The race for AL governor: Education

The race for AL governor: Education
(Source: WSFA 12 News)

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Over the course of the next week we will look at the different candidates for governor through different issues. Wednesday is the second part of this series with a story that focuses on education. If you want to see our first story on the candidates' economic plans, click HERE.

Improving Alabama's low national education ranking has been a priority for almost every candidate running for governor. Below see the candidates responses on what they want to see done for the state's education system.

Democrats support a lottery, while not a single Republican voiced a lottery plan.

DEMOCRATS

Sue Bell Cobb

"I am advocating what I'm calling the Lifelong Learner Lottery," says candidate Sue Bell Cobb. It's the main component of her education plan.

Cobb says the lottery would generate $300 million, a common estimate for a lottery's revenue. It would spend $75 million to fully fund 4-year-old kindergarten. Another $30-35 million would go toward childcare on a sliding scale, as Cobb says childcare would become more expensive if 4-year-old kindergarten is paid for. Then, another $50 million would go to fully fund vocational or career tech programs with money helping pay for "state-of-the-art" instructors and equipment. The rest of the money would go toward filling any gap for students with Pell grants, covering the remainder of the expenses.

Cobb says her plan would say to the world that Alabama's "children are ready to succeed when they get to school."

She'll call a special session in the first 30 days of her governorship to focus on the lottery, and would save money by having the special session during a regular session of the legislature.

Walt Maddox 

The mayor said his plan would training workers through education with an "Alabama Education Lottery" plan that would, much like Cobb's plan, generate an estimated $300 million. Maddox would call a special session on the first day of his administration to discuss the lottery and deal with the state's education problems.

Under the "Alabama Education Lottery" the money would be split to provide Universal Pre-K, college scholarships similar to the Tennessee lottery plan, an effort to equalize funding between rural and urban schools, expand craft academy training, expand scholarship opportunity for apprenticeship programs.

And for 75 struggling schools, provide wraparound mental health and health services. The goal, address not only the academic deficits but other deficits.

When it comes specifically to the classroom, Maddox says he wants to increase teacher salaries with a plan that would tap into the state's rolling reserve, which is meant as a back up in case of an economic downturn.

REPUBLICANS 

Kay Ivey 

A former educator, Gov. Kay Ivey wants to continue her "Strong Start, Strong Finish" program. Ivey says under the program she would want to see every student reach the goal of being on grade level by the third grade. The program would also want to see computer science classes in every middle school by 2022 and offer programs to better prepare students to enter a skilled workforce.

Tommy Battle

For Battle, the issue with Alabama's education system is not the overall system but the pockets of poor performance within it.

In Huntsville, they have what he calls an accountability system which would test children both at the beginning and end of the year to make sure there was a year's worth of advancement. Battle also promotes getting the community involved to help improve education.

When it comes to a potential lottery, Battle sees it as nothing more than "a financial tool." He supports a potential vote on the lottery but would only want to see the money go toward what he calls "job multipliers" like education. Battle said a potential lottery commission must be honest and transparent.

Battle voted against a lottery the last time people had a chance to vote on the issue.

Bill Hightower

Hightower says the state has a worker crisis and he would bring the need for workers into high schools by offering certification programs on the high school level. The state senator says the program could help give some kids a purpose and give them a better lifestyle.

Hightower is opposed to a lottery. Instead, he wants to undo earmarks to free up more funding for state programs, including education.

Scott Dawson

"We are at the bottom rung of the ladder and that's unacceptable," says candidate Scott Dawson. His education plan starts with having mentors in the classroom. Dawson says the mentors could come through corporations, communities, churches and retirees to help the learning process.

Dawson also wants economics taught in middle school to give kids an earlier understanding of finance.

He promises to be at every school board meeting and to hold teacher summits for teachers to have a platform to voice their opinions.

His most radical education idea deals with drug tests for high school students, requiring mandatory drug tests for extracurricular activities. He says the tests would use snippets of hair and the costs of the tests will be paid for by partnering corporations.

Under Dawson's plan, the first alert of a failed drug test would go to parents, the second to school administrators and the third would have state sponsored drug rehab.

The reason for the plan? Dawson believes that if a child can't pass a drug test and is addicted, one of three things will happen to him.

  1. They will be unemployed, on welfare
  2. They will commit a crime and be in prison
  3. They will eventually overdose

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