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Candidates offer vague funding plans

At first glance, Congressman Bob Riley’s long-awaitededucation plan is a solid piece of work. Included in it are manyof the things for which state education officials have long lobbied.

The Republican gubernatorial candidate calls for an intensiveaudit of every educational dollar spent in the state, ending socialpromotion and considering the creation of a boot camp fordisruptive children.

In fact, much of what Riley has called for is exactly what stateSuperintendent Ed Richardson proposed some time ago. It is nowonder, then, that many education officials are hailing the planas something the state needs.

However, the one thing missing from Riley’s plan – one thingstate education officials are quick to point out – is funding.

Riley attaches no price tag to his plan. Critics, education officials and political pundits have all weighed in, varying their bestguesses at a cost of between $400 million and $1.6 billion.

All Riley says in his proposal is he is against unearmarking anyeducation funds and that by trimming waste and producing anew tax reform program, he can pay for the project.

Well, Mr. Riley, we would like to see a detailed outline of thefunding process. But the onus for funding education reform is not solely on Riley’s

shoulders.

Gov. Don Siegelman has done no better in offering the state a

plan for helping a starving educational system.

His plans hang on the idea of an educational lottery, somethingvoters dismissed shortly after he was elected for his first term. Whether or not the voters’ collective mind has changed is yet to be seen. What is quite apparent, however, is that neither candidate has a solid plan for education that is fiscally believable. Alabama educators are calling for change in the educational system, and so far, our leaders have given them little more than lip service. It is time someone stood up and took a true leadership role ineducation.

It’s nice to roll something out that looks good on paper, but what the children of Alabama needs is something that will work in the schools.

Troy Messenger

August, 2002