Monday, October 8, 2012

Mary Scott Hunter Newsletter

At least 10,000 students from across the country have already signed up to visit the new MathAlive! exhibit that opened Saturday at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. Don’t miss it!
I have encouraged Dr. Deborah Barnhart, leader of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, to position the Center as the “Pied Piper” for Math.  Dr. Werner Von Braun believed his legacy was an Education Legacy.  Dr. Von Braun is the foremost American Mathematician and an Alabamian whose story is beautifully tied to an American milestone achievement – winning the “Space Race” and putting our astronauts on the moon. 
March of Dimes / Mary Scott’s 40th Birthday – Thursday, October 25!!!
On a personal note, I will celebrate my 40th birthday on Thursday, October 25, 2012 at the Westin Hotel.  You are invited! I have chosen to raise $40,000 for the March of Dimes to celebrate this milestone, and I will be chairing the Signature Chefs Event
My youngest son, Caleb, was born eight weeks early four years ago.  Premature baby medical science supported by the March of Dimes saved his life.  Read the story that inspired me to do this, and please join me for the party!  Individual tickets as well as group/table ticketing and corporate sponsorships at various levels of giving are available.  Please contact Pam Ogg to make arrangements -- or 256-585-6243.
K-12 Education Budget (ETF) / Education Trust Fund Update
ETF Increase -- I am increasingly optimistic that the current growth rate will be sufficient to fund next year's budget.  We anticipate an increase of $407.7 million for next year.  The Board had its first work session on the budget this month.  While not exciting, an item of need for local systems is restoration of “Other Current Expenses” or “OCE” which funds such items as school buses.
Education Employees -- The Board and Superintendent also hope to recoup the loss of 1,300 teachers – a necessary move in order to grow academic achievement. The Board also discussed raises for employees.  Dr. Bice presented the matter as it relates to “fairness.”  My comment was, "This is not so much for me a question of fairness as it is quality work force.”  I certainly believe teaching is a calling, but as with any profession, competitive pay keeps the field desirable to attract and keep high quality employees.  My comment seemed to be received by Dr. Bice and the rest of the Board favorably. For every 1% of pay increase, the ETF is drafted $35,000,000. 
My opposition to Diversion or Combination -- While I did not support the Constitutional Amendment on the Alabama Trust Fund, the good news is that the ETF should be safe from the practice of “diversion” which refers to moving proper general fund items to the ETF.  I remain opposed to a combined budget.  My comment at this month’s work session is that the ETF is a long term investment in prosperity while the General Fund goes mainly to our short and medium term operating expenses.  Both are important, but politics will usually sacrifice the long term for the short term.  I am not willing to chance that with a combined budget, and I believe my job is to protect the future of our state for the long term through solid education policy-making.
Community Colleges
New Chancellor -- Dr. Mark Heinrich was named Chancellor.  I welcome him and believe the Board made a great choice.  Fellow attorney and Educator, Susan Price, was our interim.  I commended her.  She took on some difficult problems and made headway in her short time. 
Athens State University – I supported the college gaining its own Board of Trustees independent of the Alabama Community College System.  This was the logical next step for this uniquely-missioned college which educates at the upper division two-year level.  I will sit on its first Board of Trustees and am looking forward to this honor.
Drake State Technical College – Drake gained its SACS accreditation, which represents a significant accomplishment.  I support and laud Drake’s desire to uniquely position itself in the future as a comprehensive community college with a focus on Technical Education.  This harkens to its legacy as well as the future of community college education. 
Calhoun Community College – Calhoun in Huntsville finally received permission from the Board to make some much needed improvements to the Huntsville campus.  Their proposal was rejected by the Board last year, but the proposal in August was unanimously supported by the Board.  Calhoun will, in partnership with Athens, be celebrating the grand opening of the Alabama Center for the Arts in Decatur this month. 
Northeast Alabama Community College – This month marks a very significant milestone.  I was privileged to speak at the groundbreaking of the new Technology, Science and Math Building.  The building will sit at the front of the campus and be prominent from Hwy 35, the main artery from Scottsboro to Fort Payne.  This investment in our work force in the Sand Mountain region will lead to good jobs. 
Gadsden State Community College – Much work was done this year to protect Gadsden’s budget.  Gadsden has historically been funded at a higher per-student rate than other colleges.  I commend President Staats, an able and gifted leader and a fellow Air Force officer.  His words to me: “Give me a glide slope I can land my plane on.”  Meaning, he understands the need to contract his budget, and I am supporting that process happening at a proper rate. Infrastructure needs will continue to be addressed, however, and I plan to spend time in Etowah County early next month to review those needs.
Thank you for the privilege of serving you. 
1_1349634376596381 class=yiv185433019MsoBodyText>MARY SCOTT HUNTER
Representative-Alabama Board of Education
District 8 (Limestone, Madison, Jackson, DeKalb, Etowah)
P.O. Box 18572, Huntsville, AL 358041-888-531-1312
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