Alabama parents and families want to put their children on the right track for success in school, work, and life. That path starts with a first-class education. We must reverse the chronic pattern of underinvestment in our schools, students, teachers, and classroom technology. By investing in our public schools now, we can rebuild our skilled workforce and lay the foundation to drive economic growth and development for years to come. Our goals are ambitious, but so are our young people. They deserve nothing less than an education agenda that is at least equal to their talent and drive.
Offering Opportunities for All Alabamians:
Access to affordable higher education goes hand-in-hand with sufficient investments in our public schools. The Democratic Party therefore favors investments that promote accessibility and affordability. Every Alabama student should have access to at least two years of tuition funding at in-state institutions of higher learning. In turn, our students pursuing a two-year (or Associates) degree from programs in our community college and technical school systems would be fully funded, while those enrolling in four-year colleges would receive tuition for half of their programs. By easing the financial pressures on those working hard to pursue their dreams, we can open new and brighter opportunities for the young Alabamians who will lead our state into the future.
Investing in our Educators:
Educators across Alabama routinely reach into their own pockets to subsidize their classrooms. They do so because they care about their students. Currently, the lack of adequate compensation is forcing our best and most talented teachers into retirement or into other careers. To shine brighter than our neighbors in Tennessee and Georgia and to make Alabama a more desirable place to live and work for families, we must attract and retain top-notch, dedicated teachers. In addition, it’s high time that our retired educators receive a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA). It’s a small price to pay for those who have devoted their careers serving our communities.
Our economy is changing. We must work to anticipate and respond to these changes by ensuring that businesses have access to the skilled workforce and the human capital they need to thrive in Alabama. Starting with our high school graduates, we must strive to craft new workforce development opportunities for young Alabamians by promoting dual enrollment programs and industrial training. When new job opportunities become available in emerging lucrative markets, Alabama’s workers must be fully prepared and be first in line to take advantage of them.
Valuing Jobs and People:
Fully aware of all the crucial issues listed in this platform, Alabama Democrats are tireless and determined representatives who understand that families all across this state have the desire to work hard and to play by the rules. All that these families expect in return is a fair shot and a level playing field in pursuing the American Dream. That is why we support major investments in education, infrastructure, innovation, and the Alabama worker.
Removing Tax on Groceries:
The state tax on groceries disproportionately burdens Alabama’s working class families and those living at or below the poverty line. Food insecurity affects far too many of our neighbors, friends, family members, and their children. No person in this state should have to choose between paying for necessities like utilities or prescription medication and purchasing food for a family meal. Alabama Democrats believe that we have a duty and a moral obligation to make it easier for families to put healthy, nutritious food on their tables by removing this tax.
Small Business Champions:
As the main driver of our regional and statewide economies, small business owners must have access to the tools they need to thrive, expand, and hire locally. We should invest in programs that encourage entrepreneurship and small business development, especially those that allow a company to move from research and design to prototype to commercialization. Alabama Democrats want to ensure that our small businesses are aware of, and have access to, all of the available programs and support from state and federal government to help them grow.
Part of the solution includes improving on how our state itself conducts business. Contract procurement with our state agencies should more closely reflect the inclusive approach of the federal government’s system, with an emphasis on encouraging the creation and growth of veteran-owned, women-owned and minority-owned businesses. A larger community of healthy businesses in Alabama will mean a growing economy that benefits everyone.
The year 2017 presents an uncertain landscape for Alabamians when it comes to access to affordable, quality health care. Democrats want to work with the federal government and a transitional health care system to make sure all citizens, regardless of income level or pre-existing conditions, can purchase insurance and stay with the physician of their choice. In 2017, no working man or woman should be an accident or a diagnosis away from financial ruin. Alabama Democrats want to provide assurance to families that an unexpected sickness will not deplete their life savings. We also support viable and feasible measures to strengthen existing programs that assist our most financially vulnerable citizens, including the Medicaid program.
Sentencing and prison reform is increasingly a bipartisan issue. State-run prisons should exist primarily to preserve our domestic safety and rehabilitation, not as an employment program for prison staff. Rather than continue with overly broad and obsolete policies that hurt so many communities and bankrupt our state, Alabama Democrats favor a policy approach focused on the principles of effectiveness and efficiency. Through evidence-based prevention and rehabilitation programs – proven programs that work, we can boost the success rate of an ex-offender’s reentry into society. As we help them to transform their lives, these citizens can, in turn, contribute to stronger and more vibrant communities in our state.
So many of the policy goals envisioned in this platform are not possible absent sufficient revenue to support them. Over many years, the State of Alabama has considered the question of a lottery to meet a portion of its fiscal burden. Democrats believe that it is time to reconsider the question, with a specific mandate to direct all funds to critical budgetary needs that have gone unaddressed for too long. A sustainable lottery fund can support investments specifically to Pre K-12 education, higher education scholarships, economic development (rural, suburban and urban) and eliminating the tax on groceries. These investments will help to alleviate the cyclical budget crises in Alabama that tend to weigh more heavily on the very populations who need these investments the most.