Joe Morton: Alabama children’s education path clearly is before us

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The Business Education Alliance of Alabama unites business and education with dual goals of providing the best education opportunities and skills training available for Alabama’s students and encouraging growth for teachers.

The BEA helps provide tools that prepare students for the competitive 21st Century workforce. We at the BEA are pro-business and pro-education because both communities have a shared goal of propelling Alabama into a position of national and international leadership in economic development and education excellence.

Recently the TimesDaily and the Decatur Daily encouraged the Alabama Education Association to right its ship, as it likely will.

All Alabama education organizations with a goal of uplifting children and supporting professional teachers are invited to work with the BEA towards creating an education system that does not keep children hostage to the past.

The BEA works to unite, not divide, business and education so that students and parents are better served and our economy is improved. We are committed to providing accurate and unbiased information to leaders in both the public and private sectors to better determine and implement the best public policies for our state.

For example, our August 2015 report, “Teachers Matter: Rethinking How Public Education Recruits, Rewards, and Retains Great Educators,”  is a blueprint for reaching the next level.

Within the last several years, the forward-looking Alabama Legislature has passed important and effective new education tools that will help Alabama’s students see a brighter future that will uplift them, their families, and the businesses which employ them.

One vision was to allow parents to take charge of their children’s educations and create a pathway for students to escape the limited education opportunities within their zip code.

Change began in 2013 with passage of the important Alabama Accountability Act. With this law, Alabama joined 12 other states on a new path toward education modernization and excellence.

The law provides the opportunity for low-income students to apply for tax credit scholarships that are funded by individual or corporate taxpayers and administered by scholarship-granting organizations. Virtually all of the scholarships in 2014 went to children who qualified for free or reduced-price lunches.

In 2015, the Legislature followed up with a public charter school law that local school systems may use to create innovative options and best serve students whose needs are currently unmet. The law allows local school boards to develop public charter schools to help all students.

And legislators have made wise investments in high quality pre-Kindergarten, Dual Enrollment, Advanced Placement, Distance Learning, and Career Tech, which prepare students for success on the front end and ensure pathways to college and careers on the back end.

These are examples of Alabama’s wishes enacted through our elected officials who see an Alabama moving toward a quality 90 percent high school graduation rate, skilled training for those who do not want to attend traditional college, and education funding free of systemic and crippling proration.

Alabama must continue to recruit the jobs of tomorrow that will hire skilled and educated students. To do that, Alabama must concentrate on all students meeting high standards and at a minimum graduating from high school career- and or college-ready.

With skilled and educated graduates, Alabama employers can be guaranteed the trained and effective workforce they need in order to remain here, for Alabama’s economy to grow, and for the Education Trust Fund to prosper.

Former Alabama State Superintendent of Education Joe Morton, Ph.D., is chairman and president of the Business Education Alliance of Alabama.

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