Struggling schools, PAC money influencing Tuscaloosa school board election
By Nick Katers
Tuscaloosa, Alabama: Voters in Tuscaloosa will face a ballot crowded with school board candidates on August 27. All eight seats on the Tuscaloosa Board of Education are up for election next week. The board faces serious challenges going forward including improvements to four schools failing according to state standards and continued rebuilding from a 2011 tornado. A political action committee (PAC) called Educate Tuscaloosa has also spent $100,000 to support reforms to school board policy.
Parents and community members are looking to rebuild the district’s facilities while improving the curriculum. A tornado that ripped through Tuscaloosa on April 27, 2011 left many buildings in ruin including several district schools. Progress in rebuilding school facilities has taken time with the Alberta School of Performing Arts re-opening as recently as April 2013. The district will also look to improve four schools considered failing according to the Alabama Accountability Act of 2013. Central High School, Davis-Emerson Middle School, Martin Luther King Elementary School and Westlawn Middle School have failed to meet minimum benchmarks for standardized math and reading tests at least three of the past six years.
Educate Tuscaloosa is supporting a shake-up of the board by criticizing existing members. The group founded by Michael Echols has raised $100,000 to support board reforms with mailers that criticize the current board’s failure to improve academic performance. A postcard sent by the PAC in April argued that the district was ranked 7th in Alabama in terms of funding but only 87th in the state for academic performance. During a July 30 candidate forum, incumbent Harry Lee argued for four more years based on the need for continuity. "What we have gotten started is going to take a strong learning curve to catch up to if you're coming in for the first time," Lee said.
- Alabama school districts
- Tuscaloosa City School District elections (2013)
- Tuscaloosa City Schools, Alabama
- Alabama's 13, "Tuscaloosa school destroyed by tornado begins rebuilding," April 24, 2013
- AL.com, "Tuscaloosa to mark 2nd anniversary of tornado with events this week," April 22, 2013
- AL.com, "Four Tuscaloosa schools on 'failing' list under Alabama Accountability Act," June 18, 2013
- MyFoxAL, " PAC raising money to back challengers in Tuscaloosa School Board elections ," August 2, 2013
- Save Tuscaloosa Schools, "Home," accessed August 15, 2013
- AL.com, "Tuscaloosa City School Board incumbents, challengers spar at AEA-sponsored forum," July 31, 2013