During my daily newspaper scan this morning I came across the following stories.

130 Alabama High Schools Score Poorly on Reading, Stumble on Bedrock of Education

Kelan Staffney reads a passage to his class from a nonfiction story cho­sen by his teacher. The two-paragraph excerpt is riddled with words such as “indigent,” “manifest,” “meditation” and “abyss” — words as elusive to grasp as a butterfly to Kelan until his teacher pronounces them for him.

Kelan, a ninth-grader at Montevallo High School, will turn 15 this month. He’s been to various schools and got­ten himself kicked out of some, and his attendance rate at Montevallo is less than stellar.

He used behavior problems to cover up a secret, he says. A secret so shameful he shouldn’t have made it to ninth grade, says his mother.

Kelan reads on a third-grade level.

A Birmingham News analysis of the 2008-09 Ala­bama High School Gradua­tion Exam shows that 130 public high schools either failed reading or were clas­sified as “borderline” fail­ing, based on 11th-graders’ performance on the Ala­bama High School Gradua­tion Exam.

So, our kids can’t read. And then I saw this one…

Tuscaloosa Deputies find 255 pounds of marijuana during traffic stop

Arek and his handler, Deputy Marcus Bell, were called to the Fosters area of I-20/59 northbound at about 10 p.m. after Sgt. Jeremy Franks and Deputy Daniel Morales stopped a white Dodge van for what the sheriff described as a “routine traffic violation.”

Once there, Arek alerted deputies to the back of the van. Inside, the authorities discovered 11 bundles of suspected marijuana in two large, black duffel bags, Sexton said.

Sexton said the destination of the driver was still under investigation. Daniel Liceaga, 27, of Prospect Heights, Ill., was taken into custody.

He faces one count of first-degree trafficking marijuana and remained in the Tuscaloosa County Jail on Tuesday on $1 million bail.

And that got me thinking again about how out of line our priorities are in Alabama. See, according to the Birmingham News in 2007 Alabama ranked 41st, spending $9,509 per pupil, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Yet, we spend over $13,000 a year to lock up a person for possessing, using, growing or selling a plant. We spend more money per person fighting this stupid, unwinnable drug war than we do to educate our children.

Guess what happens to children who don’t get a good education? They wind up in poverty and make up a large portion of the people who later become prisoners.

If we legalized and taxed marijuana in Alabama we could give each of those 130 schools who are failing reading a minimum of $1 million dollars. I know this because a few months ago I crunched the numbers to see what Alabama could rake in if we took that simple, no-brainer step. Here is the formula that I used. We’d also save an estimated $117 million if we stopped warehousing drug offenders in our dilapidated, dangerously overcrowded and inhumane prison system.

Why do we keep allowing our elected officials to so vigorously pursue failed drug war policies at the expense of our childrens’ future? At the expense of public safety? Our prisoner to guard ratio is 200:1. There could be a prison break at any time. It can and will only get worse if we continue down this destructive path.

It’s time for Alabama citizens who are tired of this nonsense to stand up and demand that the right thing be done. It doesn’t matter if you love drugs, hate drugs, or don’t care about drugs at all, you have to realize that what we are doing is NOT WORKING and WE have to CHANGE IT.

If you are interested in working with me during the upcoming legislative session to educate our elected officials about the real consequences of the failed war on drugs then please get in touch with me via email at [email protected]