Voters Face Tough Choice on Amendment 4

Alabama voters will choose on November 6 whether to remove racist and defunct language from the state constitution in order to help the state move forward and improve its image. However, some legal experts worry that amendment 4 could also remove the right to public education for Alabama school children.

Like most Alabama constitutional amendments, the text on the ballot will be a summary of the full amendment. The entire text of amendment 4 can be found here.

The following is the analysis of Amendment 4 from the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama (PARCA):

The proposed Statewide Amendment 4 would remove certain obsolete and discriminatory language currently found in Sections 256 and 259 of the Alabama Constitution, and related amendments.

The original Section 256 required a “liberal system of public schools”; however, it also required separate schools for white and black students. Amendment 111, adopted in 1956, contained three paragraphs amending Section 256. The first called for promoting education but removed any right to education at public expense. The second authorized the Legislature to provide for schools as it saw fit. The third allowed the Legislature to authorize parents or guardians to choose segregated schools for their children.

The proposal in Statewide Amendment 4 would eliminate the third paragraph of the Amendment 111 version of Section 256, which explicitly authorized segregated schools. The proposal also would repeal Section 259 and associated amendments, which once authorized poll taxes to be levied on the privilege of voting.

The provisions to be eliminated have been held by federal courts to violate the U. S. Constitution and are no longer in effect. Proponents of these changes claim that removing language related to school segregation and poll taxes is the right thing to do and will improve the state’s image. Some opponents of the proposal object to its failure to address the first two paragraphs of the Amendment 111 version of section 256, which eliminated the requirement to support public schools.