Daniel Carsen

"This is not one of those situations where it's just smoke. There is in fact fire," said Alabama's new state superintendent of education, Michael Sentance.

The fire: Sentance revealed earlier this month that high schools there have "misstated student records ... resulting in diplomas that were not honestly earned." At a recent meeting of the state school board, he also admitted that Alabama's education department had not provided enough oversight.

Unlike some other states, Alabama does not send extra money to districts that serve low-income kids or those that have limited income from local property tax dollars.

That's why, says principal Tramene Maye, at Livingston Junior High School in Sumter County, one former classroom leaks when it rains. Garbage cans catch some of the water, but the moldy smell and buckled floor prove they miss plenty. Around the school, it's a similar story: broken windows, peeling paint, cracked floor tiles. Maye insists there just isn't enough money to fix it all.