The TomorrowTODAY staff asked each candidate the same three questions. Read their responses below:
What can Alabama do to better prepare students from all areas for college?
Jackson Craft: Proven high school curriculums aimed at preparing students for higher education should be available at all schools. Equal access to preschool is also a fundamental problem within Alabama. Many preschools are private, only letting citizens able to pay send their children there. Giving all children an opportunity at early education is very important. What we should be most concerned about career readiness. Most advisers tell students that college is the only way to a better future, but this simply isn’t true. There is a high demand for skilled workers right here in Alabama, and I would like to close that gap.
Pavel Shirley: Our state has the potential to overcome Alabama’s college readiness gap. We should set our college readiness standards based on actual proficiency in a class, rather than how many courses or hours of a class you’ve taken. The state should also have real standards that the curriculum in regular level classes must meet. Of course, I also strongly support anything that puts more money in our schools. Paying teachers well and keeping class sizes low can work wonders.
Sofie Behr: In order to better prepare our students for college, we must improve our public schools in Alabama. Alabama is one of only seven states that bases basic school funding on the number of students in a school. Additional resources are needed, especially for students in poverty. If we adjust the distribution of funds, we can improve the education of low-income students by providing them with more aid. Many students in our state go to public schools that unfortunately lack adequate college advising. Reallocating funding will provide struggling students with the help they need with college applications and scholarship opportunities. We must make schools an environment in which students can strive for higher education instead of worrying about financial burdens their family may face. This will ensure our students are better prepared for college. We need to make public schools in Alabama a reason people come to our state and want students from our state at their universities.
How can we increase participation in our new North Alabama district and in other areas of the state where we have no presence or sparse participation?
Pavel Shirley: I was a big fan of creating District 5 at our Fall Planning meeting, and the change is already bringing great new people to Leg. To keep this momentum, we should encourage newer schools to have more of their members apply or even run for an office. Additionally, through our current members, we have connections all over the state. We can work to create a quick and easy source of information for new delegations so that anyone can invite their friends at a school that has never participated.
Sofie Behr: If elected, I will advocate for an outreach or ambassador program in which officers will travel to schools within the new district to encourage participation. These officers will speak to schools’ government clubs about opportunities to participate in Alabama Youth in Government. I believe friendship is one of the most rewarding aspects of ALYiG, so fostering friendships across district lines could be a great start to increase the delegation sizes of many smaller programs.
Jackson Craft: To gain participation in the northern district, as well as more rural areas, we must gain momentum for the program through the local YMCAs. Starting a delegation at a YMCA would open it up to students of all different schools in that area, allowing the program to take a foothold and hopefully spread to each individual school. Another issue is restarting delegations at schools that have stopped participating. ALYIG has so many success stories. Getting alumni from the area to work with us to help restart the delegation from their area would assist in helping this problem.
How can Alabama ensure that our state is at the forefront of the technology industry?
Sofie Behr: We must encourage companies to come to Alabama through legislation and infrastructure. Providing incentives for business in the technology sector to come to Alabama is crucial. I’ve seen firsthand in the city of Montgomery, technologically advanced companies, like Hyundai, help improve the economy and increase exposure to new technology through increased job opportunities. In return, employees learn skills they can share to improve and modernize our state.
Jackson Craft: This really ties into my first answer. Investing in skilled workers is one way, if not, the best way to attract big business. Programs that allow students to realize they have career options that can provide a good salary is key. I want to create an environment for companies at the forefront of technological investment to thrive.
Pavel Shirley: Getting Alabama to be a national leader in tech industries requires excellent school systems and investment in our public colleges to make them even more attractive to students all over the country. We also should keep regulation of new industries low. A “sunset clause” that makes regulations on certain industries expire after a period can ensure we don’t have 20th-century laws governing the 21st.