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.
Tuesday, House Budget Committee Chair, Jay Love accidentally spilled the beans about the real purpose of the Alabama Accountability Act: support private schools with public money. Love would never admit that outright, of course, but all it takes is a little math.
Let's do some.
The chairman of the House education budget committee estimated that the state’s new school tax credit program could cost the Education Trust Fund between $50 million and $60 million in 2014. [...] The new law, called the Alabama Accountability Act, allows families with children zoned for failing schools to receive tax credits – estimated at up to $3,500 annually -- to help pay tuition at a private school or a better public school. [...] Love said he assumed that 25 percent of the state’s 61,000 private school students would qualify for the credit. [...] Love said he also assumed that 10 percent of an estimated 74,000 students at "failing” schools would transfer and take the tax credit.
25% of 61,000 private school students: 15,250 students.
15,250 students x $3500 tax credit: $53 million
10% of 74,000 "failing school" students: 7,400
7,400 students x $3500 tax credit: $26 million
Total impact to the Education Trust Fund:
$53 million in private school subsidies $26 million for public school students $79 million
Again, we run across that seemingly ubiquitous GOP math impairment.
Using Rep. Love's numbers, the expected hit to the ETF is almost $80 million dollars. That's a third more than his high estimate of $60 million.
It could be that Rep. Love graduated from one of those "failing" public schools where math wasn't taught, but it's not likely. No, here's what's going on.
Look at the numbers of students expected to claim the credits: 25% of private school kids, but only 10% of public school kids. It looks like Love understands the basic finding of AL.com reporter Challen Stephens' investigative report. Most public school kids won't get to use the credit because there's no place for them to go.
Let's start with the bad news. After holding over a committee vote on HB57 (the TRAP bill), the Senate Health Committee voted 7-3 to support Mary Sue McClurkin's ill-conceived bill:
The committee turned back an effort by Sen. Linda Coleman, D-Birmingham, to amend the bill. Coleman recommended a number of changes, including a provision to grandfather in the state’s five existing clinics. [...]
Coleman said she was not surprised her amendment was rejected and said she might try again on the Senate floor. She said she did not think the bill was really about health and safety.
“This was an attempt to close these type facilities down because of personal religious beliefs,” Coleman said.
Meanwhile, outside the Statehouse, Governor Robert Bentley was busy acting as ringmaster for the anti-choice circus. Governor ("only Christians are my brothers") Bentley went himself one better with this comment:
“We need to remember we are dealing with human life and this is what God expects us to do,” Republican Gov. Robert Bentley said at a Montgomery rally organized by abortion opponents in Montgomery. The Legislature’s Republican presiding officers, Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey and House Speaker Mike Hubbard, also attended the rally.
This just begs some good journalist to ask the obvious question: Why does God want Bentley to shun the Medicaid expansion that will really protect human life?
The good news - public education advocates had reason to cheer:
Momentum on on the "Dump Common Core" effort has slowed. The Senate Education committee held a public hearing yesterday, but delayed a vote until next week. Note that's only a minor victory: look what happened with HB57!
Speaker Mike Hubbard hit a roadblock in the form of Montgomery Circuit Judge Charles Price, on the "Alabama Accountability Act:"
“The judge mentioned that not only did they violate their own rules, they also are in violation of the state constitution that says you can’t take a bill and introduce it as a bill and say it’s about one thing and substitute it with a different bill,” said James Anderson, an attorney for the plaintiff.
The judge’s order prevents the House Clerk, Jeff Woodard, from delivering the bill to Governor Bentley for signing.
Hubbard decried the so-called "judicial activism," which the GOP seems to define as "any decision we don't like." He's appealing to the Alabama Supreme Court.
And finally, Governor Bentley showed a tiny piece of common sense and vetoed the first "guns in schools" bill to hit his desk:
Gov. Robert Bentley today sent a note to Franklin County lawmakers saying he is vetoing a bill approved last month by the Legislature to allow teachers and community members there to be trained as reserve police officers and sheriff’s deputies.
In the letter, Bentley said he was concerned primarily with the training because the bill does not provide adequate training requirements.
“Failure to provide for specific, applicable training would create an unacceptable high-risk situation with the possibility of dire consequences, including the injury or death of a child, teacher, or a volunteer member (of the security force),” Bentley said.
Last night's meltdown in the Alabama Legislature over the School Flexibility Act has been chronicled exhaustively by the media this morning. But the descriptions of the GOP super-majority's breathtaking arrogance and antipathy towards the Alabama Education Association leaves out an important piece of recent political history.
Here's a sampling of coverage of yesterday's events:
This is happening now because the Republican super-majority in the Legislature sees no need for compromise and listens to nothing outside its own echo chamber. Governor Robert Bentley just goes along for the ride. He really has no choice because Alabama's governor has almost no real power over the Legislature. There's no "separate but equal" power between the executive and legislative branches. The Legislature holds most of the cards while the Governor gets to attend ribbon cuttings, hold press conferences, and rubber stamp legislation that hits his desk.
There's really no point in the Governor vetoing anything because the Legislature has the power to over-ride vetoes with a simple majority vote. And they do. Just last term, the Legislature over-rode Bentley's veto of the Dial/Laird Slush Fund Bill.
So last night, we had the spectacle of Bentley, Hubbard, & Marsh grinning like possums and taking a victory lap on the so-called "Alabama Accountability Act."
The AEA is furious. Executive Secretary Henry Mabry flatly stated: "The Governor lied to us."
Working through back channels with Bentley’s campaign, the AEA pummeled Byrne with a barrage of attack ads and automated phone calls, according to e-mails and telephone records obtained by the Press-Register.
It wasn't just robocalls. AEA ran a slew of negative ads against Byrne, who, Hubbert said "threatened to burn our house down." Once the major parties had their candidates selected - Sparks & Bentley - then-AEA Executive Secretary Paul Hubbert made this announcement:
Alabama political kingmaker Paul Hubbert said he’s staying out of the 2010 governor’s race now that there are two candidates he believes will be friendly to education.
Hubbert, executive secretary of the powerful Alabama Education Association, almost single-handedly defeated Republican gubernatorial frontrunner Bradley Byrne with a series of third-party ads. [...] In an interview last week, Hubbert said either Bentley or Sparks is acceptable to the AEA or at least will listen to AEA concerns.
You have to wonder how AEA feels now. Byrne did pick a fight with AEA, but he also hailed from the "business wing" of the Alabama GOP. That's a group with little love for the social conservatives pushing the Legislature to drop Common Core standards, outlaw abortion and most forms of hormonal birth control, and remove employer's ability to ban firearms on their own property.
A Governor Bradley Byrne might not be able to stop it, but would he be as complicit in the effort as Governor Bentley?
We'll never know that for sure, but one thing is clear: GOP super-majority is intent on "burning down" AEA's house. And Hubbert handed the current governor a big box of matches when it helped him win the GOP primary.
In hindsight, it looks like a very bad return on investment.
Hey, when even someone like Dale Peterson calls you out for being a dick, maybe it's time to reconsider your career choices. Senator Shadrack McGill showed his butt so plainly at the hearing on SB190 (to repeal Alabama's Common Core standards) that even Dale Peterson had to comment......
"Watched several minions today...such as a "Republican" senator by the name of Shadrick McGill from DeKalb County as he acted like a disrespectful mornon by laughing at those who supported ridding Alabama of federal common core standards and then "sharing" with his buddy, "Republican" Ed Henry, - represenative, also a disrepctful jerk. Apparently their job was to act like disrespectful jerks. Both did a great job of being jerks."
Note that we faithfully reproduced Peterson's Facebook typos...
Those of us who have played close attention to McGill's antics since assuming office - particularly his rather awkward public meetings - aren't as surprised by this behavior as Peterson seems to be. Perhaps he was too preoccupied with that horse to pay much attention to his fellow party members....
Peterson went on to discuss how many members of the committee appeared to be woefully ignorant of the legislation and its implications (see the image). Now, that won't surprise many of us who have watched the Alabama legislature debate many topics - like female biology - that they don't understand at all.
I first realized something was amiss when I heard "WHAT THE HECK IS THISI!?!?!" from across the room (OK, so she didn't say "heck"; for that matter, she didn't say "hell", either). My wife, who's a teacher, had stumbled across this article. Here's the meat of it:
Huntsville Superintendent Casey Wardynski on Thursday spoke out against a proposed bill that would repeal the state's adoption of the Common Core State Standards for curriculum and limit how student data is shared and used.
Wardynski said that Senate Bill 190, introduced earlier this month by a group of 15 Republican senators, would set back public education in Alabama and hinder the ability of new students coming into the state to have a smooth transition to their new curriculum. [...]
"Folks see this as a state's rights issue," Wardynski said. "I see it as a kids' rights issue."
State school board members Mary Scott Hunter of Huntsville and Tracy Roberts of Mobile last week co-authored an editorial supporting the Alabama College- and Career-Ready Standards, saying that a return to previous standards would send the wrong message to the rest of the nation and would frustrate teachers who have been working hard to teach the new standards.
So, it isn't enough to strip services away from the poor, it isn't enough to put women at risk, now they want to ensure that our children get an even worse education?
Amendment 4 is the latest really awful choice inflicted on Alabama voters by our legislature. Do we keep the (no longer enforced) segregationist language in our constitution, or do we get rid of the right to a public education?
What imperils Alabama’s future is not language. It is chronic under-funding of public schools. It is an increasingly large pool of indigent students, an unprepared labor force unable to compete successfully in a global economy, a frightful high school drop-out rate, high school students not prepared for college and many of our brightest college graduates who leave Alabama for better careers elsewhere as soon as they graduate.
After often switching sides during the past six months, I finally decided to vote against Amendment 4, though I agree with its intent. I vote “no” because we need to have a serious conversation about the pernicious policies of our racial past, not about its hateful language.
Flynt also has an interesting comment for the amendment's author, Sen. Arthur Orr (R, Decatur) who has made much of the "offensive" nature of the language he now wants to remove from the Alabama constitution:
But I do find it curious that Orr only finds the language offensive, not the racist policies which gave rise to the language. Furthermore, I find it amazing that he has endorsed Roy Moore as Supreme Court chief justice, the very Republican who mobilized a coalition that defeated the last attempt to remove the same racist language.
Alabama Arise, an extremely effective progressive organization and long-time supporter of constitutional reform, is now advising Alabama voters to reject Amendment 4 because the current amendment retains troublesome wording regarding public education. Specifically, it says "nothing in this Constitution shall be construed as creating or recognizing any right to education or training at public expense."
This is via email from Arise:
At first Alabama Arise supported Amendment 4 with reservations. Of course we agree that the racist provisions should be removed from the state constitution, but we were disappointed that the amendment does not restore the state's responsibility to provide public education to all students, as the original 1901 Constitution did. Alabama voters rescinded that right with passage of Amendment 111 during the segregation era.
In legislative floor debate last spring, the Black Caucus fought to restore the education right to the amendment. When that effort failed and the amendment was scheduled for the November ballot, we joined other groups who planned to support the imperfect Amendment 4. Our reasoning: It would not be good for Alabama's reputation if we reject an amendment to remove racist language, as we did in 2004.
Over the last week, we became wary of this sentence in Amendment 4: “Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed as creating or recognizing any right to education or training at public expense. . . .” It’s a sentence from Amendment 111, and some say it wouldn’t have any practical effect. After lengthy discussion of the pros and cons, Alabama Arise has decided it’s not wise for voters to approve an amendment that re-states a provision that was intended to protect racial segregation of schools.
Alabama Arise now recommends a “No” vote on Amendment 4.
This is a good call. Yes, the racist language needs to go; it undoubtedly does hurt Alabama's image and recruitment efforts, but consider how hard it will be to recruit new industry to Alabama if the state declares it will no longer provide public education to all children -- and there are still people in this state who believe that is a good idea. Some of them may even be serving in our legislature.
(Have some controversy with your Monday morning coffee ... - promoted by mooncat)
It occurs to me that the states that have the highest per capita churches seem to be the least interested in education. Like Alabama ranking among the top for cuts in education. I don’t see these things as being exclusive. I see that taking a poor group of people and asking them to give 10% of their income to the church leaves them with less to spend on their educations. After all who needs education that teaches children to think? Having a well-educated group graduating school every year would be detrimental to the Christian way of life.
Christianity needs people to remain uneducated. It is necessary for the survival of the church. The largest growing group in the world is one of nonbelief. Having said that and understanding that education and rationally thinking things through are among the leading reasons given for leaving the religions of our ancestors. Churches don’t want children to receive the education that allows them to think rationally.
This is why we strongly oppose religion in schools. This is why we feel that all religion should be removed from politics. If you want to pray to your imaginary friend at home… Then do it. Don’t sit back and let the RNC sing amazing grace, or the DNC to use the word God in their motto without speaking up. Jefferson started building a wall of separation. It is now our turn to place a brick in that wall.
This nation was established as a secular nation. That is not up for debate. The Constitution of The United States made no mention of God and it made only one mention of religion. “No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” That is it. No other mentions of religion. So why so many people are convinced that the United States was built on Christianity puzzles me? Atheists make up 16% of the American population. To give you an idea the Jewish population is only 2 to 3% depending on the poll you look at. So why do we sit back while Christians pawn off their religion on the masses?
We must fight to keep these religions out of our “secular nation” and push for more education. This is not the fight of all Atheists. It is the fight of all Americans, or at least it should be.
I leave you with some words from Thomas Jefferson & Christopher Hitchens:
" ... no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities."--Thomas Jefferson
"Jefferson build up that wall"--Christopher Hitchens
"It's a Biblical principle. If you double a teacher's pay scale, you'll attract people who aren't called to teach.
"And these teachers that are called to teach, regardless of the pay scale, they would teach. It's just in them to do. It's the ability that God give 'em. And there are also some teachers, it wouldn't matter how much you would pay them, they would still perform to the same capacity.
"If you don't keep that in balance, you're going to attract people who are not called, who don't need to be teaching our children. So, everything has a balance."
After adjusting for inflation, Alabama will be spending $1318 less per pupil in FY2013 (which begins in a few weeks) than we spent in FY2008. That's quite a cut, yet the job of educating Alabama's children is no smaller than it was 5 years ago.
We're number one, but it's nothing to be proud of, no matter what Senator Shadrack's convoluted biblical interpretation tells him. Alabama's budget can't be balanced through continued shortsighted and counterproductive cuts to education. It's a path to increased poverty, not prosperity.
A better educated workforce is key to a more prosperous Alabama. These cuts have got to stop. Education and teachers are not the enemy, folks.
Where do I start? I will say that Birmingham school district is royally fucked if this isn't solved very soon. In my opinion, they seem to have such a dilemma that most urban school districts these days possess. That problem is fiefdom mentality when it should not even be this way. (Preference, what I am about to say is the honest yet objective truth). When it comes to the Birmingham school district, the whites that mostly now live in the suburbs such as the municipalities Hoover, Vestavia Hills, Gardendale, Fultondale, Clay, and Trussville or incorporated areas like McCalla and Grayson Valley, or western Saint Clair and northern Shelby counties were the ones that screwed up the school district because they didn't want their children to attend schools with blacks back in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, but it was the mismanagement of the majority black and AEA (Alabama Education Association) led administrators that has led to the school district's problems since the 1990s. This is nothing new because school districts in New Orleans, Memphis, Atlanta, Washington DC, and many others across the South has this problem as well.
Remember when our wise and compassionate Gov. Dr. Robert Bentley said this, back when he was just a legislator?
I understand and I'm fully sympathetic with people who are poor, they don't have enough money to buy food. But, you know, there—there are avenues through which if they really are poor that they can get some help. They may not be poor in spirit, they may just be poor in not being able to buy all the conveniences that you think they should have. That doesn't mean they're not happy. You can be happy and be poor.
Alabama has the sixth-worst income inequality in the nation. Median income in 2010 has increased from $39,980 in 2009, when it was the third lowest in the country. However, the poverty rate also has increased from 2009’s level of 17.5% to become the second highest in the country, at 18.1%. Some 14.3% of the state’s residents rely on food stamps, the eleventh-highest percentage in the country.
Alabama's 274,000 poor children are especially happy. They must be laughing at how little they have -- both in terms of 'conveniences' andof opportunity to better themselves.
Alabama has a poverty problem. Too many people in this state can't make ends meet. That has negative life consequences not just in terms of economic security, but in terms of health, life expectancy, educational achievement for children and -- yes -- prison population. Poverty sucks the opportunity out of lives; it's a tremendous source of suffering and a waste of human potential.
People like Robert Bentley, who won't admit that poverty is a problem, can't be trusted to do the difficult work of expanding economic opportunity so people can lift themselves out of poverty. Those who are content with the current situation -- the second highest(!!) level of poverty in the nation -- will never change it.
Here's some advice for Gov. Dr. Bentley:
Step one is to admit you have a poverty problem. If you skip step one, Alabama's poor are never going anywhere.
Bessemer Opinions has an excellent post that cites studies about why kids drop out - and how to keep them in school. These in particular caught my eye:
The relationship between students and teachers is the most important factor in student’s school experience, whether positive or negative.
The disruptiveness of peers in school causes students to feel distracted and unsafe, leading to increased chance of dropping out. (Remember my experience trying to address bullying in Bessemer? Still haven't heard back.) [...]
Foster academics. 70% of dropouts said that “increasing supervision in school” and 62% said “more classroom discipline” was necessary to ensure success. 57% said that their schools “did not do enough” to help student’s feel safe from violence. (This is where stricter anti-harassment policies would help.)
Promote close relationships with adults. Only 41% of dropouts reported having someone to talk to about personal problems. 62% said they would like to see schools do more to help students with problems outside of class. Only 47% said the schools even bothered to contact them after they dropped out.
Many students are dealing with a full plate of problems - poverty, homelessness, unstable family situations - that schools can't fix, but there is one big issue that schools can address: relationships. Between students and between students & teachers.
In related research, Cornell and others found that schools with more reported bullying had higher dropout rates. They also categorized discipline approaches in Virginia high schools according to four styles of parenting: authoritarian, authoritative, permissive and indifferent.
The schools that used the “authoritative” model — firm and demanding in discipline, but warm and supportive toward students — had the least reported bullying and teacher victimization.
The National Association of Secondary School Principals recognizes not just the psychological toll of bullying, but also the financial impact on schools:
A 2009 study noted that 8% of middle school students reported skipping school at least once due to fear of bullying; 25% reported skipping class or going home “sick” to avoid encountering a bully (Perkins, Perkins, and Craig, 2009).
There is a financial consequence associated with absenteeism. One way to calculate this loss is to look at truancy rates. [...] Truancies can then be multiplied by a school’s reimbursement rate [in most states, this is defined as the Average Daily Attendance (ADA) rate] to compute the average financial loss due to truancy.
For example, if a school has 1,000 students and a truancy rate of 6% (the national average), 60 students will be truant at least 9 times per year, resulting in 540 days of lost ADA funding. The average ADA rate is $40/day. When you multiply that rate by the 540 missed days, it’s staggering to see that our sample high school would lose $21,600 per year due to truancy.
Of course, not every high school drop out leaves because of bullying. There are as many reasons for leaving as their are drop outs.
But this is an issue where schools have looked the other way for far too long. They've tolerated bullying as a "kids will be kids" affair - and when it's GBLT kids being bullied, the administration often gives tacit approval.
Stopping this behavior won't solve the drop out problem, but every little bit helps. And for some students, the change will make all the difference in the world.
On a more positive note, let me brag that our Young Cone graduated from high school last week with honors - in the top 5% of her class!
How would the cafeteria workers who gave this 6 or 7 year old kid crackers and water instead of a meal want their own child to be treated in the same circumstances? Or the teachers who surely saw what was happening?
Probably the same way kids were treated in my (extremely small town) first grade class. If one of us forgot or lost our lunch money, the teacher told us to bring it tomorrow ... and we got lunch, same as everybody else. My second and third grade teachers would do the same thing. Sometimes they actually paid for the lunches when kids just couldn't come up with the money.
My mother saw this story on the news and is more exercised about it than I've seen her in a long time. "If that was my kid, or my grandkid," she said, "I'd be on that school like a duck on a June bug. There's no excuse for treating a little first grader that way."
That pretty much says it all. The adults at Mountain Gap Elementary did not do right by this child.
Anybody over 15 or so knows the right way to treat other people. Sometimes having a lot of rules gives us a convenient excuse for ignoring the right thing to do. We need to check our complicated rules against the one most of us learned along about first grade -- the Golden Rule -- and follow that one.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
What do you get when you cross a bunch of Grover Norquist "no tax" acolytes with a group of political cowards? The Alabama GOP supermajority in the legislature. Unwilling to make any hard choices, they want voters to do it for them on Sept. 18 - in a $3.4 million special election.
What if voters say no and instead expect legislators to, say, do the job they were elected to do? Governor Bentley warns that the world supported by the General Fund budget might come to an end:
Bentley says he will have to cut the General Fund budget across the board if the voters turn down the constitutional amendment Sept. 18. This raises the specter of the state's releasing thousands of state inmates and laying waste to the Medicaid program and other vital services such as mental health and human resources.
And then they'll blame the voters. Or try.
But just imagine an alternate Alabama - one where we invest in our future through education and support our existing businesses instead of spending hundreds of millions to lure new industry. (We'll vote on doing more of that in November).
In that Alabama, we'd recognize the importance of education as a tool to keep kids out of prison. And that Alabama would save money. Instead of kicking the budget can down the road, we'd be packing our nest egg with educated workers who'd be paying taxes. That's a lot better for the budget than spending money to incarcerate them.
Alabama has a deep gap between what the state spends on its pre-K education and what it spends to incarcerate prisoners, today's report says. Alabama spent $17.6 million for pre-K education in 2011, and it spent $605 million to house, feed and guard its criminals.
States, on average, spend nine times more on corrections than on pre-K education, according to the "Pay Now or Pay Much More Later" report. Alabama, in contrast, spends 34 times more on corrections than it does on pre-K education.
"It's common sense," said Falls. "Kids that otherwise don't have a lot of resources and don't have access to preschool education are often the ones who end up, down the line, faced with crime. ... Regardless of your political philosophy, it's important to spend money on education."
That last comment bears repeating & should be tattooed on the forehead of every state legislator:
Regardless of your political philosophy, it's important to spend money on education."
It's not just good for the state, it makes financial sense as well. How is it that our "college-educated legislators" can't grasp this simple fact?