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The red hot mess politicians have heaped on our schools

Larry Lee

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By Larry Lee
Education Matters

While I will never claim that I don’t cuss, I work hard to refrain from doing so on my blog.  But in this case, it’s damn hard not to.

Politicians, particularly Senate majority leader Del Marsh and Rep. Terri Collins, seem to have gone out of their way to tear down our public schools and paint a picture that is no where close to accurate.

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P. T. Barnum could never have created the circus we now have throughout the state thanks to legislation these good folks sponsored in 2012 and 2013.

In 2012, Terri Collins passed a bill to give every school in the state a letter grade of A-F.  And unfortunately, she got a bunch of both  Republican and Democrat friends to go along with her. Go here to see a list of the folks who serve in the House and Senate today who voted for this bill in 2012.

I have looked and looked at research and have yet to find any worthwhile reason to give letter grades to schools. The fact that only 14 states do it is telling.  And almost none of the top state school systems in the country use such grades. That should tell us something.

And the fact that a blue ribbon group of Alabama educators worked for two years with Collins to come up with an equitable grading system without success is also insightful.  They finally just threw up their hands and went home.  And as best I can tell, none of their carefully considered recommendations were used to determine school grades released Feb. 1.

Then in 2013, Del Marsh got the Alabama Accountability Act passed, the shenanigans used to pass this bill have been well-documented. This bill requires that the state department of education annually release a list of the lowest performing six percent of all schools.

Here’s where things get really funky.

The AAA “failing” list was released last week. And Feb. 1, the first ever A-F report cards were made public.

Now, it is hardly unreasonable to think that if we have 75 “failing” schools, they must all be “F” schools.  Sorry to disappoint you, but that is not the case.  Instead, of the 75, 36 got F, 37 got D and 2 got C.

None of this makes any sense.  There are a total of 104 schools that got an F.  But only 36 of them are considered “failing.” It’s a joke. A huge, high-flying triple-header joke.

And get this, the majority of the scoring used for the A-F reports cards comes from a test called ACT Aspire that the U.S. Department of Education said was not properly aligned with our standards and which the state school board has voted to not use again. That’s about like me getting on a bathroom scale I know is not accurate and then bragging about how much weight I have lost.  It defies logic.

But unfortunately, the real joke is on our schools, principals, teachers and especially students.  Instead of doing our best to lift them up–we’re doing our best to tear them down.  To make them feel second class.  Complete and absolute failures if you will.

Naturally there will be people who say that all I’m doing is making excuses and trying to maintain the status quo.  But those folks generally have no clue what is going on in our public schools today and the challenges our teachers face.  Yes, we have schools that need improvement.  But how do you give a simple grade to something as complex as today’s education reality.  Part of the scoring system for A-F involves “chronic absenteeism.” A student at a Mobile high school had lupus last year and unfortunately died. He was counted as being chronically absent and counted against the school’s score.

This makes sense? Not in my world.

The state used to have an awards program called “Torchbearer Schools.”  These were schools judged to be doing an excellent  job.  There were 20 of them in 2013.  I helped the state celebrate their success  by driving thousands of miles around the state to shoot pictures at each school and put together a video about them.  I saw with my own eyes what they were doing.

Out of curiosity, I looked at the new report card score for each of these schools.  Four were given an F, four were given a D, seven got a C, four got a B and only one an A.  So according to the report card, the majority of these schools have gone from the penthouse to the outhouse since 2013.

Pardon me, but I don’t believe this is the case any more than I believe that the A-F report card legislation or the Alabama Accountability Act bill is good for our public schools.

 

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Guest Columnists

Opinion | Conservatives must not leave the culture war battle to “summertime soldiers and sunshine patriots”

Will Ainsworth

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There are certain fundamental truths in life that neither the liberal elite nor the left-wing media nor the activists federal courts can change no matter how hard they try.

For example, I know that marriage ordained by God can only occur between a man and a woman.  I know that individuals should use the rest room correlating to the gender they were born with and not the one they pretend to be.  And I know that tearing down all of the historic statues, memorials, and markers in the world will not erase our history – it simply prevents future generations from learning the lessons it offers.

The fact of the matter is that our nation is engaged in a prolonged culture war in which the liberals extremists on the east and west coasts of the United States want to dictate the morals, values, and bedrock beliefs of everyone who lives in-between.

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We must not let them win.

The Declaration of Independence says that our rights are endowed by our Creator and that the freedom for independence is entitled by the “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God.”

I believe the Creator referenced in this revered document is the God to whom we, as Christians,  devote our lives and spirits and the same God the founders worshipped when they held regular prayer and church services in the U.S. House of Representatives chamber, a practice that continued until after the Civil War.

If you agree, as the founders did, that God is the basis of our nation, we need only to look at Genesis to see His original plan for marriage – one man represented by Adam, and one woman represented by Eve.

Marriage is an institution created and ordained by God.  It was not created by man, government, or an activist federal judge.

Every society that has allowed the marriage covenant to be destroyed eventually withered away and vanished.  Our society is slipping away, and it is time to take a stand.

We must also hold the line against those who are working to mainstream crossdressers and transvestites by making accommodations that include allowing them to use the public restrooms of their choice.  Even worse, some school systems across the nation are allowing minors who claim to be “transgender” to shower in facilities reserved for the opposite sex.

Gender is not a choice.  It is a fact that is determined by biology and by God, not by how masculine or feminine you feel when you wake up in the morning.  Dressing like a pirate doesn’t make you a pirate, dressing like an astronaut doesn’t make you an astronaut, and dressing like the opposite sex doesn’t make you a man or a woman.

For that same reason, I fully support President Trump’s ban on allowing “transgender” soldiers to serve in the U.S. armed forces.  The purpose of the military is to protect our national interests, repel attacks on our country, and preserve peace through strength.  Accomplishing these missions becomes infinitely more difficult when military leaders must worry about G.I. Joe demanding to be treated like G.I. Jane.

The culture war has  prompted liberals to reach into our nation’s history and demand the removal of any statue, marker, or relic that offends their delicate sensibilities.  Colleges have painted over murals of our founding fathers and other groups are vandalizing statues relating to Christopher Columbus, Robert E. Lee, and the Buffalo Soldiers, an African-American military regiment that fought against Native Americans who resisted the settlement of the Great Plains.

Demanding that men and women born more than two centuries ago must strictly conform to the accepted traditions and social structures of today is patently unfair and intellectually dishonest.

Because radical liberal elements are working to tear down monuments to our past and erase entire sections of our shared American history, I was proud to join my fellow lawmakers in passing the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act, which prevents the removal of any memorial that is at least 40-years-old,.

If conservatives are going to win the culture war, we must elect public officials who are willing to speak the truth, abandon political correctness, and stand toe-to-toe against the liberals who attack us.  I think this column proves I am willing to do all of those things.

The consequences of losing the culture war are too dire to leave the battle to what Thomas Paine called  “summertime soldiers and sunshine patriots.”

If elected your lieutenant governor, I will shoulder the conservative fight and preserve the Alabama values that make our state such a great place to live, work, and raise our children.

State Rep. Will Ainsworth (R – Guntersville) is a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor.  Elected to the Legislature in 2014, Ainsworth currently represents Alabama’s House District 27, which includes portions of Marshall, DeKalb, and Blount counties.

 

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Guest Columnists

Opinion | Senator Rusty Glover: The people’s voice

Rusty Glover

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As a senator, it has been my highest priority to listen to my constituents on a variety of issues which affect their daily lives. These conversations have led me to champion Daylight Saving Time resolutions, to fight every single attempt to raise taxes, to defend the life of the unborn, and to lead the repeal of Common Core standards in education.

Over the past few years, my constituents became a unified chorus when it came to the repeal of Common Core standards in education. Concerns came from frustrated parents and grandparents who did not agree with the confusing methods and procedures in subjects like math and English and worried about their children’s future.

It would have been easier to simply agree with my constituents and move on – but I could not do that. As an educator myself, it became apparent action was needed – and I was determined to take that action and repeal common core.

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I sponsored the bills to end common core in Alabama not once, but twice – senate bill 60in 2016, and senate bill 101 in 2015, and co-sponsored the bill three times prior to that. While backroom deals and compromises killed my attempts to defeat Common Core even before they came to the Senate floor, I continued to fight for the voices of parents and educators.

This is why as Lieutenant Governor, I will not allow backroom politics that shut out the voice of the people who we are sent to represent.

Educators and parents alike agree that the need for high standards remains, but question whether Common Core is the way to solve the problem for our teachers and our students. I do not believe it is.

Tackling issues with the needs of the community at the forefront will allow teachers and parents to work together to meet the needs of children. This is the best way to allow our children to flourish in their future careers.

As Lieutenant Governor I will continue to evaluate the state of education in Alabama – that’s why I believe in having roundtables across the state with every concerned parent, educator, and administrator is fundamental to having better education policy in the Alabama legislature.

Glover is a republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Alabama. As a native of Mobile, Glover has served in the Alabama Legislature for 16 years as a member of Alabama House of Representatives (2002-2006) and Senate (2006-present). Glover is a graduate of B.C. Rain High School, Faulkner State Community College and the University of South Alabama. He retired after 25 years of teaching from Mary G. Montgomery High School in Semmes, where he lives with his wife, Connie. Together they have two daughters, Kellie and Katie; a son-in-law, John McGraw; and a new grandson, Beau Monroe McGraw. He is a member of Wilmer Baptist Church in Wilmer, AL. Visit rustyglover.com to learn more.

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Guest Columnists

Opinion | House passes VA bill, funds Choice Program

Martha Roby

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The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed S. 2372, the VA MISSION Act, taking another critical step towards fulfilling our promise to make the Department of Veterans Affairs work for the men and women who have selflessly served our great nation. I was proud to support the legislation, and I am very pleased that it addresses a number of important pieces of the large VA puzzle.

First and foremost, the VA MISSION Act extends and makes permanent funding for the VA Choice Program that many veterans depend on to receive care. You may have heard that Choice funding was set to expire at the end of May, and this bill prevents that from happening. In both densely populated and rural states alike, it can be very challenging for the VA medical centers to properly care for all veterans in a timely fashion, particularly when specialists are required. The Choice Program is an attempt to bridge this gap by allowing veterans to access private-sector care at VA expense if they have to wait longer than 30 days for a VA appointment or if they live more than 40 miles from a VA health care facility. It has been recorded that 550,000 veterans have used Choice so far this year, and in 2017, 14,790 Alabamians enrolled. Therefore, I am extremely glad that the House has taken action to ensure that this important program is funded.

Secondly, the VA MISSION Act expands the VA’s Post-9/11 Caregiver Program to include veterans of all eras. Currently, only caregivers of veterans from the post-9/11 era are eligible for monthly stipends through the VA, and I believe expanding this program to caregivers of veterans from all eras will help ensure that more veterans receive the help they need.

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Finally, officials at the VA have said that their current physical footprint includes “hundreds of outdated or obsolete facilities,” and many of these facilities are often not in close proximity to large veteran populations. This is a gross waste and misuse of precious resources. Congressman Phil Roe, the Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs and author of the VA MISSION Act, said he believes a process free from bureaucratic politics is needed “to fix the massive and misaligned footprint” of the VA. The bill directs President Trump to establish a team to review the current VA operations across the country and make recommendations about ways we can modernize, improve, and streamline facilities and the services they provide. We can do better than this for our veterans, and I believe we will.

Before the House voted on the bill, 38 veterans groups issued a letter of support for the legislation and called it “a major step towards making improvements to and investments in the VA health care system… so that veterans have access to care when and where they need it.” I agree, and I believe this bill will improve the lives of veterans. Fortunately, I believe the Senate will act quickly on this important piece of legislation, and the President has suggested he will waste no time signing it into law.

You know as well as I do there’s no “quick fix” for the problems plaguing the VA – of course, I wish there was. Nonetheless, I will continue to support commonsense measures like the VA MISSION Act to deliver positive change for veterans. I have heard from countless veterans in Alabama’s Second District about the continued need for VA changes to improve the care they receive. We owe the men and women who have served our country the absolute best care possible, and I won’t stop fighting to achieve this. I hope we will soon see the VA MISSION Act signed into law.

Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband Riley and their two children.

 

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The red hot mess politicians have heaped on our schools

by Larry Lee Read Time: 4 min
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