Home Opinion Letter to the Editor Amendment One Opposition

Amendment One Opposition

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Dear Editor

In this the third of a series of letters written in opposition to Amendment
One, I would like to look at the suggested operation of the proposed new system in contrast to the system currently in place. As was mentioned in the first letter, at this time the voters of our state elect the eight members of the Alabama State Board of Education from separate districts. These districts are equal in population and in the current Board’s membership do a good job of reflecting the state’s gender and racial diversity. The governor is the ninth member and serves as the chairman when present. If Amendment One is approved, you will lose the ability to elect the members of the State School Board. It will be replaced by a nine member group called the Alabama Commission on Elementary and Secondary Education which will be appointed by the governor. Please remember that this will be placed in our state constitution as the method for control over our public schools. It not only affects the here and now but can bring about very long term consequences. Also, once the power to elect is surrendered, it may become difficult to see sovereignty restored to the voters.

This new Commission on Education is to contain at least one person from
each of the state’s Congressional districts with the remainder being appointed
state-at-Iarge. The legislation creating the proposed amendment says appointments must be made to “ensure that the appointed membership of the
commission reflects the geographical, gender and racial diversity of the students enrolled in public K-12 education in the state.” (SB 397, amending Amendment 284) This wording establishes a quota system of sorts for the Commission appointments. However, notice that it is not based on our state’s population, but instead it reflects only student enrollment in Alabama’s public schools. This ratio leaves out those students who are home schooled or who are in private schools. These are not included in the formula upon which the quota for appointments to the new Commission are based, and this may skew the outcome away from a true reflection of our state’s student population, much less its actual population. You may think this is fair since these families have opted out of the public school system, but their parents and grandparents continue to pay the taxes which support that system. When it comes to having an effect on the quota, they would have no impact.

My understanding is that there would be three “minority:’ members appointed to the newly created nine member Commission. To make these appointments the governor would be required to select from lists provided by the members of the Senate Black Caucus and the House Black Caucus. In the committee hearings I asked if there would be an Hispanic member of the Commission and was told that there was a possibility there would be,. I asked what group would submit the list that this person would be chosen from, but nobody seemed to know. Also, it was never clear if this person was one of the
three “minority” members or in addition to them. I have never been a supporter of quotas. They divide us by their very nature. Do we need to balance a state Commission by gender, skin tone, age, religious preference, eye color, and body mass index? Where does it stop? And in the end, who on the Commission will speak for the left-handed, Jewish shrimp fisherman of Portuguese descent from Bayou La Batre? I sit here writing this on Martin Luther King Day, and I am reminded that he dreamed of a day when men would be judged not “by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” We evidently have a very long way to go.

Of course, if we wanted to avoid this can of worms altogether, we could just
continue to have the voters of Alabama elect our State Board of Education. It
contains “minority” representation without having to resort to a quota system.
The members are answerable to the voters of Alabama. I ask that you please
vote no on Amendment One and retain your voice over educational matters.

Alabama House of Representatives
Bob Fincher
District 37