Guest opinion: Politicians use money where it counts: public education

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This is an opinion column

As I write today, I wear several hats—that of a father, a former elementary school teacher, and current chairman of the Alabama House Democrats. I have served in each of these important roles with a commitment to improving the lives of young Alabamaans. While Republican lawmakers might try to tie the Democratic agenda to the controversy now brewing in Washington, let the record show – the Democrats in Alabama are pro-growth, pro-innovation, and pro-Alabama, which means that in our state today we prioritize the quality of education to ensure security and prosperity for the future.

Earlier this month, the Alabama House committed the largest education budget in state history — a total of $8.125 billion to the Education Trust Fund. These funds will increase teacher salaries and expand reading, science, and pre-K programs.

As a father of young children and a former teacher of grades 3-5, I know that a consistent and quality education from an early age is crucial. The Alabama Partnership for Children released research from the Fight Crime: Invest in Kids initiative showing that a 10 percentage point increase in completion rates has been shown to reduce homicide and assault rates by about 20 percent in the past. One of the biggest factors in graduation rates is early education. Attending a quality pre-kindergarten (Pre-K) increases high school graduation rates by up to 44 percent.

Given this correlation, one of the Education Trust Fund’s greatest accomplishments is increasing funding for Pre-K programs by $24 million. Investments like this exemplify Democrats’ pro-innovation, pro-Alabama policies, which are urging incremental improvements to everyday life for Alabamaans.

Rather than applying band-aid solutions to our social and economic problems, Democrats have long advocated tackling the problem at its root – investing in Alabama’s public education system. While it’s gratifying to see Republicans getting on board with the Education Trust Fund, it would be more satisfying to see the GOP also abandon the school voucher program they are currently trying to pass.

Republican lawmakers are pushing a “school choice program” that effectively diverts public funds to private and charter schools. Similar school voucher programs in other states have cost taxpayers money and created a two-tier school system that further segregates our students and widens the attainment gap.

My message is simple: State Democrats will continue to fight for improved public education and all the positive outcomes — from crime reduction to increased revenue — that it means for Alabamaans.

Anthony Daniels currently represents the 53rd District in the Alabama House of Representatives. He has been the minority leader in the state House of Representatives since 2017.

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