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Jones: Legislature made strides for education

Looking back on what he called one of the most intense legislative sessions of his career, Rep. Mike Jones, R-Andalusia, said it was a good year for education.

“The education budget is the largest budget in the history of the state,” he said. We made an enormous investment in Pre-K, funding 164 new classrooms, one of which is in this county.”

On Thursday, Gov. Kay Ivey announced the locations of the new classrooms, including one in Red Level.

The budget includes 2 percent raises for teachers in both the K-12 and community college systems, he said.

In March of 2020 Alabamians will have an opportunity to vote on a proposed Constitutional Amendment that won legislative approval. The amendment would abolish the elected state board of education and establish an appointed state board of education. If approved, board members would be nominated by stakeholders and confirmed by the Alabama Senate.

“In this model, state board members would be more of a cabinet position,” Jones said. “I supported that. We’ve been at the bottom of the nation in education for half a century. We can’t get much worse.

“Frankly, we need more consistency. We keep changing our educational system every two to three years,” he said. “We constantly invest in new programs, but we have no time to see if they work.”

Jones said he is hopeful that by removing the politics, the board members will put in due diligence work, look at programs that work, and put in a similar system in our state.

“Our current system has done an excellent job of trying new plans, but never used them long enough to see if they would work,” he said.

Jones said if it takes an appointed system to get education moving in the right direction, he is for it.

“What could it hurt,” he said. “People in education won’t agree with me, but why not turn it on its ear? This is the first big step. Until we take this one, it would be hard to take any other one, and we wouldn’t have much chance of changing.”

Alabama residents will have the opportunity to vote for or against the Constitutional Amendment in the presidential preference primary in March of 2020.

Jones said he was against a bill that passed creating a medical marijuana commission to make recommendations for a bill to be considered in the 2020 legislative session.

The 15-member commission would include doctors and others appointed by the governor, legislative leaders and the attorney general. The panel would submit draft legislation and recommendations to lawmakers by Dec. 1.

The commission bill also extends Carly’s Law, a statute that allows some patients to access CBD oil through a study at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

“I’m still against it,” he said. “I think this bill was backed by people who are interested in marijuana’s growth, production and distribution. If it’s for medical use, let the study go to UAB for research. This was a set-up for the next session to try to legalize it.”

Jones, who chairs the agenda-setting Rules Committee in the House of Representatives, said he was pleased to have successfully worked with the Alabama Securities Commission on legislation the Aggravated Theft by Deception Act, which creates an unclassified felony for fraud cases that involve thefts of large sums of money, and helps victims receive restitution.