Politicians putting money where it matters: Public education
I write today wearing multiple hats – those of a father, a former elementary school teacher, and current Leader of the Alabama House Democrats. I have served in each of these important roles with a commitment to improving the lives of young Alabamians. While Republican state legislators might try and tie Democrats’ agenda to whatever controversy is currently brewing in Washington, let the record show – Alabama Democrats are pro-growth, pro-innovation, and pro-Alabama, which means prioritizing quality education in our state today to ensure security and prosperity for the future.
Earlier this month, the Alabama House passed the largest education budget in the state’s history – totaling $8.125 billion for the Education Trust Fund. These funds will increase teacher salaries and expand reading, science, and pre-K programs.
As a father of young kids and former teacher of grades three through five, I know that providing consistent, high-quality education is crucial at an early age. The Alabama Partnership for Children has shared research from the initiative “Fight Crime: Invest in Kids” demonstrating that 10 percentage-point increases in graduation rates have historically been shown to reduce murder and assault rates by approximately 20 percent. One of the biggest factors in graduation rates is early education. Participating in high-quality pre-kindergarten (pre-K) increases high school graduation rates by as much as 44 percent.
Given this correlation, one of the biggest achievements in the Education Trust Fund is the $24 million increase in funding for pre-K programs. Investments like this are an example of the pro-innovation, pro-Alabama policies state Democrats are pushing to gradually improve the everyday lives of Alabamians.
Rather than applying band-aid solutions to our societal and economic woes, Democrats have long advocated getting to the root of the issue – investing in Alabama’s public education system. While it is gratifying to see Republicans come on board with the Education Trust Fund, it would be more satisfying to also see the GOP give up on the school voucher program they are currently trying to pass.
Republican state legislators are pushing a “school choice program” that in reality reroutes public dollars to private and charter schools. Similar school voucher programs in other states have cost taxpayers money, as well as creating a two-tiered school system that further segregates our students and increases the achievement gap.
My message is simple: state Democrats will continue to fight for improved public education, and all the positive outcomes – from less crime to increased earnings – that means for Alabamians.