Here is where Alabama voters need to stand up & say "Hell No" to legislative tricks. If Alabama is going to experiment with charter schools, the bill - SB-45 - pre-filed by Senate leader Del Marsh needs to be carefully written, debated, and the public needs plenty of input.
The establishment of charter schools in the state is an issue that needs careful study, debate, and input from every stakeholder. Other states have tripped merrily down the charter school path and got caught in a morass of corruption, and buddy contracting that sucked money out of public education and lined the pockets of private industry.
In one case, the president of a school’s management company and the husband of its top administrator bought a piece of property for $375,000 and less than a week later sold it to the school for $425,000. This appears to have been completely legal. The two men would also go on to collect millions in contracts from the school. This is not an isolated case. See here and here.
Cozy relations have also led to exorbitant compensation, including one case where a school with less than 500 students spent more than a half million dollars on its top school administrator’s severance package.
Think that won't happen in Alabama? Our state handed out no-bid contracts that paid private companies tens of thousands to build a WordPress site and look up information on Google. Think what will happen if these guys get their hands on education funding.
Feb 28, 2015 — Our legislative session begins this Tues.,March 3rd. SB45 was pre-filed two days ago. (Feb. 26) Because folks called as soon as the bill was filled we were granted a Public Hearing. It will be at the Statehouse in room 727 at 8:30AM. The GENERAL practice is, if there is a Public Hearing, they DO NOT VOTE on the bill until the following committee meeting (the next week) but they actually plan on voting the very next day, March 5th. They have been known to do this in the past but it is NOT a general rule. They only do it if they want to PUSH the bill through, and they want to push this through before the public can get involved. Our voice MATTERS! Raise it.....write them, tweet them, call them.....tell them to say #NOonALSB45
I ask you to read and sign it. Not because it will make any difference to the Legislature. Hubbard & company don't give a damn what voters thing. But because we need to educate the public about what's happening start making some noise.
Learn more tomorrow night in Birmingham. The following is the text of a press release from organizers.
Dr. Craig Pouncey, superintendent of the Jefferson County Schools, and Larry Lee, former Director of the Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries’ Center for Rural Alabama, give the inside scoop on Alabama’s controversial school accountability act Tuesday, February 24th at the Vestavia Library at 6:30 pm. How many young people actually received scholarships? Were they in failing schools? Did they already attend private schools? Who is the legislation helping??
Dr. Pouncey, formerly Chief of Staff to Alabama Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice, has handled legislative and financial matters that impact K-12 education statewide and oversaw day to day operations of the state department of education. From Dr. Bice, Pouncey has a “wealth of institutional knowledge. He is a champion for the accountability of schools and school systems.” Dr. Pouncey said:
“These are exciting times as it relates to public education. The top 10 ‘in demand’ jobs for 2014 did not even exist 10 years ago. Our task is to prepare many students for jobs that currently don’t even exist. Never before have school districts been allowed to implement new and innovative strategies toward teaching and learning. We must embrace new ideas as we move forward for the betterment of the county, region, and state.”
Dr. Pouncey still considers himself a teacher with his primary goal being to teach people daily about Alabama's school funding system. He believes that "the more people know, the more they understand."
Larry Leeis a frequent columnist in al.com and Weld among others on education issues and is author of Lessons Learned From Rural Schools, which highlights ten schools in low-income communities that have been successful by creating a positive culture and finding creative ways to work together.
If you are interested in the education of Alabama’s children, you won’t want to miss this. Sponsored by Over the Mountain Democrats, whose purpose is to advance, through grassroots efforts, values of fairness, integrity, compassion, and economic opportunity for the benefit of every citizen.
Who: Dr. Craig Pouncey & Larry Lee What: Speaking on the Alabama Accountability Act When: 6:30 pm Tuesday, Feb. 24th, 2015 Where: Vestavia Library How: FREE & Open to the Public
Will 2015 finally be the year that Alabama takes the charter school plunge? Supporters announced a January 28 march on Montgomery in honor of "National School Choice Week." Billed as a "celebration of educational opportunity," the effort's partners include various charter school companies & public charter school astroturf groups. The names of some speak for themselves - KIPP Charter Schools, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, & National Association of Charter School Authorizers.
Other "partners" have a distinctly pro-public charter school leadership:
Education Reform Now. An advocacy group whose board contains a bevy of hedge fund & investment luminaries, including the "current co-chair of Success Academies network of charter schools." Other directors also have charter school ties.
Hispanic CREO. Board member Melissa Myers served as Director of Business Development for a for-profit charter school company & now helps schools "improve education through quality choice."
Excellence in Education. Their mission is to equip every student to meet his/her "God-given potential." Main funders include charter school advocates including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Walton Family Foundation, Jeb Bush & Associates, & the Triad Foundation (the non-profit arm of a charter school company).
Black Alliance for Educational Options receives substantial donations from the Alliance for School Choice, another Devos-funded group. Four of the seven members of the board of directors have charter school ties, including the CEO of the Newark Charter School Fund.
Choice Media, an educational news network was founded by Bob Bowden, a "champion of school choice, charter schools, & vouchers."
Still think this isn't all about charter schools? Now that we know who the big players in this effort are, let's look at some of the statements from their press release:
It’s time to celebrate something that has never before been available in the state of Alabama, choice in education."
“We’re proud to be a part of National School Choice Week and we’re looking forward to continuing the push for choice in the New Year.”
Alabama-based groups sponsoring the rally:
The Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund, StudentsFirst Alabama, the American Federation for Children, the Alabama Business Education Alliance, the Black Alliance for Educational Options, the Alabama Public Charter School Alliance, and the Business Council of Alabama are working together to plan the event.
The event begins at 9am at the Doubletree Hotel. The rally will be on the south lawn of the Alabama Capitol. Looks for lots of legislators to attend. After all, these sponsoring groups have deep pockets: the Devos family alone has been willing to give millions to groups - and candidates - who support their agenda. One thing the Alabama Legislature never, ever does is leave campaign donation cash on the table.
But ask yourself... if we allowed public schools more freedom & autonomy (ie... operate like charters), wouldn't that be a better option than letting private charter school companies siphon off public money? There's also the question of whether charters actually achieve greater outcomes overall. The KIPP program, in particular, seems hard to replicate long term because of its reliance on inexperienced teachers & issues with educator burnout and turnover.
In February, Left in Alabama will kick off a multi-part series on charter schools. Have you worked in one, had a child in one, or lived in a state that has experience with charters? I'd love to have your perspective to include in the series.
If a maniac with a gun enters a classroom full of children, we could make a list of things we'd like them to have handy: panic buttons, bullet proof vests, a SWAT Team next door, a giant claw that would swoop down and grab the shooter.... get as imaginative as you possible can with this. But chances are, you'd never put "a supply of canned vegetables" on the list.
And yet, that's one strategy suggested by the staff of W. H. Burns Middle School in Valley, AL (in Chambers County). In a letter addressed to parents, the school asked for donations of canned goods - for protection.
This story is so bizarre, that I thought it had to be a joke. But no. From the letter:
We are asking each student to bring an 8 oz. canned food item (corn, beans, peas, etc.) to use in case an intruder enters their classroom. We hope the canned food items will never be used or needed, but it is best to be prepared. At the end of the school year, the cans will be donated to the food closet.
Thank you for your support in helping us keep our children safe at school.
Other school systems across the country are also collecting cans as part of an overall safety strategy. School officials admit that it would be part of a "last ditch" effort to create enough of a distraction to allow students to escape and throw off the shooter's aim. Students in other schools have safety drills where they're encouraged to use creative methods to stop an intruder: slamming textbooks on his/her head or using chairs or desks as weapons.
It's really sad that schools have to spend time doing this. In the old days, the most we ever had were fire drills - and everyone looked forward to those breaks from classroom routine. We would have not been nearly as sanguine about safety drills where we were asked to game out how to avoid gunfire in the hallways.
The canned goods strategy sounds pretty silly, but if this sort of planning can help students and school staff stay calm during a crisis, it's probably worth the effort. At the very least, it will help increase donations to local food banks at the end of the school year.
Alabama State Department of Education wants your input on the draft 2014 Alabama Science Course of Study. This draft includes Alabama's College & Career Ready Standards for Science and encompasses the state's entire K-12 science curriculum.
Beginning January 5 through January 30, 2015, the public can view and provide feedback on the draft of the 2014 Alabama Course of Study: Science. The public review of the 2014 Alabama Course of Study: Science has two goals:
Engage the general public, parents, educators, business and industry, and civic leaders in a general review of the science course of study.
Increase awareness and understanding of the revised science standards.
[...] At the conclusion of the public review, the feedback generated will be reviewed by the State Science Course of Study Committee. The Science Course of Study committee will then recommend the revised science course of study to Dr. Bice, the state superintendent, who will then make a recommendation to the Alabama State Board of Education in the spring of 2015.
This 2013 article is a helpful guide to "who decides what gets taught in our classrooms." It describes how standards are adopted at the state level, how textbooks are selected at conform to those standards, and how these statewide decisions get implemented at the local school board level.
These standards are important: please take some time to review them & provide input because you can be sure that the climate change deniers, evolution foes, and their friends will be all over this. It's already happened in other states:
The Next Generation Science Standards have caused controversy in some states because they include human-induced climate change and evolution.
However, Alabama's current standards already require students to learn about "natural selection" and "survival of the fittest" as well as the "impact of society on human health and environmental conditions."
Science has long been a controversial topic in Alabama schools. Remember the headlines when the state placed "evolution disclaimer" stickers in biology textbooks in 1996. They were still there in 2005:
Alabama: Biology textbooks in Alabama have included a disclaimer describing evolution as a "controversial theory" since 1996. The Board of Education adopted a softer disclaimer when they revised science guidelines in 2004, describing evolution as one of several scientific theories. But on Nov.10, 2005, the board voted to continue requiring the original disclaimer language.
This is the kind of issue that's pretty much off the radar of most people because they're more engaged with their local school systems & school boards. What happens at the state level generally gets little attention. That low profile allows those who want their religious beliefs taught as "science" to exert a lot of influence because they show up and speak out.
This issue is important to everyone in the state, not just the parents of public school students. The state got huge amounts of negative publicity in 1996 when we added those stupid stickers. That was done by Democrats who controlled the legislature at the time, but our GOP supermajority hasn't done anything to improve the state's image. From immigrants to ultrasounds to state officials violating the ethics laws they wrote & passed themselves, it's been one embarrassing news story after another.
Part of the Progressive/Democrat problem is we just don't have a persuasive enough message machine. No Fox News and its associated connections getting every talking head in our party saying the same phrase in lock step and every watcher of the favored channel believing as gospel the same thing no matter how many Congressional investigations (in comedy central parody of Fox News "Benghazi! Bengazhi Bengazhi BENGHAZI!!!"). MSNBC just doesn't consistently make our blood boil or get us all marching in unison. I flatter myself this is because Progressives are too intelligent to be taken in by false logic or out and out lies spoken often enough and loudly enough; and of course you have heard of 'herding cats' to describe trying to get Democrats all headed in the same direction.
This week my 14 year old daughter and assistant speech writer suggested I tell voters "Vote for my opponent and you will get Ebola!" I laughed and reminded her about libel and slander and how sensationalism is a bad right wing trait, but then my campaign manager and husband convinced me to take the idea seriously. So, in high school English essay format, why you must vote for me, or else Ebola! Ebola Ebola Ebola!!!
Here in Alabama the Republican supermajority is doing its best to end public education as we know it and create an education industrial complex. Former Governor Bob Riley runs a company which gets 5% of funds taken from public education for school vouchers. They cut public education funding $1200 per student in the past 8 years. Our teachers get $20 more for a classroom supplies allowance than they did 20 years ago. Our schools send out school supply lists including Chlorox® wipes, hand sanitizer, and Kleenex®. Do some schools request parents send in toilet paper? Clearly, where parents do not adequately stock the schools with cleaning supplies our school students (and families) are at increased risk of spreading germs. Ebola!
Likewise Alabama is a 'right to work' state- ie a right to be fired without cause and NO right to form a union state. I beg the local Union members (we have a few) to ignore what they see on TV (Fox News is endemic) and vote Democrat, reminding them how Unions and the Democratic Party brought us all child labor laws, overtime, and sick leave, did I say sick leave? Of course here in Alabama non union members rarely have sick leave, and wages are so low for many they work two or three jobs. When workers are paid so little missing a day's work is unaffordable and may even cost them their job. A doctor's note does not protect them from lost wages or being fired if they have gotten sick already this year- the boss prefers his never absent employees. These low wage workers will not self quarantine for several days when they might be contagious, even/especially when they work in food service with the lowest pay, let alone stay home to recover or when barely fit to show up at work. Sick people in our restaurants and at our workplace! Ebola Ebola Ebola! I know from my clinical practice as a family doctor this is true even when workers are advised to stay home by medical staff.
If they can access medical advice! Sadly Alabama's governor (a doctor himself) has so far refused Medicaid Expansion leaving about 300,000 Alabamians- most with jobs- in the Medicaid Gap. Even if they feel driven to seek a doctor by some horrible symptoms they may wait until an emergency room visit is needed (where inability to pay does not matter); if there is still a hospital near by. (Six hospitals have closed in the past 18 months and 22 more are at risk, which Medicaid expansion would help alleviate.) Hospitals and medical clinics need to get paid, and minimum wage workers without health insurance aren't the best customers for good wages for the medical staff. The lack of affordable medical care increases our risk of contagious diseases not being properly diagnosed or managed. Ebola! Spreading wildly!
In summary, a vote for an Alabama Republican is a vote to turn us into a third world country with third world schools, third world wages, third world medicine, and third world diseases. Low wage conservatism and the pervasive plantation mentality espoused by our GOP supermajority and governor continue to prey on the most vulnerable in our state - hard working Alabama families, their children and the medically needy. Those are exactly the same populations that we see most affected by Ebola overseas: it takes advantage of underpaid workers, the young, and the weak. Unlike much of the talking points on Fox News, this is at least logical.
Even if you agree with the Alabama Accountability Act, you should be very concerned about how the bill was passed - and how the state courts will handle the pending lawsuit. Rep. Christopher England (HD-70) offered this warning on his Facebook page, and it was too good not to share with a wider audience.
The Tuscaloosa legislator offered this perspective:
"Liberal Judge strikes down Alabama's school choice law."
I have heard that a thousand times since yesterday. No discussion of the merits of the decision. Still no discussion about the despicable way the bill was passed. Sill no discussion about how members of the Legislature lied to their colleagues and also to their constituents to hide their true intentions. Still no discussion about how the Legislative process, designed specifically to prohibit and prevent the actions taken to pass the "Accountability Act", was intentionally ignored. Nope, there will be none of that. The only reason that the Judge declared the law unconstitutional is because he is a Democrat. Not because what they did was wrong, which it was, and that there is a good chance it actually broke the law.
What is amazing is that the same people who are telling you that the only reason Judge Reese declared the law unconstitutional was because he is a Democrat have absolutely no problem telling you that his decision will be overturned because the appellate courts are full of Republicans.
Set aside whether or not you support school choice and your party affiliation. Do you really want your Legislature passing laws in that way? Do you really want your elected officials to have the power to sacrifice the process whenever they decide that it has become inconvenient to them? Shouldn't the actions taken to pass that law be illegal to make sure that no one, Democrat or Republican, can ever do it again? Members of the Legislature openly bragged that they passed the Accountability Act in that manner because if others actually had a chance to read it then it wouldn't have passed. Do you really want your elected officials to have that sort of unbridled power?
Some may accept the way that this bill was passed because they agree with allowing school choice and giving tax credits to help that happen. However, what are you going to do when the law and the process are manipulated and essentially ignored when you or your interests are in the crosshairs? Once you honestly answer that question, then you will understand why this decision needs to be upheld and this Pandora's box permanently closed. Trust me on this one, if they get away with it once, they will do it again. The next time, however, you may not like the outcome.
I have tremendous respect for Rep. England: his statements are well-reasoned and thoughtful. Even when I don't agree completely, it's obvious that he's interested in a dialogue, not a shouting match. I hope he runs for higher office someday.
According to our Doctor Governor, the Education budget benefits when the state hands over hundreds of millions in corporate welfare payments, so why shouldn't schools pay for it? No joke, campers.
It's not enough that Alabama spends millions in "no strings attached" corporate "incentives." that nobody ever investigates later to see if they were good deals for the state. Now, the Governor thinks that the Education budget should fund it.
"We have to look at who actually pays for it and who actually benefits," Bentley said last week. "If you look right now, the general fund pays for incentives, but the education budget is the one that gets the benefit."
Alabama is one of a few states with two budgets funded by separate revenue streams. Though incentives are largely paid for with money from or diverted from the general fund budget, many of the benefits of new job creation — including income and sales taxes — flow into the education budget.
"That's something we're going to look at," Bentley said. "If education is benefiting from it, we need to look and see if some of the incentive money should come from that way. ... Whoever benefits ought to pay."
The state has agreed to provide more than $6 million in incentives for Toyota's V6 engine expansion, including $1 million for capital costs incurred by the company in developing, constructing and equipping the facility, $400,000 for industrial access roads and $4.8 million for job training.
"Job training." Ok... so I'm more than a couple of decades old, but I remember - in the "good old days" - that my employers trained me, not the State of Alabama.
"According to the developer, it's still a little bit short. That's where Limestone County is going to have to come in. (Decatur) can't do anything else." [...] Limestone County Commissioner Gary Daly said the school system is likely to see an additional $1 million per year from the development and should "ante up."
(This op/ed piece was submitted via our Left In Alabama facebook page. - promoted by countrycat)
Too many people accuse public school teachers of having it "easy." You know the drill: they only work 9 months a year, only work 6 hours a day, etc. etc. But anyone who is a teacher or knows one will tell you (probably quite heatedly) that the reality is far different. Teachers aren't in hammocks: they're on treadmills that go faster and faster.
For instance, take the average salary of a first year teacher in the state of Alabama and start subtracting:
Education association fees
Average rent/mortgage in Alabama
Average car insurance premium,
Fuel for just the average commute to work
Average student loan payment
Average power bill
Average water bill
Cheapest Walmart prepaid wireless phone plan
Cheapest DSL and television package offered
Average additional health, dental, and vision costs that arose throughout the year
Federal minimum estimate for groceries for an individual to still be considered as having a healthy diet.
My math may be bad, but not likely since Gail Carpenter ignored the embarrassing low salary to improve those skills in students like me - we didn't deserve her dedication!
Anyway, I keep coming up with a figure that is shocking to me. A teacher starting out in Alabama has an average disposable income of around $75 a week.
To put that in perspective, let's pretend that a teacher's day is 8 hours - if you know an educator you know that is not the case. That means for each hour they work, a teacher, early in their career, gets $1.75 per hour that is not already accounted for. What does that pay for? A Netflix subscription and a few bottles of wine a month to try to forget that people of this state continue to elect individuals who don't respect the teaching profession or public education. Legislators make their lives even harder while they do their best to inspire your children to achieve more than the previous generations of Alabamians achieved.
Finally, I arrive to my point. There are five things Alabama will always have no matter what majority party is sent to Montgomery.
We will always have God.
We will always have guns.
We will always have a staunch belief that the rights' of the state of Alabama are more important than the rights of the federal government.
We will always have low state taxes.
We will always have good football either on a plain or on a capstone.
These are not variables. These are constants. If anyone infringes upon one of these constants, oust their ass out of office in the next election.
It takes a special kind of doofus to defend the late, red-baiting, list-waving Senator Joseph McCarthy - & Alabama has at least two of them working on our state's education policy. State Senator (and US House Candidate) Scott Beason & Talladega County Republican Party Chairman Danny Hubbard are either deliberately whitewashing history, totally clueless - or both.
Speaking to the Anniston Star recently, they had this to say:
McCarthy was right about most of the people he accused, Beason claims.
"So we're comparing the McCarthy investigations of the 1950s, in which he turned out to be right, with the Salem witch hunts," Beason said. [...] Hubbard put some of the flags in Beason's textbook. He said he didn't flag "The Crucible," but he thinks Beason was right to do so. Joe McCarthy, he said, was right.
"Now that all the records are out, it's clear that McCarthy didn't go far enough," he said.
And let's compare that to some recent antics in the Alabama Republican Party:
Accusations of disloyalty - Prominent birther, State Republican Committee member, and former Congressional candidate Hugh McInnish has been beating this drum for years: "In my white paper I will present what I believe is conclusive evidence that the Obama birth certificate is a forgery and Obama himself a forgerer. Do you realize what that would mean? Just think of it! It would mean that the most powerful nation in the world is under the direction of a felon. It might mean, as some legal expert contend, that all of his executive actions are null and void."
Accusations of pro-Communist activity: In September 2012 AL State GOP Chair Bill Armistead urged everyone to see a birther movie which, "according to its director Joel Gilbert, “presents the case that Frank Marshall Davis, a Communist Party USA organizer and propagandist, was Obama's real father, both biological and ideological, and indoctrinated Obama with a political foundation in Marxism and an anti-White world view.”
Well, those first two certainly fit the rest of the definition: "unsupportedbyprooforbasedonslight,doubtful,orirrelevantevidence."
It's no surprise that this McCarthy rehab effort is part of the right wing's fight against Common Core standards. The wing nuts are the worst enemy of standards opponents - many of whom have quite valid concerns about the high-stakes testing and corporate involvement in education.
And it's no surprise that the TEA Party conspiracists & birthers (aka.. the GOP base) look with longing to those thrilling days of yesteryear when a politician only had to wave a sheet of paper containing a mythical "list of Communists," and a fearful populace would fall into line - at least temporarily.
But those days are gone. Chain email crap like this won't bring them back. Please children, go back to squabbling amongst yourselves about whether President Obama had a Marxist Kenyan or American Communist father or whether the black helicopters are taking you to a FEMA camp or a secret Marxist prison and stop trying to impose your anti-intellectual, revisionist fantasies and paranoia on our state's public students.
"Social justice is contrary to traditional American notions of justice and the United States Constitution and based on individual rights. Social justice teaches children that America is an oppressive and unjust society that should be changed!" So says Dr. Terry Batton a preacher & leader of the Barbour County TEA Party as he ranted against SB443 in committee yesterday in Montgomery.
If Jesus were still in His tomb, he'd be rolling so fast that it would surely measure on the Richter Scale.
Opposition to Common Core spans the political spectrum, and I have left-leaning friends who oppose the standards, warning that they rely too much on high-stakes testing and will increase the corporatization of American education. They're frustrated that people don't take them seriously - and it's people like Batton who have poisoned the well for the opposition.
Mention anti-Common Core & someone like Dr. Batton is the stock image that pops up: a minister who rails equally against "homosexuality" and "redistribution of wealth," considering them both "anti-Christian and anti-Catholic." I'm wondering about the difference between "Christians" and "Catholics," but he didn't provide specifics.
Well, he gets one thing right:
"Look at our government today. Do you really trust this Congress with the future of your children?"
Heck no. I wouldn't trust Eric Cantor or John Boehner to select the brand of toilet paper for the Congressional bathrooms.
But I also don't trust people like this to get anywhere near our state's educational system or standards.
On March 18th, the Alabama Alliance for Healthy Youth will bring young people from around the state to Montgomery to show their support for HB139. AA4HY is a statewide group of diverse youth and young adults working together to influence policies and programs that support sexual health.
In Alabama, no schools are required by law to teach any form of sex education. If public schools do chose to offer sex education, the state has nine minimum content requirements. Many of these minimums, such as HIV/AIDS education, are considered important parts of comprehensive, age-appropriate, sex education. However, the eighth minimum states that it should be taught that “homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense under the laws of the state.”
The AAHY and young people across the state are supporting HB139 because it mandates that “all material taught be done in a culturally sensitive manner.” The bill removes the eighth minimum completely, and minor words in the law are changed to reflect current phrasing.
In addition to making minimum content more affirming, HB139 is correcting false information. It is incorrect to say that “homosexual conduct” is a crime in the state of Alabama. The decision of the 2003 Supreme Court case, Lawrence v. Texas, overrides all laws of that nature in the United States.
LGBT identities are not crimes, and students should not be taught that their existence is invalid and shameful. No student in Alabama should be devalued in the classroom, and HB139 is an important step towards celebrating the diversity of cultures and identities in our state. These changes are making schools safer and more affirming.
Young people organized around a similar bill last year, and we are supporting HB139 because we believe in education and because we believe in Alabama. We want the strongest futures for our peers, for our communities, and for our families, and to do that, we need to strike the fear and shame from our education system. We need to pass HB139.
The enduring images of "ClusterFlake 2014," in Alabama include stranded motorists hiking down a snow and ice-covered Highway 280 in Birmingham, a physician walking miles to perform emergency surgery, good-hearted people helping strangers, and teachers keeping calm & carrying on as they soothed and cared for children stranded overnight at school.
After the uproar over the private school welfare bill Alabama Accountability Act, confusing restrictions on student gifts, and ugly comments from Alabama legislators about greedy & lazy public employees, this last image particularly resonated with many. Teachers doing what they do best - caring for our children - even as their own families were dealing with the same crisis.
They probably have little chance of receiving any extra compensation from the state or their local school systems, but one resort in Gulf Shores is offering a "thank you." Trouble is, it may not be legal:
When David Clark, general manager of The Beach Club resort on Fort Morgan Peninsula in Gulf Shores, read stories last week of teachers who stayed with stranded students overnight in the Birmingham area during the winter storm, he wanted to thank them. [...] Clark decided to offer 25 two-night condo stays to some of those teachers. The offer was posted on The Beach Club’s Facebook page Friday evening. The teachers, or those nominating them, were supposed to email Clark directly. [...] While he hasn’t read every email, Clark said he’s looked through many of them and has been touched by stories of cafeterias making dinner for the children; teachers leaving and using their own money to buy groceries and other items for the kids; and even one teacher who made a birthday cake to soothe an autistic student who had never spent a night away from home.
The response to the offer was so great that the mangement decided to offer another 25 vacaton stays.
Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, said he believed the giveaway might be a violation, but said the issue was a question for State Ethics Commission officials to answer.
First of all, the limitations on gifts to state employees are designed to avoid the appearance (and reality) of corruption. How does a thank you contest giveaway corrupt teachers? Will they suddenly only include Gulf Shores in Alabama geography discussions, hand out resort-branded pencils and stationary for assignments, or have test questions where kids have to find "The Beach Club" on a map?
The state should back off on this, but if the Ethics Commission decides that isn't possible, here's an idea for a solution. Hotels and other businesses routinely offer discounts to public employees, so how about a "thank you discount" for selected teachers that offers use of a condo for a discounted price per night? It's not a freebie: it's a discount.
And it's the least we can do for the teachers who did so much for their students last week.
Note: We'd like to give proper recognition to Larry Brook, publisher of the Southern Jewish Life magazine, for coining the "ClusterFlake 2014" phrase.
Kansas' Republican Governor Sam Brownback & the GOP-dominated legislature lost a court battle with parents & school systems over public school funding cuts in 2013 and appealed to the state Supreme Court. Kansas GOP legislators say that if they lose, the next step is to amend the state constitution to remove the requirement that the state fund public schools and to remove the ability of the courts to enforce any funding obligations.
In plain language, the Kansas Legislature may try to remove the state's obligation to fund public schools and strip courts of any ability to intervene.
If this is starting to sound familiar, look no further than Montgomery, and the dispute among members of the Constitutional Revision Commission about the wording of the Education article. As we wrote just yesterday, Commissioner Matt Lembke added this language:
Provided that nothing in this section shall create any judicially enforceable right or obligation.
I'm not usually given to conspiracy theories, but this can't be a conincidence. We're watching a nationwide effort to undermine public education in this country. The first step is to starve schools of funding, then point to their failure as a reason for further reduce funding (and support charters & private schools instead), and finally, change state constitutions to make it all "legal."
Kansas state courts saw the folly in the plan and pointed out that the Kansas legislature looks to be about as clueless as the Alabama GOP supermajority. For sure, they have the same problem with basic math:
Also last year, lawmakers enacted a historic multibillion-dollar package of income tax cuts that are expected to take a big bite out of future state revenues. Supporters of the cuts are hopeful they will stimulate economic growth, but critics have said they will produce huge budget deficits in future years, resulting in further cuts to education funding.
Plaintiffs in the Gannon case argued those cuts proved the state could have afforded to fully fund education, but chose tax cuts as a higher priority.
In today's opinion, the court agreed with that argument, although it took no judicial action to overturn the tax cuts.
"It seems completely illogical that the state can argue that a reduction in education funding was necessitated by the downturn in the economy and the state's diminishing resources and at the same time cut taxes further, thereby reducing the sources of revenue on the basis of a hope that doing so will create a boost to the state's economy at some point in the future," the court wrote.
While Kansas is having a very public, acrimonious court fight, it appears that some members of our state Constitutional Revision Commission have found a quieter, more devious way to reach the same goal. Even so, a vocal minority of the Commission is working hard to publicize the issue.
One big difference between Alabama & Kansas is the willingness of other Republicans to stand up to the governor. The "Traditional Republicans For Common Sense" are challenging the extremism of the current governor & legislative leadership:
Traditional Republicans for Common Sense is led by more than 70 former Republican elected officials with more than 700 years of combined experience at the state and national level.
"We, as a group, think the state is heading in the wrong direction as a far as education policy, tax policy and judicial selection," said former Kansas Rep. Charlie Roth, of Salina. "The group is gaining momentum and we will be active through the next election cycle, not only in support of candidates but in what we think is a common-sense approach to government.
"It is my belief that the Republican Party has been hijacked by the extreme wing of the party." [...] "We believe in limited government and market capitalism," Roth said. "There are parts of the new Republican Party that want me to be anti-immigrant, homophobic and other things I don't want to be. They want to count my church attendance. I'm not that type of Republican."
Are there any Republicans in Alabama willing to stand up to their extremist leaders?
Alabama has the nation's longest state constitution and - in some ways - one of the worst. While the Judicial Article that was adopted in the early 1970's is a model for other court systems, the rest of the document concentrates power in Montgomery, contains racist language, and is just too darn long.
Unfortunately, the Constitution Revision Commission members who worked to revise the Education article may be about to make things worse.
To avoid confusion and disorder and to promote effective and economical planning for education, the legislature may authorize the parents or guardians of minors, who desire that such minors shall attend schools provided for their own race, to make election to that end, such election to be effective to such period and to such extent as the legislature may provide.
That same article/section specifically says that no student has the right to education or training at public expense.
There's disagreement between members about the wording of the proposed Education article. The racist language was a no brainer to remove, but the question of funding and "rights" tied the committee in knots. The language seems minor, but could have huge implications for public schools in the state.
Approved wording for the Education Article (XIV, Section 256) revision that says: The Legislature shallestablish, organize and maintain a system of public schools throughout the state for the benefit of children there-of.
Then Commissioner Matt Lembke offered the following amendment which was approved in a 9-7 vote:
Nothing in this section shall create any judicially enforceable right or obligation, nor shall it in any way limit the effect of Amendment 582 to this Constitution. (Amendment 582 states, No order of a state court, which requires isbursement of state funds, shall be binding on the state or any state official until the order has been approved by a simple majority of both houses of the Legislature.)
The ACCR's December 2013 newsletter (not online yet) explains the controversy:
As you know, there were some problems with the wording the Commission chose to replace Section 256 of the Education
Five if the Commissioners who voted against an amendment added to the generally approved words proposed by two subcommittees of the Commission, have submitted a Dissenting Opinion to the Commission Chair, Governor Albert Brewer, to be included in the report that will be given to the Legislature to consider for legislation. Those five Commissioners are: Jim Pratt, Patricia Todd,Carolyn McKinstry, Phillip Brown and Quinton Ross. The other two commissioners who voted against the amendment were Gov. Brewer and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (by his proxy, Ryan Cantrell).
But Governor Brewer chose to NOT include the dissenting opinion as part of the Constitution Revision Commission report because it had not been part of the official meetings. So the dissenting report will be provided to each legislator,by personal letter accompanying the Commission report.
Madison County Senator Paul Sanford has reintroduced a bill (SB25) that would prohibit courts for ordering "any person" to provide for the support or educational expenses for anyone who has reached the age of 19. Simply put, this seems to imply that a parent can't be compelled to help pay a child's living expenses & tuition while the child attends college or receives post-secondary education or training.
"(f) No law, rule, or court order shall compel, either directly or indirectly, any person to provide post-minority education support, including, but not limited to, support for postsecondary education, to another person who has reached the age of majority, or otherwise has become self-sufficient or completed the 12th grade, whichever occurs first, unless the child is mentally or physically disabled at the age of 19 years."
Last session, he had 3 co-sponsors (Beason, Fielding, and Glover). Currently, he has no co-sponsors for this year's effort, although that could change at any time.
This bill seems odd and disruptive: many divorce decrees and custody agreements provide for support for college or post-secondary training. It raises several questions:
Does this mean that educational expenses can't be included in a custody/support agreement even if the parents want it there?
What about existing agreements? Does this abrogate them?
But the biggest question about the bill - IMO - is why? This just seems mean-spirited.
As college costs skyrocket, so has student load debt. It increased 551% between 1999 and 2011. Students accept that debt burden because a college education is almost a necessity for a successful career and secure retirement. In 2012, the medidan weekly salary for someone with a Bachelor's degree was $1022. A high school diploma netted you $652/week on average.
...published college tuition and fees increased 439 percent from 1982 to 2007 while median family income rose 147 percent.
There's no doubt that some parents are barely hanging on and simply can't afford college/training for their kids. But shouldn't that be an issue that courts address on a case-by-case basis when a parent asks to have a support order revised?
Totally prohibiting post-secondary support and education assistance seems like a heavy-handed "solution." We should be making access to education and training easier if we want to build a more effective, educated workforce and population. It's the only sure way to get more high-paying, quality jobs in the state.
For those of you who are familiar with family law in the State of Alabama, the Bayliss Court, 24 years ago, interpreted the child support statute to authorize post-minority support for college education. In essence, that Court made new law even though the age of majority is exclusively controlled by Statute. Based on Bayliss, the Courts have slowly expanded that ruling to including other post-minority expenses since they were tied to college education.
The court reversed that, but did allow existing agreements to remain in place:
That being said, this decision will not disturb final post-minority educational support orders entered before this date. The Court has said that where parties acted in good-faith believing past decisions, they would be protected, although future decisions are to be overruled. Accordingly, this Court expressly overruled Bayliss because the child custody statute does not authorize a Court in a divorce action to require a non-custodial parent to be pay educational support for children over the age of 19 years.
Thanks for that tip: it brings more clarity to what Sanford's bill was addressing.
McGill said he wants parents to refrain from the mindset that pushes kids only in the academic direction. He told a story about a man whose son was good at working with hands but made failing grades in school. “That broke my heart. So often our system tries to push every kid in the direction of academics. So many of them God just didn’t create that way. Our testing is in relationship to academics and not what they were created to do; they were created to work with their hands, but we are not testing them on that. Are we not first making failures out of them before they drop out or graduate by the skin of their teeth?” he said.
Now, the thing here is that McGill actually has a good idea and I agree with him that technical education has a bad rap:
One key to developing a greater workforce, he said, is to change long held attitudes about technical education. “For years we have had the mindset that career tech is loud, hot, smelly, dangerous and etcetera. That simply isn’t the case for career tech industry. These days, it looks like a computer attached to a machine and for the most part it’s an air conditioned environment that produces a product,” he said.
Not every kid wants to attend college. People do have interests and talents, and when you force them into a situation that's not suited to their interests and goals, they often won't perform as well.
For example, there's a huge push to get high school students to take Advanced Placement (AP) courses. Our daughter's school received a grant that was based on the number of students enrolled in AP classes. They pressure was on to pack those classes with students - any students - whether they were ready for the coursework or not. Yet, when she expressed an interest in taking a tech class, her guidance counselor acted like she'd just listed prostitution as her main career goal.
But consider that many of these "tech" jobs can't be outsourced. Nobody in China can cut your hair and your car's bent frame can't be straightened by a call center in India. Welding, electronics, & other "hands-on" jobs are good-paying and necessary. A kid who hates learning from a book (or iPad) might be a superstar when it comes to hands-on work on a project. And some people are good at both, so we should be encouraging students to explore their options instead of forcing them into a particular track.
But here is where McGill & I part ways. When we start framing the issue in terms of "how God created" someone, that's not just forcing them onto a particular path; it's adding a Divine stamp of approval! And it's uncomfortably close to assuming that biology is destiny. Or, more accurately, that "demographics are destiny," and that someone from a particular background or ethnic group might be "more suited" to particular jobs.
For example, the ACLU of Alabama joined a case in Pickens County in 2006 because the school board was allocating resources unequally between high schools.
Here are a few examples of the problems:
The predominantly white high school in Pickens County offers the entirety of college preparatory classes; the black high school does not.
Students at the white high school are offered remedial and enrichment classes not available for students at the all-black high school. Students at the black high school are offered electives such as Introduction to Cosmetology, Nail Care and Application and Fashion Decisions; students at the white high school are offered Journalism, Calculus,Latin and Shakespearean Drama. Black students across the system are offered less meaningful vocational courses than white students,and black students at the predominantly white high school are more likely to be “tracked” into the less challenging science and math courses.
Teachers at the black high school are more likely to be untenured and less qualified than teachers at the predominantly white high school.
If we want to improve education in Alabama and give students opportunities to reach their full potential, then we should encourage them to explore their options and expose them to many different topics and opportunities.
But leave God out of it, please. That never, ever turns out well in Alabama government.
The Southern Poverty Law Center filed suit yesterday challenging the Alabama Accountability Act (aka.. the Great Private School Giveaway) because many of the benefits aren't available to poor students:
SPLC President Richard Cohen said poor parents can’t afford private school tuition even with the help of the new tax credit and, even if they could, often don’t have a participating private school near them. [...] Cohen called Republicans' promise that the law would help all students regardless of location and income an “empty promise."
"The reality is just the opposite. Children in Alabama’s Black Belt, most of them African-Americans, are still trapped in failing schools, still being given the short end of the stick,” Cohen said.
This isn't hyperbole. The state listed 78 public schools as "failing," but only 56 private schools (PDF) have signed up to accept transfers. Many religiously-affiliated schools are concerned that accepting state money might affect their autonomy. And that seems to be a perfectly valid concern: if you're taking state education money, you better be prepared to document where it's going and show results.
The law also allows students in "failing schools" to transfer to non-failing public schools - if they can find one that will accept them. Remember that, in the rush to steamroll the bill through the legislature, this poorly-written law seemed to indicate that public schools had to accept transfers from failing schools.
Rep. Paul DeMarco said Monday that when he voted Feb. 28 for a school choice bill he believed it contained language he had requested aimed at explicitly protecting public and private schools from being required to enroll students from failing schools.
"It was my understanding that we voted on the version that included the language I had requested," said DeMarco. "I did not see a different version until the following week. I feel that it is important to my district that this legislation includes my language."
The "failing school" label is one of particular interest. The bill defines a "failing" school as one in the "bottom 6%, so naturally people wonder about the ranking system and what schools are were in the "top" 94%. But don't ask the Alabama Department of Education for clarification. They aren't saying:
Alabama Superintendent Tommy Bice denied a public records request this month from the five members of the Huntsville school board, who had asked to see the scores for "non-failing" schools in Alabama.
"We did not generate scores for all schools across all Alabama for these years," reads the second line of a simple one-paragraph denial, dated Aug. 8, and signed by Bice.
Education officials released the scores for "failing" schools only. But state law required the state rank all schools in the state from 2007-2012.
The ranking system didn't exist last year, nor did the newly created scores.
The Alabama Accountability Act, passed by a Republican majority in both houses in the spring, ordered the state to label as "failing" any school that repeatedly placed in the bottom 6 percent in reading and math. But such a score did not exist.
So the Education Department had to make one up.
This is what happens when you pass a major piece of legislation without public hearings, without reading it, in the dead of night, with no input from educators, and with little debate.
Vote first, read later, and spend taxpayer dollars fighting in court over the details. It's the Alabama GOP Supermajority way.....
(Congratulations to our Alabama High School Democrats~ - promoted by countrycat)
Our very own Alabama High School Democrats have been named the High School Democrats of America's "State Chapter of the Year."
Nickie Mitch, National leader of the High School Democrats said, "Alabama High School Democrats truly stood out among our state chapters as a leader and innovator, especially considering the challenges they faced in terms of political demographics and party infrastructure. Time and again, Alabama's chapter and its leaders have proven that effective organizing makes all the difference. We look forward to what Alabama High School Democrats will accomplish in the future."
The High School Democrats of America is a completely student run organization that works at the national, state, and local levels to engage and mobilizemembers to be active in the political process.The Alabama High School Democrats were founded in April 2013, they are currently working with about 15 schools to start chapters.
The "State Chapter of the Year" award is presented to an outstanding state organization for success in mobilizing high school participants in a positive and effective manner. Grayson Everett, Vice-Chairman of the Alabama High School Democrats stated, "It's amazing we're already receiving national recognition for just a few months of activity. It shows what can be accomplished at the state level with hard work."
"We are incredibly honored to receive this award," said State Chairman Jordan Cozby, "But there is much more work to do. Across the State, school is starting back up and we need your support. Please connect us with students, parents, and teachers that would like to start a chapter." You can email Jordan Cozby at: Jcozby@hsdems.org to help with chapter expansion. You can also find more about the High School Democrats here: http://hsdems.org/ and keep up with the Alabama High School Democrats on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ALHSDA.
The pictures bring pause to the most cynical, hard-edged heart and mind.
But in the midst of such death and destruction, there is a group of brave people whose fearlessness in the face of Mother Nature is getting noticed.
They responded first when their children were threatened. School teachers.
It took a damn tornado for teachers to get some good publicity.
In a country where lawmakers give lip service to providing a great education, a bunch of Okie teachers went to war when the storms came.
These days, teachers get attention when they are vilified by ungrateful parents and lawmakers who use them as political gaming chips.
In Oklahoma, in the storm zone’s ground zero, at two elementary schools, teachers put themselves between their babies and the worst the storm brought to bear.
Oklahoma teachers are the fourth lowest paid educators in the country.
When the storm hit, they didn’t think twice about what they aren’t paid.
Teachers don’t think that way when storms hit that can hurt their class.
Those Oklahoma teachers protected their babies.
Those of us who know teachers say “Of course they did.”
Teachers are people you want in life’s foxhole.
Teachers call it real life.
They’re used to it.
Teachers ask a child how he got those bruises.
Teachers call the food bank to tell them where a hungry child lives.
Teachers get a child to learn when parents let them stay up to watch late night television.
Teachers teach kids who either don’t eat breakfast or have a soft drink and chips to start the day.
Teachers will say “no” to a child who has never heard the word before.
Teachers show kids how to act in a group when parents don’t give a damn how they act anywhere.
Teachers help a child read that has never had a book read to them before they walk in the door of a classroom.
Teachers make a kid look them in the eye who has never focused on anything other than a TV or an iPad.
Teachers build, shape, and mold. They sure don’t do it for the money. They do it because they fight the good fight. They make a difference. They don’t issue press releases. In the aftermath of the storm, we’re told teachers in Oklahoma’s storm zoned acted like heroes. Saved as many students as they could. Of course they did...
And lets remember some other teachers:
Virginia Tech professor Liviu Librescu: "The 75-year-old professor and Holocaust survivor was in the middle of teaching one of his popular classes at Norris Hall yesterday when Cho tried to enter the room. As his students start jumping out the windows of the second-floor room, Librescu stayed behind to block the door, according to his students. He was killed by the gunman."
Sandy Hook Elementary School teachers: "What the teachers and principal at Sandy Hook Elementary School did for the children in their care could win a soldier in a war zone a Purple Heart."
Protecting students at Columbine: ''Under the table, kids!'' she says now, directing her attention back to the students who, moments before, had been quietly studying in the library at Columbine High School. ''Kids, under the table. Kids, stay on the floor. . . . Oh, God. Oh, God -- kids, just stay down.''
Teachers. It's about time we gave them the respect and recognition they deserve. They're occasionally called upon for extraordinary acts of heroism, but let's not forget that they have the potential to change lives - and save lives - every single day at work.