Alabamians deserve options

Published 10:19 am Tuesday, April 24, 2012

By BILL ARMISTEAD / Guest Columnist

If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always gotten. Alabama’s students know far too well how true that statement really is. For decades, we have watched our state’s education system perform at mediocre and far too often, less than mediocre, standards.

When Republicans took majority control in both chambers of the Alabama legislature, we promised that there would be positive changes in many areas, including education. Republicans have kept that promise and are working hard to provide parents and teachers with educational options that will allow students forced into consistently underperforming schools to have access to educational alternatives with the introduction of the Education Options Act.

Unfortunately, there are many mistruths about this legislation and the public charter schools they would establish being perpetuated by unions like the Alabama Education Association. It seems that the AEA would rather do what we have always done and continue watching some of Alabama’s schools flounder, rather than give parents and teachers the tools they need to assist students in underperforming school systems.

Alabama’s charter schools legislation would allow public charter schools to be established in school systems that consistently rank in the lowest 5 percent of Alabama schools. This legislation would allow public schools that would return control to the local level, empower teachers with the flexibility to “think outside of the box” and to be innovative in their classrooms and foster parental involvement in the education of their children to be established.

Most of all, public charter schools give parents in poorly-performing school districts a choice about where and how their children should be educated. This is a choice that is now only reserved for parents who can afford to send their children to private schools.

The Education Options Act gives parents a public school alternative to trapping their children in schools that don’t meet their educational standards. As Republicans, we believe that all Alabamians deserve that choice, not just parents with the means to pay private school tuition.

This legislation also equips teachers with the flexibility they need to address the needs of their individual classrooms in new and creative ways.

I would encourage all of Alabama’s taxpayers to research the Education Options Act and call your local legislator to tell them that Alabama’s teachers and Alabama’s students deserve better — they deserve options.

Bill Armistead, a former state senator from Columbiana, is currently the Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party.