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MONDAY, JANUARY 8, 2007
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EDITORIAL

State can do better in both ball, school

The most significant thing about Nick Saban’s salary as the new University of Alabama football coach is not that it’s so high but that it shows what Alabamians can accomplish when we want to.

Many people, including about three-fourths of the 281 readers who answered a Daily online poll, think Mr. Saban’s reported annual pay of around $4 million is too much, even for a winning football coach at the Capstone. Many critics question priorities.

Mr. Saban arrived in Alabama in the same week that the latest report came out showing Alabama is near the bottom among states in public education.

Education Week Magazine’s “Quality Counts 2007” study ranked the state 45th in terms of giving public school children a chance to succeed and 47th on an achievement index. The index is based on reading and math tests, graduation rates and other indicators.

Mr. Saban’s salary is not taking government money away from public education. Gov. Bob Riley, in defending the salary, said that it will come from ticket sales, licensing agreements and other Athletics Department sources and not from taxpayer funds. Mr. Riley also neatly summed up the bigger picture.

“We need to be competing at the highest level in everything we do,” the governor said.

The magazine gave Alabama credit for trying to make education better, ranking our state eighth in having improvement policies in effect.

The remaining question is whether we’ll follow through on those policies and go after educational excellence with the kind of enthusiasm — as well as the money — that we now devote to winning football games.

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