As we stand at the threshold of the 55th Anniversary of the March from Selma to Montgomery, we are being challenged to protect our right to vote. Amendment One will take away our right to elect our State School Board Representative. According to Amendment One, The State School board will be renamed “The Alabama Commission on Elementary and Secondary Education.” All members will be appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. Also, the State Superintendent title will be renamed “Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education,” this position will be appointed by the commission and approved by the Senate. The current State School Board is comprised of eight elected members and the Governor serves as the President.
If this amendment passes, the State Department of Education would be controlled and reshaped by this new appointed commission. The decisions made by this commission could significantly impact our public education system with little accountability to we the voters. Education Trust Fund (ETF) budget requests, charter school oversight, teacher evaluations, and curriculum and standards are some examples of issues that will be in the hands of this appointed commission.
If our Governor and Legislators are serious about improving education in Alabama, the focus should be on increasing funding to address critical needs such as providing more remedial programs, recruiting and retaining qualified educators, mental health supports, and expanded access to Pre-K to all of Alabama’s children. When some of the same special interests and politicians who have historically opposed public education now want to take away our right to elect our State Board of Education, we should be skeptical.
The March from Selma to Montgomery purpose was to register voters, to bring awareness of the difficulties that African Americans faced, and the need for a National Voting Rights Act. Bloody Sunday was full of violence, brutality, and rage because African Americans wanted the right to simply VOTE. Lest we forget, the rights we now have came with blood and lives lost.
Why would we relinquish our right to vote? We are competent individuals who pay taxes and elect Representatives to represent our interest, not the interest of individuals or special interest groups.
I encourage you to vote NO on Amendment One. It’s our Right!
Michelle L. Watkins
HCS District 1 Board Representative