Alabama School Connection’s Trisha Powell Crain Talks Money, Politics, and More in Alabama Education

Credit: Bonnie Brown/Flickr.

Credit: Bonnie Brown/Flickr.

There’s never a shortage of stories coming from Alabama’s schools. But before the WBHM/Southern Education Desk’s “Issues and Ales” education forum Thursday evening, we wanted to shed as much light as possible on the big picture behind the headlines. For better or worse, that backdrop always includes money and therefore politics. So WBHM education reporter Dan Carsen sat down with Alabama School Connection founder and BirminghamWatch contributor Trisha Powell Crain to talk about that and more.

Listen to the four-minute on-air version: 

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Hear the extended 22-minute version of the interview: 

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Excerpts follow below:

Funding Tensions

“The needs are still growing, and the student bodies are still growing, but the money is not growing … And we’re seeing this all over the country: some legislatures think they know about policy for public education better than the educators themselves.”

Long-Term Changes

“Fifty years ago, we didn’t teach everybody … we’re asking teachers to teach the entire range of kids with all the social problems they bring to school. How can you learn when you’re hungry? How do you ask an eight-year-old to control their hunger urges? … A lot of folks will say, ‘it’s their parents’ fault, it’s their parents’ fault.’”

Are Charter Schools a Good Fit for Alabama?

“Depends on who you read … There’s a lot of ‘waiting and seeing,’ a lot going on behind the scenes … We’re just at the very beginning of this movement.”

Reasons for Optimism?

Besides the fact that the state school board makes their meetings (which Crain calls boring) and their work sessions (which Crain calls exciting) available to the public through video streaming, Crain adds, “There are a lot of experiments,” including a pilot program that included medical care for at-risk students. Plus, she says, “I see us willing to look outside our own borders at what’s happening in other states, where we used to think ‘we didn’t need those outsiders telling us what to do.’”

This story was originally published by WBHM on November 4, 2015.

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