By Larry Lee
When Kay Ivey became governor earlier last week, she also became chair of the state board of education by virtue of her office. This, plus the fact that she once taught school, was ample reason for her to attend the state board meeting on April 13.
And though she was unable to stay very long, the governor did address the board and the audience with a message of support and hope. She made it clear that she believes in education and the important role it plays in setting the table, so to speak, for economic growth.
Her appearance was especially meaningful to board members. I talked to several afterwards and they were extremely pleased the new governor made a special effort to be present, especially considering all the demands that go with starting a brand new administration.
“I certainly look forward to getting to know her and working with her,” said Cynthia McCarty, who, like Ivey, is an Auburn University grad. “Hopefully this is the dawning of a new day.”
Governor Bentley was not perceived as friendly to public schools, going so far as to last fall declare that “education sucks” in a highly publicized speech.
In fact, in an on-line survey done by this blog two months ago, only 1.5 percent of more than 700 respondents approved of the job he was doing. And 82 percent considered Bentley as “Anti-Public Schools.”
As we have pointed out before, the real crisis in Alabama education has nothing to do with graduation rates, AMSTI, 4th grade NAEP scores, etc.
Instead, it is the almost total lack of confidence the education community throughout the state has in the bodies that are supposed to be helping them. This includes the legislature, the state school board, the state superintendent and the governor’s office. Morale is low and seems to get lower each day. You simply cannot expect excellence from a work force who feel constantly under fire and demeaned.
So Governor Ivey has an excellent opportunity to champion the cause of our public schools instead of using them for a cheap laugh line in some speech.
Governor Bentley only attended about 10 percent of the state board meeting during his time in office. I think Governor Ivey will be much more attentive.
Larry Lee led the study Lessons Learned from Rural Schools and is a longtime advocate for public education. firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog: larryeducation.com