By Cameron Smith| Alabama Policy Institute
Amendment 4 deletes on Alabama’s ballot Nov. 6 language in Section 256 of Alabama’s Constitution relating to “elective” segregated schools and repeals poll tax provisions.
In short, Section 256 of the Constitution of 1901, which required the Legislature to “establish, organize, and maintain a liberal system of public schools” was clearly unconstitutional under the Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education because it also contained a provision requiring segregated schools.
Alabama voters removed the offending language in 1956 with Amendment 111 and eliminated the right to a public education in Alabama.
Opposition to Amendment 4 is based on a 1993 decision in an equity funding lawsuit decided by Montgomery County Circuit Judge Gene Reese that they argue reinstates the original language of Section 256 and allegedly the constitutional mandate on the state to provide public education.
Judge Reese’s decision and the resulting remedial order were dismissed by the Alabama Supreme Court in 2002.
While those fighting against Amendment 4 might wish that Judge Reese’s decision and remedy had been upheld, that is not the case. Simply disagreeing with a decade-old decision by the Alabama Supreme Court is hardly grounds for retaining offensive language in Alabama’s Constitution.
The proposed amendment does nothing to either guarantee or remove the right to public education. Amendment 4 does remove racist language from Section 256 by deleting the third paragraph relating to segregated schools.
Politicians frequently let technical arguments suspend their ability to discern between right and wrong. Removing the racist language of Alabama’s Constitution is clearly the right thing to do.