The Alabama Voter
Summer 2010 Edition
Published July 19, 2010
by Charlotte Ward, LWVAL Co-President
As we are very aware in Alabama, education has, throughout this nation’s history, been considered a state concern, if it was the concern of government at all. We may need to be reminded that the idea of free public education for all is not all that old. In our region, in particular, public education arrived in many communities only late in the nineteenth century. A look at the LWVAL education positions will show that in 1960 we were still working to get the state to provide textbooks beyond sixth grade and to add kindergartens to the public schools.
Anyone who has lived more than one state is aware that standards and curriculum vary widely from state to state. National programs such as “No Child Left Behind” have tried to bring some uniformity in basic standards. A few non-governmental groups, some with public funding, have attempted to suggest curriculum standards (a list of topics that should be included at various grade levels in science, for example; I have served as a reviewer for some of these) but efforts to create a national curriculum have been mightily resisted by many states. The results of state control over curriculum can sometimes be bizarre, as recent events in Texas demonstrate.
With current federal efforts such as “Race to the Top” as well as NCLB, it is time for the League as a national organization dedicated to encouraging informed voting, to look at education as a national issue. We may decide the current state-centered system is best, or we may decide to support radical changes, but at present we have no voice at all, because we haven’t studied the topic. I hope we are all looking forward to getting – or perhaps influencing - the National Board’s guidelines, so that we can work toward correcting this void in the League’s ability to act.