The people's voice of reason

Do Those We Elect Want to Really Fix Anything?

Maybe, it's the increased humidity and hot temperatures that have made me a bit cranky of late. Maybe, I'm so weary of the recent news events and escalation of anger consuming our nation that more than ever I'm ready for college football and the diversion it brings.

Or maybe, it's the special U.S. Senate election and my disgust with the nasty campaign ads generated from the power structure in DC wanting to select our next senator that has irritated me more than normal in the last few weeks.

I desperately want to think there are still good men and women who want to serve in public office for the right reasons, but with each election cycle, I find myself increasingly frustrated that far too many of those we elect, and specifically some we re-elect, have little intention of fixing anything in this country, because solving our problems would likely eliminate their campaign sound bites, and a divided nation keeps the power base intact.

How many campaign cycles have we now endured the promises of "fixing" the problems with our healthcare system? Not only was there a failure to repeal and/or replace Obamacare (which isn't truly healthcare – only a dismantling of health insurance) but Congress will now likely bailout the health exchanges – a move that will only "fix" things for the insurance companies, not hard-working Americans who will continue to struggle with the rising premiums required to fund the system. And for those who still believe Obamacare to be a lifesaver, time will prove that our choices for quality healthcare will continue to erode.

But nothing has me more irritated than the promises of "helping the children," because our public school system in Montgomery County continues to underperform and underserve a vast majority of our students. Granted, there are pockets of success throughout the state, but the children in the Montgomery County system are being sorely shortchanged which in turn negatively impacts the perception and growth of our county.

Bringing up the topic of education is as dangerous as discussing religion, and everyone has an opinion as to what works and what doesn't. I'm not an education policy guru nor an educator, so I will leave those discussions to others more qualified to expound on those details. But I'm a taxpayer, and a resident of a county that is failing to adequately provide educational opportunities to children unable to afford private options, and that has a direct impact on my community and my state.

So do those we elect to serve on our local and state school boards want to correct the problems? I truly want to believe they do, but recent events have led me to a different conclusion, one that will very likely step on lots of toes.

The Alabama State Board of Education may well terminate the contract of our current State Superintendent Michael Sentance. Many will applaud this action should it happen; I will not. Why? Because I'm of the belief that our education problems are so widespread and deeply rooted that no one person can possibly turn this ship around with only one year on the job. As stated in a piece written by Caleb Crosby, President and CEO for the Alabama Policy Institute, Alabama coach Nick Saban had a 6-6 first year record and even lost to Auburn, yet he wasn't fired after his first season. I have no idea if Superintendent Sentance has a similar ability to turn our education system around, but surely we can allow him longer than one year on the job given the failing mess he inherited upon his arrival.

While many say this superintendent was never qualified for the position because he's never taught in a classroom, our last local superintendent came from a classroom setting, yet Montgomery County schools are now under the intervention of the State Department of Education. Because I can remember my educator mother's frustrations with former teachers promoted to administrators who made her life miserable in the classroom, I'm not sure that argument is one that should be a primary reason for termination.

Others have been opposed to Superintendent Sentance because he's not born and reared in Alabama, but that argument also fails when you consider he was involved as a reformer in one of the most successful school systems in the nation. Why wouldn't we want to try and implement some of his ideas that improved education elsewhere rather than maintain the status quo with the same ideas and policies that are not helping our students reach their full potential?

I'm afraid that the displeasure with our current superintendent has more to do with the fact that reformers aren't ever popular, especially when their ideas clash with the existing power structure. Yes, Superintendent Sentence has made admitted mistakes in his first year, and appears willing to correct those mistakes because he wants time to improve the education system for our students. Unfortunately, our state education hierarchy is fraught with politics, and those who don't play that game well end up losing.

Time will tell if Alabama students will continue losing as well.

Marcia Chambliss has been involved in grassroots conservative politics since 2009 and has contributed opinion articles pertaining to politics and cultural issues to The

Alabama Gazette since 2010.


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