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Andalusia Star-News endorses Siegelman

It is time to fan away the smoke screen and examine some facts. Behind the political posturing from both Siegelman and Riley, there are actually facts - and those facts are indications of where Alabama is, was and should be.

After studying issues like education and industry, health care and taxes, we cannot help but feel Don Siegelman, warts and all, would serve this state as a better governor than his Republican opponent.

His approach to education is his strongest asset.

Is Alabama ranked among the lowest of the states in education concerns? Yes - but those rankings are rapidly changing in several areas since Siegelman took office. Tenure laws have been changed to eliminate bad teachers. The Alabama Reading Initiative has grown, and has brought the state nationwide acclaim for its success. The number of portable classrooms has decreased dramatically, while the new construction has increased.

Students are scoring higher than the national average in test scores and the SAT college entrance exams.

The most dramatic of these improvements has been in the tough National Board certification testing for teachers, in which Alabama teachers rocketed from the bottom ranks to the top.

Siegelman's dedication to education is underscored by his four-point plan, which would give local systems more control, for major corporations to cough up their share in taxes, not levy new or higher taxes on Alabama families, and offer Alabamians the opportunity to vote on a lottery.

The plan is not without flaws, of course - we need to see an alternative funding source should the lottery issue fail again.

Industrial growth is another issue in which Siegleman "shows well."

Has Alabama lost jobs since Siegelman took office? Yes, it has, especially in the hard -hit textile industry. Our area, perhaps more than any other, has felt the effects. But a closer look at the facts and a longer look at the timeline reveals those jobs fleeing not just the state, but the country, as a result of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the emigration began long before Siegelman took office. The governor has, in fact, seen an increase in jobs to the tune of 70,000-plus positions since taking office. Many of these jobs, unlike the notoriously low-paying textile industry, have been in the high-paying automotive industry. Under Siegelman's administration, we have seen Honda, Toyota, and now Hyundai, move their operations - and money - to our state.

Recruiting the automotive industry is a delicate and difficult job - but one that Siegleman has proven adept at performing.

There have been mistakes made in Siegelman's administration, but we feel that the governor has learned - painfully-

from these mistakes and will not repeat them. We also feel that his strengths and ihs interests in our children, our incomes and our future, far outweigh those errors made in the learning process.