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State made its own educational bed

Whitney Houston believed the children were our future. She urged that we teach them well and let them lead the way.

A sappy, overly-dramatic song whose message was as true then as it is now. Unfortunately, teaching the children well and encouraging them to lead the way has become increasingly difficult over the last three years as Alabama public schools have seen a total of more than 30 percent proration since Fiscal Year 2009.

Governor Robert Bentley declared three percent proration for FY-2011 earlier this week.

To Demopolis City Schools, that means $360,000 will have to be sliced out of the budget. Likely in some area not related to cutting classroom hours or teaching units.

Exactly how that is going to pan out, no one yet knows.

But it is becoming increasingly difficult for schools to keep up with continuously stringent educational standards.

It seems every year there is some new requirement placed on teachers and schools.

In and of themselves, the improving standards are fine. After all, don’t we all want the best for our young people?

But as standards grow and technology develops, costs become more prohibitive.

And while there is always somebody calling for something better, there is scarcely anyone around to figure out how to bankroll these advances.

In Alabama, specifically, it is time to stop blaming elected officials for deficiencies. Granted, state spending has never been particularly frugal or practical. But much of the current economic climate as it pertains to education is solely the fault of Alabama voters.

Think about it. Don Siegelman proposed a lottery that would have gone to help fund education. Citing moral outrage, we as a state voted the idea down. That’s fine. Moral and ethical decisions are what they are. But no one offered an alternative to funding education.

Then Bob Riley came along and proposed a tax plan that would have seen an adjustment to a number of areas, most notably education funding.

We, as a state, voted that one down too. That’s fine. It is our right to exercise our voting privileges in whatever way we see fit.

But again, no one offered any alternative for education funding.

Now, here we are in March 2011, about to endure three percent proration to our education budget. Worse yet? FY-2012 looms with no stimulus money there to provide any sort of cushion or bailout.

Blame the economy. Blame Montgomery. Blame Washington. Blame bad luck. Blame anyone you want. But the unpleasant fact of the matter is that it is time for Alabamians to start blaming themselves. Every opportunity we have ever had to bolster education funding we have voted a decisive “No.” As such, we’ve continuously voted an adamant “No” to teachers, principals, counselors, support workers, bigger classrooms, better materials and improved technology. And with every passing year, our chance to improve our situations in the future becomes a little less likely. After all, how can they lead if there is no one to teach them?

Jeremy D. Smith is the community editor of The Demopolis Times.