Dr. Ed Richardson Gives MPS Intervention Update at 145th Chamber Meeting
Montgomery Chamber says future of building a better Montgomery begins with the improvement of public education
Education was the hot topic at the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce’s 145th Annual Meeting Thursday, as 600 business leaders packed the Renaissance to celebrate the Chamber’s key wins in 2017.
“We’re number one in jobs in the state and new jobs from last year,” said David Reed, outgoing chairman of the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce.
Reed says the launch of Tech-MGM and the effort to win the F-35 initiative were major milestones, as was $2.3 billion in capital investment by industries. But, he says heading into 2018, education will be the Chamber’s top focus.
“We’ve got to grow the youth and if we grow the youth, we’ve got to grow our education system into something that we’re proud of,” said Reed.
Interim State Superintendent Dr. Ed Richardson agrees. He gave an update on the Montgomery Public School’s intervention in his keynote speech to representatives of the Chamber’s 1,800 member companies.
Richardson said several factors led to the intervention, siting failure of MPS to meet the required one month minimum budget balance of $19 million and declining student achievement. He said 80% of Montgomery Public Schools have not met the minimum threshold of student achievement and ACT scores were averaging 14-15, well below the state average of 20.
“Education is vitally important for our long-term future,”Richardson said. “About 90% of school age children attend Alabama’s as well as the nation’s public schools.”
MPS has lost 790 students to other school systems this year alone. Richardson says educating a quality workforce is key for the Capitol City’s growth.
“If they have inadequate skills then it not only impacts on what they can do, but what we can attract to Alabama,” he said.
Richardson says immediate corrective action is needed. He’s assembled an assessment team to focus on two key areas — boosting student achievement and developing a balanced MPS budget with minimum standards met. Many of the school systems’ problems, he says, stem from inadequate operation of the school board and says the “Board of Education may be more focused on getting re-elected than doing what’s best for our public schools.”
“We set high expectations, we assess performance and we make sure we take corrective action that’s the way you do anything,” Richardson said.
Richardson says he has appointed a team that will focus on assessing school principals, as well as placing restrictions on disruptive students and increasing classroom support. He also says he is taking applications for charter schools.
Montgomery Chamber members say establishing a strong public school system is vital to the economy.
“The younger you start the better it is for everybody and more importantly we hope they stay here when they graduate from high school or go to college,” said Stacia Robinson of BeneChoice Companies.
Reed says he believes the problems with MPS can be solved.
“We’ve got to change the attitudes, we’ve got to change the structure, but education is going to get better in Montgomery,” said Reed.
Meanwhile, Richardson says an accreditation body will assess the Montgomery Public School system next month. He expects to be presented a new MPS budget option week after next. He says that option would include jobs cuts, which could start as early as next month. Richardson also said that budget option could include the closure of some schools.