Can you remember a campaign in Alabama that was run on issues instead of insults? Labels like “true conservative” and “crazy liberal” are thrown around far too often. After we hear phrases like this, everything just gets muddy until most people are disgusted and disheartened. My campaign for governor is about policy and the effect it has on people. We’re going to break new ground, and to demonstrate, I’ll start with a big one: Alabama’s Lifelong Learner Lottery.
Alabama and Utah are two states that do not have lotteries, in part, for historically religious reasons. I am a person of deep faith, but I am convinced that the good resulting from a lottery is in the best interest of this state and our people.
The Lifelong Learner Lottery is a pragmatic and sustainable way to address some of the real needs of and give hope to those lottery participants who struggle the hardest to live on meager incomes and place their hopes in a lottery. My Alabama Lottery proposal would make certain that lottery proceeds are used to help those most in need as they work to make a brighter future for their children. Here is how that would happen:
First, Lifelong Learner Lottery revenues would be used to open the doors and fully meet the need for Alabama’s first-class Kindergarten and K-4 programs. Presently, there are tens of thousands of Alabama children waiting on lists for a chance to enroll, yet study after study has shown that when children are adequately prepared to enter first grade, they will succeed in school and in life. Additionally, we would provide first-class educational childcare so moms and dads across the state have a safe place for their children to learn and grow, while they work hard to build a better life.
Second, we will invest Alabama Lottery revenues in state-of-the-art career tech education for high school students. Presently, we are only providing 50% of the vocational training needed. A traditional university education is not the answer for everyone, but everyone should have the opportunity to learn a marketable skill, and companies deciding where to locate are attracted to places that offer skilled workers. We have the potential to create new businesses if not entire industries, if we build our workforce. We need to be smart and truly invest in our people.
Finally, the remainder of the revenue should be used to fill the gap left by Pell Grants, so that those who qualify, regardless of age, can attend two or four year school tuition-free. Pell Grants are federal funds that make it easier for students in financial need to attend college, but there is often a gap left between the amount of the Federal Pell Grant and tuition. This gap can be insurmountable for many students. Alabama’s Lifelong Learner Lottery would bridge that gap to a better future for us all.
I am not naive enough to believe the Lifelong Learner Lottery is the total answer for all of our budget woes. The leadership in Montgomery has been playing shell games for years, robbing Peter to pay Paul, while trying to distract us with hot-button issues intended to keep us fighting with each other. I will not pretend that scratching-off tickets and Powerball drawings in an Alabama Lottery are a magic wand, but if we spend the money how I have proposed, we can change Alabama forever. I promise that Lifelong Learner Lottery revenues will be spent only on the future of Alabama’s children and accounted for down to the penny. I will appoint citizens of the highest integrity to manage an Alabama Lottery on which we can all be proud. No lottery is going to fix the mess in Montgomery, but under my plan, it will stay out of the hands of politicians, so it can help families build a better future for their children.
Making certain pre-schoolers and kindergarteners are safe and prepared to succeed in school, providing a chance to learn a high-paying skill, reducing drop-out rates and crime, and opening the doors of college and technical training are the ways Alabama finally tells the world we are “open for business.” Yes, this is one of those phrases like “true conservative” or “crazy liberal” that gets thrown into every political ad. The difference here is that it’s backed by a significant policy proposal. That’s new. I think it’s time for something new.