In response to the AEA's negative ad campaign targeting higher education,
today's Birmingham News editorial puts a proper perspective on Paul
Hubbert's misleading propaganda. The editorial is reprinted here in its
entirety for your information.
In the freakish world of Alabama politics, the weak aren't just neglected. They're exploited -- then they're neglected.
There's no better practitioner of this sad tradition than the state's teacher's union. Time and again, the Alabama Education Association has used our most-exploited group -- children -- to push its cause: better pay and benefits for teachers.
Now AEA is shamelessly using children for another purpose: to combat appeals by colleges and universities for fair treatment as the ax falls on the education budget.
Last week, the AEA launched an unfortunate media campaign, placing television ads in major markets around the state. Essentially, the ads portray the state's colleges and universities as greedy and flush with cash, while poor children suffer in crumbling school buildings, with torn-up textbooks. The message: Don't let the rich universities take money away from K-12.
Catchy, but misleading.
As of Tuesday, Gov. Don Siegelman faced the likelihood of closing a $266 million hole in the Education Trust Fund by cutting 3.6 percent from colleges and universities.
Why the disparity? Because a 1995 state law, backed by AEA, protects K-12 salaries from budget cuts. Unless lawmakers immediately change the law or agree to some other plan, that's the budget-cutting formula colleges must swallow.
Not only does the Foundation law hit higher education with disproportionate cuts. It also will force K-12 schools to whack everything but staff salaries to make up their share of the shortfall.
How's that for irony? The Foundation Program was the Legislature's feeble attempt at providing fairer funding for public schools. But a review of Foundation Program spending shows the vast majority of new Foundation dollars directed to public schools has been devoured by salaries and benefits. According to the independent Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, just 1 percent of new dollars has been spent on "instructional support," such as professional development, classroom materials, technology and textbooks. And when budget cuts strike, like this year, the share directed to paychecks only increases.
Of course, with the ads, AEA supreme commander Paul Hubbert is also firing a warning shot at legislators in anticipation of next year's budget woes. With money expected to be almost as tight in the fall, and salaries protected, many schools will have little choice but to lay off some teachers when this school year ends. Note to lawmakers from AEA: Protect our members, or face our wrath in 2002 elections.
Hubbert and AEA should be ashamed for putting out such faulty propaganda. But even worse is AEA's decision to keep running the ads, even as the teacher's union and higher education leaders took some cautious steps Tuesday toward less hostile relations. Instead of attacking each other, AEA, local school boards post-secondary institutions and colleges and universities should be banding together to demand better funding for all Alabama students.
That's the message that needs to be spread, on television, in public rallies, in budget hearings with state lawmakers--that is, if we truly wish to help--not exploit--Alabama children.
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