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Alabama editorial roundup

October 30, 2019

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

Oct. 27

The Gadsden Times on a report grading each system and school in Alabama:

For many students, there’s probably no more nerve-wracking day than when report cards go home.

But over the past several years, that nervous anticipation has also applied to administrators and teachers as the Alabama State Department of Education has issued a “report card” for each system and school in the state.

It takes into account criteria like academic achievement, academic growth, graduation rate, college and career readiness, chronic absenteeism and progress in English language proficiency to come up with an overall score and grade.

We’re proud to report that every school system in Etowah County saw an increase in scores over last year. ...

Reassurance that our students are being educated well is important to parents and other stakeholders in the school systems, but it also has an impact that reaches far beyond the halls and classrooms.

There’s a saying that gets brought up occasionally at local government meetings: “As the schools go, so goes the city.”

And there’s truth to that.

Education plays a role in everything from property values to the overall job market.

When families are looking to buy a new house or move into a new area, what are they looking for?

They are more concerned with the quality of the school district than when the cabinets were last remodeled. A desirable zoning can also increase the value of a home.

Today’s students are tomorrow’s workers and what they learn in school will carry them into college or the workforce.

We hear a lot about the importance of economic development and making sure there are good jobs available for our citizens, but take a moment to think about it from the standpoint of a business that’s considering coming to Etowah County.

Would you want to locate your company in a place where you can’t find quality workers to fill your positions?

It’s vital that our students are well equipped to meet the ever-changing work landscape, and that’s why one of the ALSDE’s report card categories is “college and career readiness.”

Both of these points are also related to each other: a company locating in Etowah County will bring some employees in from out of town, and the area looks more enticing with the prospect of high-performing schools to add to the overall quality of life.

None of these systems exist in a vacuum, and that’s why it’s beneficial for our local governments and schools to continue supporting each other.

We know that the goal is constant improvement and there’s always work to be done to make education better, but we hope teachers, administrators and parents take a moment to enjoy the good news that comes with this latest report card.

We’re proud of the work that everyone has put in to make these across-the-board school improvements possible, and we look forward to seeing what’s in store for the future.

Online: https://www.gadsdentimes.com/

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Oct. 26

The Dothan Eagle on a tour Gov. Kay Ivey and her Study Group on Criminal Justice took of a state correctional facility:

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a report condemning the state of Alabama for what it called unconstitutional conditions, including high rates of violence, in the state’s penitentiaries.

The Justice Department is late to this realization. Alabama lawmakers, and most Alabamians, have been aware of the growing problems in the state’s prison system for years. Despite reports of too few corrections officers and a burgeoning inmate population that’s grown to roughly double capacity, Alabama lawmakers have made no changes to reverse the trend.

With the feds breathing down their necks, state officials are now paying attention. Before his resignation in the midst of scandal, former Gov. Robert Bentley floated a plan to build new prisons, proposing a bond issue to fund the initiative to the tune of $800 million to $1 billion.

Now, Gov. Kay Ivey is on a similar track, and (last) week took her Study Group on Criminal Justice on a field trip to Holman Correctional Facility to see conditions firsthand.

No doubt the group heard how corrections officer staffing is less than one-third of the number authorized, while the inmate population is doubled at 1,000. What should be a 3-to-1 ratio of inmates to corrections officers is 20-to-1 at Holman prison.

And there’s the violence that has resulted in eight inmate deaths this year, the most recent last week at Ventress Correctional Facility in Clayton.

The field trip should be eye-opening for the governor’s study group, who must consider the entirety of the corrections system’s challenges. New facilities may address overcrowding, but that’s just one part of a system that needs reform, from sentencing to funding to compensation for corrections officers.

Online: https://www.dothaneagle.com/

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Oct. 24

The Decatur Daily and Florence TimesDaily on how Alabama will soon be surrounded by states offering lotteries:

The Mississippi Lottery will begin offering multi-state games on Jan. 30, a little over two months after it starts selling scratch-off tickets for single-state games.

When Mississippi joins the popular Powerball and Mega Millions games, Alabama will be officially surrounded. Every state to our north, south, east and west will offer lottery gaming, and Alabamians in the west-central part of the state will find it even easier to cross state lines to buy lottery tickets.

Yes, Alabamians will still be crossing state lines because Alabama will still not have a state lottery. We know what this means: Few people who want to play the lottery will be prevented from doing so; they’ll just have to drive to another state, any state, to do it. But Alabama will continue to miss out on lottery revenue that could go to — well, anything. So many state services could use more money, from education to health care. The only Alabama state service getting money from lotteries in surrounding states is roads — from the gasoline Alabamians have to buy to drive to the state next door. That is, unless they buy their gas while they’re in that other state; then that state gets the road money, too.

Mississippi had been one of just six states without a lottery until lawmakers there authorized it in 2018. Now Alabama is one of the handful remaining.

According to The Associated Press, the first $80 million a year Mississippi’s lottery generates will go to the state’s highways, and any revenue beyond that will go to education.

It’s time for Alabama to get a piece of that action.

Alabama voters voted down a constitutional amendment authorizing a state lottery 20 years ago, but a lot has changed since then, including Tennessee starting its state lottery. It’s time for voters to get another say.

Unfortunately, before that can happen, the Alabama Legislature must have a say, and that’s easier said than done.

Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Range, sponsored a lottery bill this year that passed the state Senate but died in the House. Albritton says it’s now up to the House to start the ball rolling.

“It’s got to come up out of the House,” Albritton said. “We’ve sent them bills now twice, and they’ve killed them. It’s your job now, you do it.”

House Speaker Mac McCutcheon is willing, but it’s still an open question whether he can get the rest of his chamber to go along.

“Alabama is in dire need of additional revenue, and keeping the proceeds from a lottery within the state rather than exporting them to our sister Southeastern states seems a commonsense source for it,” McCutcheon said. “I hope the impasse that has blocked the public from voting on a lottery thus far will be overcome.”

The impasse comes from two directions. First, there are those who oppose a state lottery because they oppose gambling in any form. Second, there are those who want to shape any lottery bill so that it benefits favored interest groups. The state lottery gets dragged into the debate over casinos, video poker, dog tracks, and facilities operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. Everyone wants to get in on the action, and everyone wants to make sure no one else can. Monopoly rights have their privileges.

Alabama voters deserve a straight up-or-down vote on a state lottery without any special privileges for the usual suspects.

Online: https://www.decaturdaily.com/ and https://www.timesdaily.com/

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