The Alabama YMCA Youth in Government media staff asked each 2018 youth gubernatorial candidate the same three questions. This is the second installment of the Q & A with 2018 gubernatorial candidates:
Does each Alabama public school get fair and equitable funding? If so, are the schools using the money wisely? If not, how do you advocate money for public education be distributed?
Olivia Pride: In the state of Alabama, there is a lack of education equality. A lot of us in this program are blessed to attend private schools or nationally ranked public schools; however, that is not the case for all. Birmingham City Schools is one of the biggest school districts in the state of Alabama and contains approximately 13 failing schools. This is a problem, and it is simply because of funding. The average annual income for students in Birmingham City Schools is $32,000. In Hoover, it is $76,469 and Spain Park High School, a school within Hoover City Schools, is sixth in the state for education. This success is directly tied to the affluence in this Birmingham suburb. Money for public education is a tricky topic because of failing schools, but money is the answer to fix failing schools. The state government should examine teachers in the failing schools and educate them on how to be better teachers. Then they should pour more money into the schools to get them the resources they need and skilled teachers. I know pouring money into a failing school seems wrong, but they can never improve without sufficient funds. It’s basic economics. When there is an economic crisis, one of the first things a president attempts to do is put money into the economy. This method is effective and should be applied to the education system.
Olivia Pride is a 16-year-old junior at Spain Park High School in Hoover. She is the daughter of Kimberly Pride.
Jezzia Smith: When you consider all of the public school systems within the state of Alabama, you see they do not all receive equal funding, which places some students at a disadvantage – this is seen when public schools choose to withdraw from the school system. Examples include Saraland High School and Satsuma High School in Mobile Alabama and Mountain Brook High School and Vestavia Hills High School in Birmingham. Each of these schools use money from the surrounding area through private/public funding or donation instead of the money that comes from the school system itself. While a large majority of schools are well funded by the public, this is not always true. Which causes another discrepancy through this school funding tactic because the students outside of publicly funded schools are not the only groups lacking in opportunity, but now students within struggling publicly funded schools are at a disadvantage too. Therefore, we as a state should take each public facility and regulate their funds by pooling all their resources and then divvying the capital by a ratio to the number of students within each school.
However, there is also a negative stigma in regards to the use of money within the schools. While I agree most schools use their funds to the best of their abilities to fit the needs of their particular academic criteria – such as spending on computer labs, textbooks and online programs – there could also be cutbacks on the cost of unnecessary items such as the mandatory thumb print scanners that cost thousands of dollars to install into one single school since these scanners only work to sign the teacher in, in the morning. This money, if not used for unnecessary ideas such as the scanner, could then be used within these schools for necessary items such as infrastructure repair, maintenance and student aid.
Jezzia Smith is a 16-year-old junior at Baker High School in Mobile. She is the daughter of Kacey York and Kenny York.
Claudia Hubbard: No, Alabama schools do not get fair and equitable funding. In order to fix this problem, the state needs to look into redistributing funds on a per student basis. More affluent areas in Alabama are able to raise local taxes to improve their own education systems, so it would be in Alabama’s best interest to evaluate the number of students per school who live in poverty and distribute more funds to schools with higher numbers of impoverished pupils. This way, schools located in impoverished areas will have a better chance at keeping up with schools in affluent areas. Schools in Alabama would receive more fair and equitable funding overall.
Claudia Hubbard is a junior at Saint James School in Montgomery. Her parents are Sabrina and Bryan Hubbard.
Abbreviated versions of the above responses will appear in the Feb. 24, 2017, edition of TomorrowToday, the Alabama YMCA Youth in Government newspaper.