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30 October 2006

President Meehan Urges Support for Amendment 2 on Nov. 7


Jacksonville State University President William A. Meehan joins State Superintendent of Education Joseph B. Morton and other education leaders in supporting Amendment 2 at the polls on Nov. 7.


The constitutional amendment would mandate that all school systems be allocated 10 mills of funding, the minimum millage set forth in a 1998 law to receive state funding.


A “yes” vote for Amendment 2 will result in equity in education. Thirty school systems out of the state’s 131 fall below the 10-mill mark. “Voters have an opportunity to bring all school systems up to the 10-mill minimum, which is important to systems in poorer counties,” Dr. Meehan said. “This would help put all school children on a level playing field.”


For systems lacking other forms of community support, the 10-mill minimum is the only way they can gain the funding they need to operate.


Opponents of the measure, including Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley, say the amendment is the same as a tax increase. Proponents do not disagree, but they say the increase is minimal and vital.


Dr. Meehan said the amendment would correct an oversight in the 1998 law that created the Foundation Program, which allocates equal disbursement of state funds to each of the state’s school systems.

The adequate education funding program is almost identical to measures adopted throughout the U.S., many of which resulted from lawsuits against states where school systems in economically depressed areas were underfunded.

Alabama’s Foundation Program does not take into consideration the districts that do not generate 10 mills and that also suffer from declining enrollment.

“When enrollment declines, school systems receive less funding,” Dr. Meehan said.


The cities of Jacksonville, Anniston, Oxford, Piedmont, as well as Calhoun County, Etowah County, Cleburne County, Talladega County, St. Clair County are all a part of the 101 school systems and have at least 10 mills or more of property tax devoted to K-12 education.


Although Jacksonville State University would experience no funding or financial support from Amendment 2, President Meehan says he is in support of the Amendment because it will provide a foundation of funding for all of Alabama’s K-12 students.


“On November 7, each voter in the state has the opportunity to change the lives of children in 30 school systems,” says President Meehan. “It is our duty to see that children are not held back from a better educational because of something they cannot control, starting on equal grounds with students across the state. Voting ‘yes’ on November 7, is a vote for better and fair education for all students in the state of Alabama.”


Freedom from bias or favoritism is often overlooked in education, and Amendment 2 is one way to help correct the problem.


The Alabama Legislature adopted a law in 1995 requiring each local school system to pay from local property taxes 10 mills for the education of its students. In return, the state of Alabama matches the funds with the remaining 90 percent of the cost.


Currently 101 state school systems are in compliance with the law, paying their share from property tax revenues. However, there are 30 school systems not giving the 10-mill minimum and therefore cannot receive the state’s appropriation of 90 percent.


This underfunding of schools through property taxes leads the school systems to seek other means of obtaining the 10 mills so they can receive the needed matching money from the state. Monetary means are usually diverted from a local sales tax.


Morton says teachers, support workers, superintendents, board members, or even students do not cause this funding problem. “The problem was created by voters in those 30 school systems who either never were given the opportunity to vote on the full 10 mills or voted against a local referendum,” says Morton.


If the statewide vote on November 7 passes, the 30 poorly funded school systems will be required to reach the 10-mill level through property taxes. Those residing in the 101 systems already paying their fair share will not see a tax increase as a result of this vote.







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