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Opinion | Four reasons why parents want the Alabama State Board of Education to remain elected

Deborah Love

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By Deborah Love

Two similar proposed bills, SB24 and SB25, make the State Board of Education (SBOE) appointed by a Director of Education. There will no longer be a Superintendent of Education but a Director of Education selected by the Governor. These bills are making their way through the Alabama Senate now. Their primary objective is to remove your constitutional right to elect your State Board of Education member and to dissolve the entire SBOE. These are four reasons why parents will oppose SB24 and SB25.

1) Without an elected board parents will be eliminated from the education policy-making process for their children

If the Alabama Legislature passes SB24 or SB25 the state Board of Education will no longer be elected by the people of Alabama from eight different districts across the state. These bills will dissolve the currently elected board and replace it with a Board of Counsel. Every member of the Board of Counsel will be selected by one individual in state government with full appointment powers – the Director of Education, who would be appointed by the governor.

Appointed boards are by their very nature not accountable to the people but to the individual responsible for placing them in a position of power. The people of Alabama will have no way to remove these new board members from office and the board member will have no incentive to listen to the parents’ concerns about their children or issues facing their district. Parents will have no structural role in the composition of the board. The new members will also serve a very narrow interest. Most American forms of government rely on having a broad cross section of inputs with democratically elected representatives, separation of powers, and top to bottom federalism. This leads to a wide variety of interests being represented. Having the school board be appointed by the state superintendent ensures that only those in the existing power structure are represented.

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So, whether you want to address the library resources in your child’s local school, improve treatment of special needs students or repeal common core from Alabama schools don’t expect the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) to listen or respond because without an elected SBOE you have no one representing you.

2) State Board of Education meetings and public testimonies will become puppet shows

If SB24 or SB25 is passed the Board of Counsel will meet only once a year. That change alone will ensure that parents are not involved in the process. I have attended local school board meetings in Alabama where the school board was appointed instead of elected. The public was not allowed the opportunity to speak and they were not provided with the public documents the board was discussing. Parents who attend local school board meetings and SBOE meetings know that publicly sharing a statement is powerful. Some parents at local school board meetings in Alabama with appointed boards have been silenced. Some have even been illegally removed or intimidated at the public meetings. SBOE members listen to the testimony provided because it is usually meaningful, and because the people providing it have a direct impact on their continued existence on the board. Public hearings and public testimony are one of the most important ways that parents can voice their concerns and suggestions.

The impact of SB24 and SB25 will be that testimony from parents and concerned citizens, when allowed once a year, will be for show and not part of a balanced board-parent relationship. The board will answer to the Director of Education who will answer to the Governor who hand selected the Director.

3) Corruption will increase in state education policy and politics

The last thing the state legislature should be doing in Alabama is centralizing power. Have we not learned from Hubbard, Bentley, or other recent cases of corruption? Yet, SB24 and SB25 will centralize power and remove a constitutional right of the people of Alabama to elect a representative board of education. Alabama politics has seen increased corruption over the last several years. Parents and concerned taxpayers want to see steps taken to reduce corruption in our system. These new bills reflect the typical Alabama political response, when the going gets tough, reduce transparency and accountability. Whether you admire or oppose the actions of your current State Board of Education Member you now have a voice in the elective process. If SB24 or SB25 passes that will no longer be the case. You will have absolutely no control over who is selected for the Board of Counsel or the Director of Education. One of the great checks and balances of the education system of Alabama will be eliminated.

4) The Role of the State Board of Education is to be a deliberative body and not a rubber stamp for power

Currently the State Board of Education acts as a deliberative body working to address and discuss publicly all aspects of the ALSDE under their Constitutional authority. The State Board of Education has a diverse group of members selected by the people of Alabama in each district. There is on a regular basis discussions and disagreements on what the top priorities in education policy and the ALSDE should be. This is a good thing. Why? Because with discussion and dialog on difficult topics the best solutions are reached. A handpicked Director of Education and Board of Counsel will not address difficult topics with honesty like our parents and students need in Alabama. They will also not address local concerns. Diversity in the school board will be effectively eliminated. Our right to an elected board is precious and we should not throw it away. If we do we can be sure that the SBOE will become a rubber stamp for the status quo, reducing parents and students permanently to forgotten stakeholders in their own child’s education.

 

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Opinion | Hitting the road

Bradley Byrne

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Each August, the House of Representatives typically enters a period of recess known as the August District Work Period. This is time set aside for Members of Congress to travel across their home districts visiting with the people they represent.

For me, this is incredibly valuable time that I can spend listening to my constituents and gaining a better understanding of the issues impacting our area. Here is just a quick highlight of my August District Work Period so far.

As you probably already know, I love to hold town hall meetings throughout the First District to hear directly from the people I represent. This August, I am holding a “Better Off Now” Town Hall Tour with twelve stops in all six counties that make up the First District. So far, we have held town hall meetings in Salipta, Atmore, Brewton, Dauphin Island, Millry, Citronelle, and Mobile. Later this month, we will make stops in Grand Bay, Monroeville, Seminole, Loxley, and Spanish Fort. You can get all the details about the town halls online at Byrne.House.Gov/BetterOffTour.

Visiting local businesses and talking with employees is another priority for me in August. For example, I have already visited Olin in McIntosh, the Louisiana Pacific facility in Clarke County, Serda Brewing in Mobile, and Metal Shark Boats and Master Marine in Bayou La Batre, just to name a few. The visits help me learn firsthand how federal issues are directly impacting employers and employees in Southwest Alabama.

A really special opportunity was being able to ride along with UPS to help deliver packages on the Eastern Shore. I dressed up in the full UPS uniform, rode in the truck, and personally delivered packages. It really helped to step in the driver’s shoes and see the difficult work they do every day. I am especially grateful to Chris Dorgan for showing me the ropes.

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Just last week, I hosted Chris Oliver, NOAA Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, down on Dauphin Island for a Red Snapper research trip. As one of the leading federal officials responsible for our fisheries, I welcomed the opportunity to show off the health of the Red Snapper stock in the Gulf, as well as the very impressive research being done locally by the University of South Alabama and the Dauphin Island Sea Lab.

Also last week, I traveled to the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System in Biloxi to meet with the director and get an update on services for our veterans. As you may know, the Biloxi VA oversees most of our local VA facilities. It was a productive visit as I work to hold the VA accountable and ensure our veterans receive the care they deserve.

We had the annual Women’s Forum in downtown Mobile, which is organized by the Community Foundation of South Alabama. We had another outstanding crowd as local women had the opportunity to network and hear from speakers and panelists about issues important to them.

I find great value in holding roundtable discussions to hear directly from leaders about specific issues. With this in mind, we held separate roundtables with local school superintendents, economic developers from our area, and community leaders from Chatom. Each of these roundtables were very informative, and we have more scheduled later this month.

As you can probably tell, this August District Work Period has already been a huge success. The good news is that we are just getting started! I look forward to spending more time around Southwest Alabama throughout August to help me be the best Congressman possible.

 

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Opinion | A thank you note to Alabama’s teachers


Cam Ward

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My oldest daughter just turned sixteen. She’s driving, and as a dad, it’s a thrilling, but scary moment in life — this week, she started the tenth grade, and the reality is that during the school year, she spends nearly as much time at school as she does around her mom and me. For young people like my daughter, those hours at school are shaped primarily by their fellow students and their teachers.

If everything turns out right, a young person will enter Alabama’s schools around the age of five or six, and by the time they graduate at seventeen or eighteen, they will have a solid grasp of the fundamentals of mathematics, history, American and English literature, biology, and chemistry, among other subjects. We entrust teachers with the awesome responsibility of educating our young people about the basic structure of the universe – to understand and reason through, for instance, the process of photosynthesis – so that they can think analytically when confronted with any type of problem. That’s an incredible responsibility; and to teach such important knowledge to students who, well, haven’t yet achieved full impulse control, is no small task.

We trust our teachers to impart knowledge and facts, but we also expect our teachers to model virtuous behavior before our young people, because knowledge isn’t the same thing as wisdom, and we want our kids to become responsible adults. The best teachers can not only clearly communicate lessons on the history of the Civil Rights movement, but can also talk about, and model in person, the virtues of courage and perseverance that animated heroes like Rosa Parks.

Facts are stubborn things, as the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once said, and what she meant by that is that the world is governed by certain unalterable truths, including, for instance, the truth that a free market economy lifts more people out of poverty than socialism does. Teachers turn this knowledge into wisdom by showing students the link between effort and reward: the harder you work, the better grades you will get, and the harder you work once you graduate, the more opportunities you will have in the workplace.

Great teachers impart knowledge and model wisdom, and often they do so at a great cost to themselves: growing up, the best teachers I had were the ones who were willing to stay a few minutes after class to answer my fifteenth question how to solve a quadratic equation. Many teachers often sacrifice time and effort beyond what’s required — the clock often begins before eight, rarely stops at five, and every hour in-between is dedicated to their craft.

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As a state senator, I am committed to ensuring that our schools are well-funded and that our teachers are competitively paid. Nothing is more important to the future of Alabama than supporting education policies that work — and as in business or sports, personnel is policy. I am grateful to the great teachers we have, and I promise to always have your back in Montgomery. Thanks for all that you do — the impact that you will have this school year on my daughter and thousands of other students is life-changing.

Cam Ward represents District 14 in the Alabama State Senate, which includes all or parts of Shelby, Bibb, Chilton, Hale, and Jefferson counties. He serves as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Follow him on Twitter: @SenCamWard

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Opinion | Summer interns served AL-02 with distinction

Martha Roby

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It’s hard to believe that summer is winding down and most students are already back in school. As the mother of two school-aged children, I know firsthand how precious the summer months are and how quickly they always fly by. The Roby family is geared up and ready to take on another school year, and if you have children in school, I wish your family a happy and healthy school year, too.

As a member of Congress, each summer I have the privilege of offering internship opportunities to college students from our district. Students have the choice to intern in my Washington, Montgomery, Dothan, or Andalusia office. Typically, we offer four-week internship opportunities during the months of May, June, July, and August, but we do our very best to accommodate students’ and universities’ varying schedules.

This internship program is a competitive experience designed for those students who are interested in learning more about our nation’s legislative process, constituent services, and the general day-to-day operations of a congressional office. Interns’ tasks vary, but they include conducting tours of the United States Capitol building, drafting and presenting a policy proposal on a legislative topic of their choosing, assisting constituents with their various needs and requests, attending committee hearings, and more.

This summer, I was fortunate to have quite a few outstanding students serve as interns in my offices, and I’d like to take this opportunity to share with you more about these young men and women and their hard work on behalf of the people of Alabama’s Second District.

In my Washington, D.C., office, over the summer we enjoyed having several impressive students join our team for a few weeks:

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Agnes Armstrong is a graduate of the Montgomery Catholic Preparatory School. She is a junior at Auburn University where she studies Accounting and Nonprofit Studies.

Ford Cleveland is a graduate of the Montgomery Academy. He is a sophomore at the University of Virginia where he studies Chemistry.

Noah McNelley is a graduate of Trinity Presbyterian School. He is a junior at Auburn University where he studies Political Science, Business, and French.

Meredith Moore is a graduate of Trinity Presbyterian School. She is a junior at the University of Alabama where she studies Marketing and English.

Hayden Pruett is a graduate of the Loveless Academic Magnet Program (LAMP). She is a sophomore at the University of Alabama where she studies Political Science and Social Welfare.

Brandon Redman is a graduate of Prattville Christian Academy. He is a senior at Faulkner University where he studies Political Science.

William Chandler is a graduate of the Montgomery Academy. He is a junior at Sewanee where he is pursuing double majors in Politics and English.

Bates Herrick is a graduate of the Montgomery Academy. He is a senior at Sewanee where he studies Economics with double minors in Political Science and Business.

Hunter McEntire is a graduate of Houston Academy in Dothan. He attended Birmingham Southern College where he earned a degree in history with a minor in Political Science.

I was also glad to host some bright young men and women in my district offices over the summer:

Allyssa Morgan, a native of Opp, worked in my Andalusia district office. She received an Associate’s degree from Lurleen B. Wallace Community College and is now attending Troy University.

Kimberlee Perry served as an intern in my Dothan district office. She graduated from New Brockton High School earlier this year, and she now attends George Wallace Community College.

Tyrese Lane, Savannah Williamson, and Spencer Andreades all held internships in my Montgomery district office. Tyrese, a Prattville native, is a graduate of Marbury High School and is currently a student at Marion Military Institute. Savannah, from Troy, is a graduate of Pike Liberal Arts and currently attends Auburn University. Spencer is a graduate of the Montgomery Academy and now attends the University of Alabama.

These students worked very hard for our district, and I really appreciate their dedication and eagerness to serve their communities. I’m confident they will be successful in whatever paths they pursue.

You can find out more about my internship program and the application process on my website: roby.house.gov/student-resources/internships. If you know a college-aged student who might be interested in being part of the legislative process for the summer, I hope you will pass this information along to them. I truly believe a congressional internship is a valuable way to gain firsthand exposure to the innerworkings of our nation’s government.

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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Opinion | Marion Mayor uses tools to prep residents for AlabamaWorks Success Plus Initiative

Dexter Hinton

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When I was elected in late 2016 as Mayor of Marion, I knew there were certain areas in which our town needed to improve. One was education and work preparedness for those who did not want to attend a four-year college. We had gaps that needed to be filled.

As an Industrial Maintenance and Robotics Instructor at the Career Center in Greene County, I know what resources are available to assist those seeking a job or a skills education. When people come to the center, our team has a plethora of tests, assessments, job listings, resume-building sessions and other items at our disposal to help folks get the right position or training that matches their needs or abilities.

As Mayor, I realized we needed to get educational tools to Marion residents, especially after Moller Tech announced that it would be locating in Bibb County, adjacent to Perry County, and bringing 222 jobs with it. But with a small town like Marion (population 3,432) not having a dedicated resource center, we didn’t quite know how to unite the two. Then one day, I attended a Central AlabamaWorks meeting and saw AIDT’s mobile unit, which is the Department of Commerce’s skills education center on wheels.

I spoke with Mikki Ruttan, director of Central AlabamaWorks, after the meeting and asked her about the possibility of getting the unit to our area. I learned it could be customized for the needs of its audience. After numerous discussions with other local leaders, we selected basic resume building and a Ready-to-Work course as the initial offerings. I knew the mobile unit would be key in obtaining career readiness for the citizens of Marion. I also felt that our citizens would welcome the chance to improve their skills and knowledge base.

After dozens of conversations, we got the mobile unit scheduled this past April. We posted and delivered flyers all over the city, announcing when and where the unit would be located, and we created a Facebook page. We had no idea what kind of response we would have for this type of educational opportunity. But, our citizens realized how such training could give them a leg up in the job market. As a result, they turned out in droves to learn more and better position themselves for entry into the job market, or to simply upgrade their skill set.

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With Gov. Kay Ivey’s Success Plus initiative rollout a few months ago, I knew we had to get our citizens more training to help them, and our state, reach the goal of 500,000 people with post-high-school credentials by 2025. The mobile training unit seemed like the perfect way to deliver those opportunities to our residents.

After some discussion, we were able to get the unit at The Lincoln School. We focused the training on Ready-to-Work. The classes filled immediately, and a waiting list soon formed. Our people were eager to gain knowledge to improve their lives and that of their families. Once they completed the course, they received credentials as an Alabama Certified Worker; a Career Readiness certificate; a free three-credit-hour course at Wallace Community College Selma (if they had a high school diploma); three credits toward a high school diploma (if they didn’t have one); and a referral to the Selma Career Center for free certificates or degree information from WCC in welding, industrial maintenance, electrical technology or nursing.

The unit has been so popular with our citizens that two classrooms are now being refurbished at The Lincoln School specifically for AIDT courses. This means we will have a permanent place for our people to get not only Ready-to-Work training, but also training in other much-needed professions offered by Wallace, such as cosmetology, carpentry, welding, automotive technician and others.

The excitement continues to build for our city. In fact, AIDT has already completed one Ready-to-Work training with several graduates who have received employment.

With the extra effort by Central AlabamaWorks, AIDT, the Career Centers and the Alabama Community College System – combined with the excitement and work ethic of our citizens – I know Marionites can and will be a valued part of the Success Plus endeavor. I look forward to seeing what our citizens can achieve for themselves, their families and our community.

Mr. Dexter Hinton is Mayor of Marion, Alabama

 

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Opinion | Four reasons why parents want the Alabama State Board of Education to remain elected

by Deborah Love Read Time: 5 min
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