The Alabama Senate Signals it’s Serious About the State’s Academic Achievement Race to the Bottom.
By Michael A. Johnson
Recently the Alabama Senate voted to remove the Common Core reading and mathematics academic standards from public schools by the 2021-22 school year. The vote was 23 for and 7 against. Presumably, the 7 who voted against met the Common Core reading standards and therefore they understood the devastating effect this bill will have on the future educational and employability of the state’s young people. There would be something morally amiss if anyone was willing to sacrifice access to quality learning for an entire state’s children for a U.S. Senate seat. One of the state’s very decent and capable senators Doug Jones, can’t possibly compete with this rejection of high academic standards bill; after all, the only way he can beat it is with a proposal that advocated for flat-out statewide illiteracy.
Putting the moral argument aside for a moment; Alabama’s business community must stand-up and speak-up. After all, they will be financially hurt by the shortage of academically capable and competent workers; and the increased cost of providing employees with the: ‘things they should have learned in K-12 school’ work-readiness training, will fall on employers. Further, this bill threatens to cost the state’s citizens more (tax) money. It’s not like Alabama can afford to expand its present financially starved, and human rights challenged prison system. Poor and inadequate education will contribute to a lot of negative life outcomes, one being criminality. This bill will help to grow the state’s ‘school to prison pipeline’ population; a pipeline greatly fueled by the many very capable, but grossly under skilled and marginally literate young folks in the state. I call on the business community to take a stand because the college and university communities can’t risk hurting their relationship with the state’s elected officials by speaking common (core) sense to politicians’ misapplication of legislative power.
As a Black American I can’t even claim that racism is in play here; for this bill is equal opportunity harmful to the future aspirations of all the children of Alabama, regardless of the color of their skin. This is the legislative expression of leaving every child in the state behind the learning curve of the nation and world’s other school children. The Alabama senate just made every other state’s superintendent and department of education job a little easier by insuring that Alabama’s children will lead the nation in the race to the bottom of many academic achievement indicators; as well as helping to produce students with greatly diminished job and college preparedness skills.
The only hope the children of Alabama have if this rejection of high academic standards bill is ratified, is for the state’s superintendents, principals and teachers to engage in: ‘civil educational disobedience’. Alabama’s children have a civil and human right to a quality education; and the professional ethics of educators should not allow cynically ambitious politicians to force them to comprise their moral and ethical pledge of doing no educational harm to children. Not only should they continue to strive to engage students with nationally recognized high academic standards; given Alabama’s present educational state of affairs, educators should double-up and double-down on providing students with the rigorous content and skills development learning that will make them competitive with their national and international peers. The tragic alternative is state sponsored educational disentitlement and disadvantage for children, who can’t vote to protect their own future dreams and aspirations.
Michael A. Johnson has served as a public school teacher, principal, school district superintendent, and as an adjunct professor of Science Education in the School of Education at St. John’s University. He writes a bi-weekly column: “On Education” for Brooklyn’s: Our Time Press (www.ourtimepress.com/
) He recently completed a book on school leadership: Report to the Principal’s Office: Tools for Building Successful High School Administrative Leadership… http://reporttotheprincipalsoffice.net/