Thousands Rally Outside State Capitol to "Save Our Schools"
Alabama’s State legislators plan to cut the state’s Education Fund by more than $150 million, and Alabama's Education Association (AEA) is working to change their minds. Saturday, thousands of concerned educators, parents and students from all across the state rallied at the State Capital steps to save Alabama's schools.
Chanting in unison, “Save Our Schools” and “We All Vote”, the crowd poured into Dexter Avenue boasting signs and t-shirts with the same messages.
“I'm sacred for my kids and its time we stood up and that we rally for them,” said Angela Morgan, a teacher at Alexander High School.
Alabama's Education system is facing a fifth straight year of proration and budget cuts. “No more, we just can’t handle anymore,” said Charm Russler. “There has to be a better way to fund our state than on the backs of teachers and out of our classrooms.”
The AEA says Saturday’s “Save Our Schools” rally is the largest pro-education rally in a generation. The ralliers, mostly AEA members, demanded legislators and Gov. Robert Bentley, who already proposed cutting 230 million dollars from the Education Fund, invest in schools and stop “unnecessary cuts.”
“I'm looking at what my grand kids are going to get, I want my grandkids to have the same chance for education that Dr. Bentley had,” said Charles Hunter, a support mechanic for the Houston County school system.
Governor Bentley, who was not at the rally, released a statement regarding the Alabama Education Association’s actions:
"The AEA has criticized the budget I recommended without providing a better alternative. My budget proposals protect funding for proven education programs while also protecting critical services such as dialysis for Medicaid patients and doctor visits for children of low-income families. It makes no sense to let nearly $200 million sit in a savings account when we have that funding available to protect these critical services.
"The AEA is opposing economic development legislation that will benefit public schools by strengthening the Alabama economy. The Job Creation and Retention Act will increase the funding base for schools by providing new jobs and new investment in our communities. Putting Alabamians back to work is my top priority, and this legislation will accomplish that goal while also creating new revenue for public schools.
"The AEA is also fighting public charter schools and increased flexibility for traditional schools. The Education Options Act is a comprehensive effort to give teachers the flexibility they need while also giving students and their parents new options for success. I believe all children should have access to the highest-quality education possible – no matter where they’re from.
"I value the hard work of dedicated public school teachers across this state. I regret the misguided tactics used by the management of the AEA."
However, AEA believes the only way Alabamians can save the state's children is by taking to the ballot box. “You can't vote for these people because they are not working for your kids,” Martin said. “They are not working for you; they are working for people, who are trying to make money on the side through private education. It is not fair.”
Outside of the budget battle, ralliers also raised concern over the controversy surrounding bringing charter schools to Alabama. State educators told CBS-8 they worry charter schools would take away money from the public schools system’s already tight budget. There is a bill in the state legislation regarding charter schools; however it has yet to be voted on. State legislators have a little more than a month to decide on both the Education Fund budget and charter schools, before the legislative session is over.