Education Law

Ala. Educators Oppose Proposal to Delete Separate-But Equal-Mandate from State Constitution

A proposal to amend Alabama’s lengthy constitution to delete language providing for separate-but-equal schools is being opposed by educators who fear the proposal could impact funding.

The proposed amendment going before voters next week is facing some opposition because it keeps in place language denying a right to an education at public expense, report the New York Times and the Associated Press. According to the Times, the dispute raises questions about “the degree to which racist language can be surgically removed from a document that was constructed primarily on the ground of racism.”

Court rulings are murky on whether the denial of the right to an education, adopted in a 1956 amendment in an attempt to avoid integration, remains part of the state constitution. Educators oppose the proposed Amendment 4 because it restates the provision denying a right to a public education.

In 2004 voters defeated a proposal to delete the racist reference that also removed the language denying a right to a public education. Opponents feared removing the language could lead to tax increases.

State Senator Arthur Ott, a Republican, drafted the latest proposal. He tells AP he had hoped to avoid the tax issue this time. His intent, he said, was to eliminate outdated language that had put the state at a disadvantage when competing for new industries.

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