States

Measure Would Strike Segregation From Ala. Constitution

By Catherine Gewertz — October 20, 2004 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Alabama voters will have a chance on Election Day to remove from their state constitution a provision that calls for separate schools for black and white children.

Amendment Two, a proposed constitutional amendment on the Nov. 2 ballot, would also remove references to poll taxes, which were commonly used to deny poor black and white citizens the right to vote.

See Also

The sections proposed for deletion are already unenforceable under federal and state court rulings. But to many Alabamians, rewriting the constitution to eliminate them completely is a necessary symbolic step.

“It’s an important thing to do to show we’ve moved beyond that type of prejudice in our government document,” said Mark Berte, the lead organizer for the constitutional-reform education campaign of Greater Birmingham Ministries, an interfaith group.

Talk of reworking Alabama’s 1901 constitution has persisted for years, not only to remove segregationist or other outdated language, but also to make it more user-friendly. It is nearly three times longer than the constitution of any other state—thicker than most dictionaries—and has been amended more than 700 times.

Amendment Two stems from the recommendations of a panel appointed last year by Gov. Bob Riley, a Republican, to recommend ways of crafting a better constitution. One of its recommendations was to delete outdated or unenforceable language.

The legislature could possibly have taken that step itself, said Howard P. Walthall, who advised the panel and is the director of the State Constitutional Law Project at Samford University’s law school, in Birmingham. But the panel believed that for both legal and symbolic reasons, it should be done by the voters, he said.

“It’s important to have a vote of the people that, in effect, says it’s a new day in Alabama,” he said.

Unusual Step

Once the panel made its recommendations, legislation to place the amendment on the November 2004 ballot was introduced and was approved by both houses of the legislature in the spring of 2003. The proposal requires a majority vote for approval.

Michelle Exstrom, a senior policy specialist in education for the Denver-based National Conference of State Legislatures, said it is unusual for states to amend their constitutions for education-related reasons, and even more unusual to amend such a document for reasons unrelated to school funding.

“It’s not very often that you see a state doing a cleanup bill,” she said. “If the language is not of any use anymore, then removing it would be a political issue.”

Little public opposition has surfaced to Amendment Two, but one of its opponents is widely known: former Alabama Chief Justice Roy S. Moore, who was forced to step down last year for refusing to remove a monument to the Ten Commandments from his court building.

Mr. Moore’s concern centers around one of the passages proposed for removal, which says, in part, that “nothing in this constitution shall be construed as creating or recognizing any right to education or training at public expense.” He believes that deleting that language could open the door to a funding lawsuit that could force Alabamians to pay higher taxes for schools.

“When you are trying to remove language that is inoperable anyway, there has to be another agenda,” Mr. Moore said. “I’m disturbed by the deception around this bill.”

Mr. Walthall said he believes Mr. Moore’s worry is unfounded, because an earlier amendment says no state court can order the state to spend money on education without the approval of the legislature.

Related Tags:

Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

States To Quarantine or Not? Florida Is Letting Parents Decide
The choice to quarantine exposed students will be up to parents, not school districts, under a rule signed by Florida’s new surgeon general.
Scott Travis, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
6 min read
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, shown at a news conference last month, appointed a new surgeon general for the state who issued an emergency rule that the decision to quarantine students will be up to parents, not school districts.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, shown at a news conference last month, appointed a new surgeon general for the state who issued an emergency rule that the decision to quarantine students will be up to parents, not school districts.
Bob Self/The Florida Times-Union via AP
States During Site Visit From Cardona, Illinois Governor Defends Vaccine, Testing Policies
“The testing regimen is there in order to make sure that they’re not entering the institution where they work and spreading COVID-19.”
Karen Ann Cullotta, Chicago Tribune
3 min read
The Student Council lead the creation of “sensory hallways” at Western Branch Middle School in Chesapeake, Va.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona looks on as Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks with reporters after touring Access Hawthorne Family Health Center, which is offering COVID-19 vaccines at 3040 S. Cicero Ave. in Cicero, as part of the Department of Education's "Return to School Road Trip" events in the Chicago area, Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 21, 2021.
Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times via AP
States Kentucky Ends All Statewide Mask Mandates After Governor's Vetoes Overridden
The Republican-led legislation strips the Democratic governor's ability to issue statewide mask mandates in schools or anywhere else.
Jack Brammer and Alex Acquisto, Lexington Herald-Leader
4 min read
In this Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020, file photo, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear addresses the media in Frankfort, Ky. Kentucky's governor said Sunday, Oct. 11, that he will quarantine after a member of his security detail who drove with his family the day before later tested positive for COVID-19. Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear said he and his family feel fine, show no coronavirus symptoms and have tested negative for the virus.
In this Sept. 23, 2020, file photo, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear addresses the media in Frankfort, Ky.
Timothy D. Easley/AP
States Bill to Restrict How Race and Racism Is Taught in Schools Headed to Texas Governor
If the "critical race theory" bill sounds familiar, that's because lawmakers passed a similar one during the regular legislative session.
Eleanor Dearman, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
4 min read
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a news conference in Austin, Texas, on June 8, 2021.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a news conference in Austin, Texas, on June 8, 2021.
Eric Gay/AP