MOULTON, Ala. (WHNT) – A lot of Alabama schools are talking about their most recent ACT test scores today, but in Lawrence County, they are celebrating.
Students there recorded the largest increase in test scores in many years, one of the largest increases in the state! But their excitement is tempered with the reality of what may lie ahead for the school system.
Lawrence County School Superintendent Heath Grimes was so excited about the test scores, he gathered students and teachers from many of the county schools together in Moulton to make the announcement.
“Funding cuts, IP closing, bad economy in general, but instead of failing, instead of falling back, and using those financial burdens as an excuse, we’ve excelled. We are funded less than our neighboring systems but improved more than those systems,” Grimes said.
English, math, science and reading comprehension scores are all up. Grimes feels the pride and sense of accomplishment as he visits a classroom in an 80 year old school building. He knows what’s down the road for the system.
“We can surpass the state average. We can surpass the national average here in Lawrence County and that’s our goal. But we’ve got to be funded to do it,” Grimes said.
The trickle down effect of losing 1,100 jobs when the county’s largest employer closed earlier this year will leave the school system with a budget deficit of almost two million dollars by next year. Grimes calls that unsustainable. What that means is schools will have to close, and a system that spends very little on their students now will have even less to spend.
“Education precedes prosperity. We need that prosperity. I think our county is hungry for that prosperity.”
And so Grimes along with a number of his students and teachers stood in front of this 80 year old elementary school to proclaim that their ACT test scores had improved more than most other systems across the state. And while he never said it aloud, he had to be thinking, just imagine what we could do if our schools were properly funded.
Grimes says while the school system has set it’s sights on improving educational opportunities even more, he says the local economy is always on their minds. The county is trying to attract new industry to replace the hundreds of jobs lost this year, but new industries don’t want to build in an area with a struggling school system.