While much good has come from Republican control of the Alabama government, which began in 2011, one area that continues to dog Republicans is Alabama’s lackluster K-12 public education system.
Alabama languishes at the bottom of all 50 states by many metrics despite Republican policymakers taking steps to shore up the system’s fiscal situation.
That is one area where State Rep. Charlotte Meadows (R-Montgomery) points out as having improved significantly under Republican leadership.
“One thing that Republicans did do that I think has been significant is the rolling reserve,” she said during an interview with Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5. “And that has literally prevented schools from having to go into proration in the last 10 years. I was on a local school board during the 2008-09 time period, actually from 2006-12, but we had proration three times in two years. And anybody in the education system knows that that was devastating. We’ve prevented that by instituting the rolling reserve.”
However, Meadows argued that results continue to be underwhelming despite the improved financial standing.
“So, the financial side is so much better, which is why I’m so frustrated,” Meadows said. “We do have so much more money to spend, and we’re not spending it on things that are actually making a difference. I’m not trying to blame or point fingers, but there have been several things the Republicans have done – the school grade bill Representative [Terri] Collins carried, I think back in 2013. It was passed, but yet the school grade report card didn’t start being implemented until 2018.
“So, it took five years to get that up and running, which we – I think it was the same year, back in 2013 – it was determined we needed a good teacher evaluation tool. Well, that tool is still not in place. I mean, we have teacher evaluations, but they’re not based on anything like student achievement.”
Meadows also included the Literacy Act among those measures passed into law with good intentions but have yet to be implemented.
The Alabama House of Representatives is considering a two-year delay in implementing the Literacy Act, which has already passed the Alabama Senate.
“We’ve got 15,000 teachers around the state that have been completely trained and more in the pipeline, plenty of funding for that,” Meadows explained. “And now it’s time for the claw-back, which is holding students back if they can’t read at third grade. We’re going to push back for two more years. So, there’s just this bureaucracy that I would say is really resistant to accountability and transparency.”
Meadows insisted taxpayers were not getting the most for their dollars under the status quo.
“We need parents to understand how their school is doing, and we need the whole state to understand that our school system statewide is not doing the job that we are paying for them to do, which is to produce students who can read and do math on grade level. I don’t think anybody can argue – when you’ve got 50% or less of the state that can do math on 10th-grade level, I don’t know anybody can say, ‘Yeah, we’re getting what we’re paying for.”
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