Schools wise to use available funding

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 19, 2003

To oppose an issue or an organization often takes courage. When that issue or organization is something so fundamental as education or the education system, then an outspoken critic must weigh his words carefully.

There are a number of people in this community who have questioned the Demopolis City School System and its ability to spend $1.3 million on renovation projects. And when one of those projects means an overhaul of the superintendent’s office, the opposition can yell a little louder.

There have been few outspoken critics of the renovation projects, but many have quietly questioned how such a project can take place with Alabama’s education funding in such dire need.

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The question is relevant; the answer is even more relevant.

As this newspaper has reported on at least two occasions, the Demopolis City School System was awarded money for renovations projects last year. That money could be compared to the Marengo County Commission’s federal funding for road and bridge projects.

Last month, it was reported that the County Commission had $65,000 of federal funding that it did not use on road and bridge projects. The same report would have come about the Demopolis City School System had it not spent the money on renovations throughout the school district.

At issue is not how the money is being used by our particular school system. Rather, the issue will always be the way our state government is forced to use education money. As Gov. Bob Riley pointed out during his campaign for a tax increase, education money in this state is earmarked for specific purposes. In the case of the Demopolis City School System, that money was earmarked for capital improvements.

It is impossible to purchase text books and pay for more teachers with money the government forces to be used for capital expenditures.

If that doesn’t make sense, then maybe this number will: If the Demopolis City Schools could have used $1.3 million and paid teachers a salary of $40,000 a year, the school system could have hired almost 33 new teachers next year.

The reality, of course, is that our school system had no other choice but to spend the money on renovations, and we believe Dr. Wesley Hill and Linda Agee made a wise choice in the construction projects they chose.

If there is one main argument for Demopolis being considered the "jewel" of the Black Belt &045;&045; as U.S. Rep. Artur Davis often says &045;&045; it’s because of our school system.

Anytime our schools can improve &045;&045; both inside the doors and outside &045;&045; we believe our image in this region of the state improves. Having clean schools, roofs that don’t leak, and restrooms that function properly is an important part of maintaining the reputation of being a good school system.

The Demopolis City Schools have done just that.