Birmingham power brokers are concerned about the overall state of education in Alabama, and they support the proposal for an appointed state school board.
Those were among the top takeaways from the latest Birmingham Power Poll, which surveyed local business, community and government leaders about the future of education in Alabama.
When asked to give a letter grade to the overall performance of Alabama’s K-12 education system, the most common choice was ‘D’ (44%). No respondents gave Alabama an ‘A,’ while 11% gave it an ‘F.’
Beyond that, 84% percent of respondents said Alabama’s K-12 schools do not currently do a good job preparing students for college or the workforce – a troubling figure at a time when many employers are facing challenges finding employees and overall migration into the state remains modest compared to other states in the region.
With voters heading to the polls next year to determine the fate of a constitutional amendment that would decided how state school board members are selected, respondents to the Power Poll favored an appointed state school board (64%), compared to just 36% who preferred an elected school board.
While the elimination of common core standards has been a hot topic in Alabama, the Power Poll didn’t find a clear consensus. Although 38% of respondents said they’d like to see Alabama’s education system aligned with Common Core compared to just 18% who oppose the standards, another 44% said they aren’t sure.
One topic that did have a clear consensus was the biggest challenge facing the state. More than half of respondents said the disparity between districts is Alabama’s top education challenge. Only two other choices – the ability to attract educators (16%) and funding (13%) – eclipsed 10%.
Disparity topping the poll is not a surprise in metro Birmingham, given the wide disparity in performance and resources in the region, sometimes for schools that are just a few miles apart.