Dye-Gest: State Schools Need Better Funding

College Football Hall of Fame Pat Dye writes about education funding in the state of Alabama in this edition of his Dye-Gest column.

The first thing I want to make clear that today’s column is my opinion and I don’t want anybody else to be blamed for the stand I am taking on the lottery and gaming issue in the state of Alabama.

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I am not sure how many people are really aware about how serious the financial issues are the state is facing and what type of impact they have on the areas of the state that need the most help.

A good example of that is in Macon County where I live. I believe every child born in this state deserves to have an opportunity to receive a quality education and that is not the case in our state right now. Anybody who tells you otherwise is misinformed or lying.

Over at Notasulga High in Macon County the principal there, Mrs. Sullens, whose son John played right guard on the football team at Auburn, is having to lay off teachers because of lack of funding. She is having to set up her school where one person is teaching students from the sixth grade to the 12th grade in English, for instance, or sixth grade to 12th grade for math.

A teacher can’t do a good job teaching that many kids a day. If you’ve got six different classes you have got to have six different lesson plans with six different sets of papers to grade. It’s more than one person can do. It cuts down on the quality and overloads the teachers, and it’s because of lack of money.

It’s not just in Macon County and a small school like Notasulga where this is a problem. It’s happening in the large cities, too, because of a lack of funds.

Now I understand money is not the answer for everything, but it makes you wonder when Alabama and Utah are the only two states in the nation that don’t have some form of lottery or gaming to help fund the general fund of the state or the schools. Does it mean that we’re that backwards? Does it mean the other states are wrong and we’re right? Or is it that other issues are involved in it that created where we are?

Now I will go on record as saying basically I’m a conservative, but the conservatives have controlled Montgomery for the last five or six years and here we are $700 million in debt. They had to borrow so the conservatives and the people that put them in office, to me, need to take a hard look. You’re either not using the money properly or you’re not generating enough money to run the government and the state services.

I don’t know that a lottery and gaming can solve all the problems financially in the state, but it would go a long ways toward helping because there are millions of dollars leaving the state going to Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana, Las Vegas and other places around the country. Alabama citizens are going over the line into Georgia, Florida and Tennessee and buying lottery tickets so that is Alabama money leaving the state.

Now I’m not a gambler and I wish that there was another way for us to fund state funds. It would be fine with me if they raised taxes, and it would hurt me if they raised taxes enough to pay the bills.

There is an emphasis being put on charter schools in the state. The legislature just voted to raise $5 million more to fund them. I think it’s up to $30 million to fund these scholarships for charter school children. For the ones that are living in the environment to take advantage of them, it is probably a good thing for those kids, but charter schools aren’t the answer. They are just a stop-gap, finger in the dike measure that only helps the few when the focus should be on taking care of all our state’s children.

The lack of a lottery/gaming money even impacts athletics at Auburn, Alabama and other major colleges in the state, which are at a tremendous disadvantage competing against colleges in neighboring states who supplement their teams with athletes who are receiving lottery money for academic scholarships.

I know that there are some bad things that go along with gambling, but there are also some good things. Anywhere they have gaming they have got to have security--it’s got to be a safe place for people to go so the law enforcement, which is often under-funded, is doubled and tripled and that is a good thing.

If there was another good option to balance the budget and take care of the state’s needs I would say do it, but there doesn’t seem to be a good one out there so I would say let’s do it and do it right and make sure the money that comes into the state budget is carefully monitored and goes to where it is needed. If we do it right, not only will it impact the money that is flowing out of the state on a daily basis, it could actually help money come into the state instead.

It really bothers me to see the state not doing a good job of funding education and I want to see that change. This my opinion and I feel strongly about it and it’s because I love the state of Alabama and the people in this state. We can do better.

If you would like to contact me to express your opinion, you can use the email link on our Quail Hollow Gardens website to get in touch.

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