Alabama governor: 'our education system in this state sucks'
MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -
The Alabama State Department of Education is reacting to Gov. Robert Bentley's critical statements in which he laid bare his thoughts on the state's education system in a single sentence.
The comment came as Bentley spoke at the annual Alabama Association of Regional Councils Conference in downtown Montgomery.
During his speech to the 12 regional councils, which focuses on multi-jurisdictional planning and program coordination across the state, Bentley said "Our education system in this state sucks."
Bentley went on to say "I don't use that term very much but I want to tell you this: when we are 51st on our NAEP (Nations Report Card) scores in 4th-grade math in this state - that's pretty sad and it's intolerable."
NAEP, or National Assessment of Educational Progress, is the longest-lasting national trend data to gauge 4th and 8th grade math and science assessment. While it’s the only barometer of educational measurement of its kind, it only tests 4 percent of 4thand 8th grades that are randomly selected from approximately 275 schools in the state. The testing occurs every other year, on odd years. The rankings include the District of Columbia and The Department of Defense to equate to the 51st and 52ndrankings.
New Superintendent Michael Sentance issued this statement:
“Alabama’s education system, like every public education system in America, has its fair share of challenges. When I visit classrooms, I find an enormous commitment by educators and administrators to our children and the future of Alabama. But we have to improve. I certainly share Gov. Bentley’s passion about the urgency to make every aspect of public education in Alabama better – including its performance on national assessments. I hope to make our hopes a reality in the coming years.”
Bentley's statement was followed by laughter and applause by some in the audience.
Later when the governor was asked what exactly he meant by his statement surrounding education he said "I think that we need to look at every program and every program needs to justify their existence. If they are not working, they don't need to get money from the state...they don't need to get money from the taxpayers."
Dr. Craig Pouncey, Jefferson County Schools superintendent, took great exception to Bentley’s statement.
"If the governor claims our educational system sucks, who has been president of the state board for the last seven years," Pouncey asked.
Pouncey was a rank and file member of the State Department of Education during the state’s many years of proration and points to lawmakers taking money from the Education Trust Fund to prop up the ailing General Fund Budget as part of the Alabama’s public education woes.
"What we are really doing is cannibalizing ourselves in an effort to the general fund afloat. In an effort to keep our law enforcement officers on the road,” Pouncey said.
Mary Scott Hunter, the President Pro Tem of the State Board of Education, said:
"He's obviously frustrated, and his word choice isn't constructive. But, if he's speaking to anyone it's me and my elected official colleagues. We have dedicated teachers who want their students to learn at the highest levels and parents who want so much more for their kids. But, we've had too many elected officials who, for decades, didn't expect and empower academic achievement. Today we have low household net worth, skyrocketing social services costs, crowded prisons and many other problems as a result. Those of us in elected office now didn't create the problems that do exist nor can we take credit for all the successes. But, we can, today, have higher expectations and fight for resources to strengthen our delivery of public K-12 education."
Dr. Eric Mackey, Executive Director of the School Superintendents of Alabama issued this statement:
“It's unfortunate that the governor would insult our teachers and educators who work hard everyday to the great benefit of our state's children. His comments are certainly demoralizing, but I can assure you that local superintendents in counties and towns large and small all across this state will not be dissuaded in our efforts to provide the best education possible everyday for every child. We know that we have a long way to go to reach the upper tier of achievement and we have been the leading voice calling for the policy decisions to move this state's schools forward. The governor's comments disparaging educators are just unfortunate and deflating...much like when he told the PARCA meeting a few years back that we should quit teaching calculus and physics and other subjects that he suggested kids didn't need. Nevertheless, he is entitled to his opinion. Those of us doing the work don't have time to deal with this distraction.”Alabama governor: 'our education system in this state sucks' - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.: