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Passing the Plate

Alabama's popular "Helping Schools" license plate is getting a new look.

The new design, which was approved in September by the legislature's committee that oversees license plates, will be available next month to motorists renewing their tags or requesting them for the first time.

The Helping Schools tag is currently sported by about 42,000 vehicles in the state, making it the most requested of the 220 specialty plates offered in Alabama. The license plates have generated $630,000 for Alabama's 128 public school systems since they were first offered in 1990.

The new tag features an apple, a ruler, and a book on a blue background; the old one depicted a red schoolhouse. Under state law, the tags must be redesigned every five years."This is a way for public educators to show pride in the noble work they do, and a way for the parents and citizens of Alabama to do a little extra for their schools," state Superintendent of Education Ed Richardson said in unveiling the redesign.

Alabama drivers pay $15 more for a Helping Schools tag than for a regular state license plate, and can earmark that extra money for their local districts. Most of the money, $11.63 per tag, goes toward buying classroom supplies and equipment. The remainder, $3.37, covers producing the tags and processing requests for them.

The late Sen. Michael Figures, a Democrat, sponsored the 1990 legislation that instituted the plates after a request from a 4th grade class at Leinkauf Elementary School in Mobile. The students saw the idea as a way to raise extra money for their school.

As it turned out, the idea has paid off for schools across the state.

—Adrienne D. Coles

Vol. 20, Issue 8, Page 27

Published in Print: October 25, 2000, as State Journal

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