Alabama has thousands of good teachers who care about their students and thousands of children who will be the leaders of the next generation. We are spending billions on education and are not getting the results that the money, the aspirations, and the hard work deserve. Remember back in 1978, when a gubernatorial candidate, who had never run for public office, named Fob James, declared that Alabama's education system needed reform? Here we are forty years and seven governors later and our education system is still yearning for reform.
Ultimately, I believe in giving more choices and control back to parents, private and Christian efforts, and local boards which can accomplish much more with less money and more heart than the bureaucracy ever will. Our children will never reach their ultimate potential from a cookie-cutter program out of Washington or Montgomery. I believe that our State Board of Education understands these timeless concepts and I pledge to work actively with them as president of the board towards a workable plan for education reform based on the following three steps. I believe that with hard work and determination we will see remarkable improvements in education, test scores, and life preparedness.
Step 1: Learn Alabama
Why do we constantly look around the world to search for the latest and greatest program to improve our teaching skills, or allow Washington D.C. to spoon-feed us ideas out of California, when Alabama has been a leader in this field in years past? We need to refocus our education plans and curriculum on Alabama-based programs.
The Common Core Standards (and all of the other names the same standards go by), along with the accompanying programs need to go and we should set our own standards for excellence! Look back to the Alabama Reading Initiative, where Alabama educators developed a reading program which was nationally recognized and adopted by other states around the country. The Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative (AMSTI) is another great program made in Alabama, by Alabama, for Alabama. I will support incentives and rewards to encourage our state’s greatest education minds to commit time and effort to creating and successfully implementing new programs and state and local initiatives that are crafted for the success of our kids.
Step 2: Invest in Alabama's Future
Imagine a future where we not only reduce teenage drug use, but eradicate it. Imagine a future where young adults aren’t deep in drug addiction before they are able to establish themselves in life. Imagine a future where our prisons have far fewer young people locked up for drug use or associated crimes.
As governor, I will propose mandatory drug testing for every high school student in Alabama. Those who fail will be given help in the form of guidance and counseling, with a specified discipline program under the same terms as those who use drugs on school campuses. I believe that we will see immediate results in classroom performance and test scores. Today, we already spend a few dollars testing parolees in our local counties using a random “color of the day” system.
I understand this would not come without a cost. However, I believe that none of us realizes just how costly the drug addiction and abuse epidemic already is. Further, I believe that by partnering with business and corporate leaders and non-profit organizations, we can come up with an effective way to clean up Alabama’s schools, improve the direction of our children’s’ futures, and keep Alabama’s future more free of addiction and, hopefully, even prison.
Step 3: Mentorship and Character
I believe, like all of you, that our kids need more than just math, science, and grammar. They need to be equipped for life. I also believe that the resources to better accomplish this are at our fingertips. I will work with the educators to implement mentorship programs that involve volunteer retirees, parents, and grandparents who would love to invest their time in the rising generation. I will advocate for partnerships between elementary schools and non-profit organizations to make this need a reality.
On top of that I propose that our middle schools adopt what I will call the Leadership Initiative to integrate the cultivation of leadership skills, work ethic, attitude, and personal discipline throughout the school day.