Alabama is a state entangled in controversy and in desperate need of change. The two most volatile issues involve (1 the decision of whether or not to allow electronic bingo in casinos and other facilities and (2 what to do about the future of education. Voters need to focus on the issues, not the political party, when making their decisions in this crucial election, the future of the state is at stake.
At a recent gubernatorial candidate forum, Republican nominee Robert Bentley said, “Since when did it become the job of the government to provide a college education to every child? That’s not the government’s job, that’s your job” (referring to the people in the audience). “Not every child can go to college, or should they.” Public uproar over the comment has caused concern over whether or not Bentley really cares about public education. Public education includes both K – 12 schools and public colleges and community colleges, all funded, at least in part, by the state education budget. Bentley has big plans for K – 12 schools, but who will provide the funding for the programs and projects he has proposed is not clear. His stand on funding is to continue using sales tax as the only source; however, a state lottery for extra money is not out of the question. Electronic bingo and casinos are not on the list of fundiing sources. Bentley is very much against any form of gambling, including electronic bingo. Plans for a large highway building project to bring in more jobs will provide the extra sales tax needed to fund all the state budgets, according to Bentley.
Ron Sparks, the Democratic candidate, has very different plans should he become governor. According to Sparks, “over 20,000 9th grade students in this state will not receive a high school diploma, and, for many who do graduate, higher education is unaffordable.” When you examine his platform for education, the focus seems to be on higher education, K – 12 schools are not mentioned. Funding will be provided by sales tax, taxing the gaming industry (yes, including electronic bingo), and a state lottery. Unlike Bentley, detailed plans for improving education are not provided. Concentration is on funding students for higher education. What happens if the high school graduation rate continues to fall? All areas of education need to be considered when designing plans for funding and improvement.
Of the two candidates, Sparks seems to be on the right track for the funding issues, even though higher education seems to be the highlight. The plans for funding are varied and appeal to all members of the public. The fact that Bentley will not even consider electronic bingo and prefers to continue using the status quo for funding will not bring Alabama’s children into the future; education will regress to the past with more proration influencing the outcome of education and industry in Alabama.