- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

March 21

Anniston (Alabama) Star on charter schools:

There’s no telling how Alabama’s experiment with charter schools will go. If it goes poorly - a possibility, national statistics say - then the losers will be the state’s children.

Alabama’s students deserve better than that. Public education in our state has been under-funded and under-developed since its inception. It hasn’t mattered which party has controlled Montgomery. The result is a state with nearly 200 years of educational woes and a populace that isn’t getting what it needs, school-wise.

In a roundabout way, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, says that’s at the heart of his charter-school effort. Successful charter schools, he believes, can foster innovation and open doors previously unavailable for many children.

Gov. Robert Bentley’s signature on HB45, Marsh’s charter-school bill, should end the political fistfights that have dominated the charter-school discussion in the Statehouse, but it won’t. Though they’re in the minority in Montgomery, Democrats will surely keep up their criticism of the Republican-backed law. With them will be a significant number of the state’s education employees and others who, regardless of political affiliation, would prefer control of public schools - and the money that comes with them - stay in the hands of local school boards.

In other words, it’s now law, but the chirping won’t end anytime soon.

So let’s talk about what matters.

Alabama’s school-age children need more than what they get. We’ve said that for decades. If Alabama is to have to charter schools, then Marsh, Bentley and those who’ll oversee their creation must make sure they’re done right - with quality teachers, with good accommodations and worthy curricula. That’s going to be a hard sell, by the way, since so many charter-school opponents are convinced that these campuses will come with lax oversight, poorly trained teachers and bad planning.

Charter schools can work - if they’re done correctly. Problem is, they’re a mixed bag across the United States, with good ones sprinkled among substandard ones like weeds among the Bermuda grass. If Marsh’s plan fails, if the schools aren’t top-notch, the GOP-controlled Legislature has no one to blame but itself. It wrote the bill, promoted its passage and earned the governor’s signature.

If it succeeds, then Marsh and his fellow Alabama Republicans deserve credit.

Regardless of who gets blame or credit, mark us down as hoping it makes a positive difference in the lives of Alabama students.




March 25

Decatur (Alabama) Daily on tax credits:

One of the most troubling problems in this land of abundance is the inaccessibility to fresh, nutritious food for people of moderate financial means.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture describes food deserts all across the country where access to fresh food is all but impossible for the poor. Low-income urban areas are commonly included in these areas either because of high crime or lack of additional money for fresh produce.

But at least one Alabama state senator has recognized food deserts exist in sparsely populated rural areas as well.

Senator Greg Reed, R-Jasper, has introduced a bill that would provide access to funding for retailers wishing to serve urban and rural areas where fresh food is scarce. His Healthy Food Financing Act would establish financial conduits that could make it easier to sell fresh food in food deserts.

The bill would establish guidelines through the state Department of Agriculture and Industries for private companies, nonprofits and community based agencies to receive either loans, grants or tax credits for creating access to perishable foods. Refurbishment or expansion of grocery and convenience stores that devote at least 30 percent of shelf space to fresh, perishable foods could qualify for the assistance.

Another aspect of the bill would require local job creation, which can only help improve the economic viability of the communities being served.

This bill, in fact, has an economic development quality of its own. It would encourage entrepreneurship for small business owners while filling a need in underserved areas.

Reed’s bill has the backing of Voices for Alabama’s Children, which advocates improving the lives of children from low- and moderate-income families through government and private action. About 1.8 million Alabamians don’t have regular access to fresh food, and about half a million of that number are children, according to the group.

Reed’s legislation would not create a hardship on Alabama’s anemic General Fund budget, relying instead on a variety of sources for loans and grants.

This is a bill that deserves the full of attention of the Legislature.

It is a progressive piece of legislation that fills a void with a common-sense solution.




March 25

Dothan (Alabama) Eagle on UAB football bill:

There’s been a great deal of consternation surrounding the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s decision to end its football program at the close of last year’s season. Or perhaps it was UAB President Ray Watts’ decision. Either way, many boosters have taken issue with the administration’s logic that the program was too expensive and private donations were too few to maintain a football team at UAB.

The whole mess appears to be rooted in the politics of higher education, private donors and administrative power plays.

However, if one lawmaker — and 38 co-sponsoring colleagues - has his way, UAB will be statutorily obligated to field a football team, regardless of funding.

State Rep. Jack Williams of Vestavia Hills has introduced a measure that would require UAB to have a football program “funded at an appropriate level to participate in the Football Bowl Series Division, or its successor” as long as the University of Alabama has a football team at its Tuscaloosa campus.

Of course, the bill has no fiscal notes, so it would be yet another unfunded mandate.

The fate of the UAB football program is understandably a great concern to many people. However, it’s not the sort of matter that should be legislated, and it’s dismaying that so many lawmakers would sign on in support of such a proposal.

Williams’ football bill should be sacked, and quickly.



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