One of the biggest threats to our children’s education is when the politicians think they know better than the professional educators.
Last month, 30 of Alabama’s public school superintendents joined in a lawsuit challenging the legality of the so-called Accountability Act, and asking the Alabama Supreme Court to uphold a lower court’s decision that the Accountability Act is unconstitutional.
Among those 30 superintendents was Etowah County Superintendent Dr. Alan Cosby. My opponent in the race for House District 28, Doug Sherrod, serves under Dr. Cosby on the Etowah County Board of Education. Unfortunately, Doug Sherrod and too many other politicians think they know more than our superintendents.
Doug Sherrod is a part-time school board member, but he refuses to listen to Dr. Cosby, who has spent years in the classroom as a student, teacher and administrator and devoted his life to our children’s education.
When the Accountability Act was passed, I listened to our teachers and encouraged our local school boards to support a resolution opposing the Accountability Act. Every city school board in our Etowah County supported these resolutions. Only our county board failed to pass a resolution, making Doug Sherrod one of the only school board members in Etowah County to stand against our educators, superintendents and even the majority of other school board members.
But it isn’t just his refusal to support our educators, Dr. Cosby and other school board members. Doug has even taken thousands of dollars in campaign donations from a group in Virginia that supports legislation like the Accountability Act, and promotes legislation that is even more radical.
By taking campaign donations from a political action committee that supports laws like the Accountability Act and other anti-public education policies, Doug Sherrod has shown his true self. We simply cannot expect him to support our public schools, or to protect how our tax dollars are spent when it comes to education.
In the legal brief submitted to the state Supreme Court, the superintendents make note of the “negative financial impact of AAA [Alabama Accountability Act] on public schools and the potential devastating financial impact of this unconstitutional legislation.”
How can Doug Sherrod, or any other politician who supports the Accountability Act, claim to be a fiscal conservative when they support a law that wasted $40 million last year, and is obligated to waste a minimum of $25 million every year from now on?
In no way has the Accountability Act been anything close to a success! Last year, only 52 kids in the entire state transferred to a private school, which was the whole point of the Accountability Act! Even the number of students transferring to other public schools dropped by more than half. So much for school choice!
The politicians in Montgomery cut the education budget by $40 million the first year to pay for the tax credits for kids who transferred. But since so few kids actually transferred under the Accountability Act, well over 99% of the tax credits actually went to wealthy donors and corporations instead of kids transferring schools. And every dollar that went to a corporate or rich donor was a dollar that was taken out of our schools.
Every school system in the state of Alabama lost money because of the Accountability Act-even if that school system is highly successful. And that is why the superintendents have come out so strongly against the Accountability Act.
But Doug Sherrod and other politicians refuse to listen to those who know what they are talking about!
If these are the kinds of failed policies Doug supports when he’s campaigning, it scares me to think what he would support if he actually wins. We cannot afford to have a representative who refuses to listen to the professionals-whether it’s about education or any other topic. If we are going to pass laws regulating banks, I’m going to talk with a banker before I make my decision. If we are going to pass laws that impact Medicaid, I am going to talk to doctors and hospital administrators.
So it isn’t just about politicians like Doug Sherrod supporting an obviously failed policy. It’s about the arrogance to think you don’t need to listen to the professionals. In order to support public education, we must first and foremost listen to and support the people providing that education.
Rep. Craig Ford is a Democrat from Gadsden and the Minority Leader in the Alabama House of Representatives.