire "a lower cost method of maintaining segregation academies".
Posted by: N.D. | Mar 5, 2013 10:09:08 AM
And ... the first review is in, from Alabama's Department of Education:
Surpisingly, given that the all-white* Republican members of a conference committee spent a whole hour in a secret meeting deciding how to revamp the entire Alabama education system -- dispensing with fripperies like hearings, debate, input from educators, and the unwelcome opinions of anyone who wasn't (1) a Republican, and (2) white -- it seems that the bill has some significant problems. (http://blog.al.com/wire/2013/02/school_flex_bill_triples_in_si.html)
* I'll admit that I don't know who the Republican members of the conference committee were. Luckily for my point, however, there don't seem to be ANY non-white Republicans in the Alabama legislature. What are the odds, huh?
Posted by: WmBrennan | Mar 5, 2013 1:57:29 PM
WmBrennan, all legitimate concerns should be addressed.
Posted by: N.D. | Mar 7, 2013 11:44:29 AM