Editorial: Money talk for schools — Anniston council’s decision to help pre-K program is commendable
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Oct 24, 2013 | 2486 views |  0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Anniston Mayor Vaughn Stewart. Photo: The Anniston Star
Anniston Mayor Vaughn Stewart. Photo: The Anniston Star
It’s rare for a detailed discussion about Anniston’s public schools not to include a strong dose of money talk.

As in, Anniston’s schools need money for better instructional programs.

As in, Anniston’s schools need to consolidate their campuses to save money.

As in, Anniston’s schools already spend a notable amount, per-pupil, in their students.

As in, Anniston’s schools need better financial support from the City Council.

It is one of this city’s broken records. It’s a tiring, though important, topic. Yet, the council’s decision Tuesday to allocate $180,000 to expand the city’s pre-kindergarten classes is an example of (a.) spending money wisely, and (b.) giving public education in Anniston a significant boost.

Nevertheless, recall the budget discussions last month on Gurnee Avenue, during which council members Millie Harris and Jay Jenkins voted against the $35 million budget because of an additional $100,000 being earmarked for the city’s schools.

Harris and Jenkins didn’t vote no because they were against helping Anniston’s schools. Jenkins, in fact, voted no because of his concerns about the system’s obvious need to consolidate from its seven-campus footprint down to something more fiscally responsible. (The Board of Education has voted to close Anniston Middle School and relocate those students at another campus.)

“Providing additional funding, even with the accountability strings attached, simply states we as a council are willing to ignore the 500-pound gorilla in the room that is consolidation as a method of fiscal responsibility. I am not OK with that, and I cannot support this,” he said at the time.

The city’s $35 million budget passed, even with their smart objections.

A month later, money talk again highlighted the council’s discussions about public education in Anniston. By all accounts — local educators, national experts on early education — access to quality pre-K classes is a must-have for communities desiring top-flight public education. National experts told The Star this week that children who attend quality pre-K classes are less-likely to fall prey to a host of social ills, including teen pregnancy, smoking and crime.

Allison de la Torre, executive director for the Alabama School Readiness Alliance, an organization that advocates for quality pre-K education in the state, told The Star that “children who have high-quality pre-K education are more likely to succeed — to read at grade level by third grade and then go on into success in college and in their careers.”

In other words, money talk about public education in Anniston often bogs down into all sorts of political spin and policy headaches. This time, however, that didn’t happen. The money talk should make sense to, and for, everyone. Especially the children.
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