Don’t be fooled by the symbolic marches you see in the national media commemorating how far blacks and whites have come in Alabama since the Civil Rights Struggles post-1960’s. These Kum-Ba-Ya moments are meant to increase tourism in this state still sweltering with injustice.
As a substitute teacher, I can rationalize not having a Cost of Living Increase (COLA) since 1999 in my school district because of property tax issues, our school district’s feeble budget, and other factors. It’s very difficult for me to rationalize Jefferson County commissioners severing many services in the county’s only indigent hospital at Cooper Green Mercy Hospital in Birmingham last year; and trying to comprehend how many citizens that may literally die on the streets without any health insurance or adequate health insurance. Yet, it’s unfathomable for me to understand how GOP leaders recently signed into law House Bill 84(HB84) in Alabama.
Build More Bricks Without More Straw
All white state legislators passed HB84 otherwise known as the Alabama Accountability Act in 2013, and GOP Gov. Robert Bentley signed this bill into law. According to Alabama School Journal(April 15, 2013), “The private school voucher is estimated to take up to $60 million this year from public schools and spend it for students in private schools. While systems now do not have money for textbooks, technology, and other basic school materials for their students, the Legislature continues to divert money from the Education Trust Fund. Top estimates for the private school bill exceed $300 million annually.”
I sub in classrooms where students do not have enough textbooks to take home and complete assignments and homework. I sub in classrooms where there are not enough computers and printers for teachers and students to complete work on. I sub in classrooms where there is not enough room to walk around the classrooms adequately because of some overcrowding issues in some classrooms. I know some classroom teachers who work part-time jobs after teaching full-time to make ends meet, and to buy much needed supplemental school supplies and technology for their students.
Gov. Got His, But The Rest Have to Get Theirs
HB84 is essentially a modern-day Jim Crow law to punish public school students and employees by diverting direly needed Education Trust funds to wealthy families, mostly white, with children in private schools. Gov. Bentley is a physician, and without educators, he would not have achieved his dreams. It’s politically bipolar for the governor to attack the people who are trying to make dreams come true for those students struggling in our public schools.
This law is seen as some form of punishment to public school students and employees in this state because the Alabama School Journal reported that, “Educators stood in line throughout the Capitol Building to see Gov. Robert Bentley, but he refused to see just one teacher or support professional. The gold double doors outside the governor’s office remained locked and manned by armed troopers. Word was sent that if anyone had something they wanted to say to the governor then they could write it on a sticky note. A sticky note.” This reminds me of former Gov. George Wallace infamous stand against black students integrating the University of Alabama during the Civil Rights Struggles in the 60’s.
To punish public school employees more, Alabama School Journal wrote, “The House of Representatives, under the heavy hand of Speaker Mike Hubbard, voted down amendments to give all education employees, K-14, and retirees, a five-percent raise/COLA. Instead, House members approved a two-percent raise for just active K-12 personnel with nothing for retirees. Budget Chairman Jay Love dismissed a COLA for retirees and did not even know the cost of providing a COLA because he evidently never considered giving one to our retirees, many of whom dedicated upwards to five decades of their lives to public education and now get a pension check of less than $900 a month.”
It’s About The Children
So, GOP legislators and leaders are committing De jure segregation with HB84, requiring public school employees to be more accountable with less resources with HB84, mocking public school employees with the measly 2 percent proposed raise, and expecting public school employees to continue to lead by example. Educators understand that if we don’t lead by example, students will never achieve their dreams. Educators understand that our main job is to serve students. Even though GOP leaders have failed us, we won’t fail our students. We Shall Overcome Someday.