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Opinion | Why is the state takeover of Montgomery’s schools so shady?

Josh Moon

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There was much hand-wringing inside the Gordon Persons Building in downtown Montgomery on Wednesday, as interim state superintendent Ed Richardson and — for some reason not fully explained — Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange held a press conference to discuss the “dire state” of Montgomery’s public schools.

They might as well have been selling special skillets with non-stick surfaces.

It was that sort of press conference.

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For an hour, they droned on and on about the pitiful state of Montgomery’s schools — a state that both of them have more than a small hand in, I’d like to point out — and how the evildoers at AEA — and when he mentioned AEA, Richardson put on a face most Americans reserve for ISIS — are just holding up real and true progress. The progress that he and Strange could make within Montgomery — by way of charter schools operated by people with no experience operating schools of any kind — if only the mean ol’ AEA would stand aside.

To drive home his point, Richardson mentioned numerous times an accreditation review that is due to happen at Montgomery Public Schools next year. It was supposed to happen this year, the interim superintendent said, but it was delayed.

Why was it delayed?

Richardson never really came right out and said it, but he strongly hinted that the delay came at the request of MPS personnel because they knew the review would be bad. Because, again — and Richardson can’t stress this enough — MPS is in terrible shape because of the board and teachers and principals.

Except that’s not why the review was delayed.

According to several sources with direct knowledge of the accreditation review process, the request to delay the MPS accreditation review was made by Dr. Reginald Eggleston, the man who was brought in by the Alabama State Department of Education to help lead the failed intervention into MPS, and he made it because his intervention team included so many non-certified teachers and administrators that he and others within MPS feared it might cost the district its accreditation.

Oddly, that wasn’t mentioned by Richardson or Strange.

They also didn’t mention that when the accreditation agency initially rejected the request for the delay that then-state superintendent Michael Sentance got involved and was able to get the review pushed back, according to those same sources.

Weird how that fell through the cracks.

But then, it doesn’t fit the narrative that Strange and Richardson are trying desperately to paint: that the downfall of MPS is related only to the failure of the school board and MPS leadership.  

Smart people know better.

I’ve explained until I’m blue in the face the racial, social and economic issues that have combined to cause harm to MPS, and it’s hard to imagine anyone who has spent a day in Montgomery disagreeing. To be fair, there’s also no doubt that part of the mix of problems is mismanagement by the various incarnations of the county board and the people that board has selected to run MPS.

But the current vilification of the board by Richardson and Strange is a straight up scam designed to carve out an easy pathway to smearing lipstick on this pig.

They’re dying to get charter schools in Montgomery.

So they can sell to white business owners the idea of schools operated by other white business owners. So, people will stop fleeing Montgomery in droves, and the city can pay off its massive debt.

But like every other solution to “fix” Montgomery’s schools, this one maintains one of the biggest problems: some kids will be left behind in poor, dysfunctional schools.

But they don’t care. Not really.

The goal is business. Not education.

Because if it were truly education, no education-minded superintendent in the world would stand in front of a camera and promise to cut 200-plus teachers and outsource 400 staffers because the reserve budget isn’t high enough.

But that’s what Richardson did on Wednesday, as he’s done in the past. Hell, MPS has operated with the same reserve shortfall for most of the last 10 years and no one called from ALSDE to even chat about it.

Now it’s worth cutting 200 teachers? Stop it.

Richardson needs his plan to go through, because his plan includes closing four schools — two of which can be used for charters and a third that can be sold to Pike Road, which employed Richardson as a consultant when the idea to buy that school first popped up.

And so, yeah, AEA sued on behalf of the board, because state law doesn’t give Richardson the right to just come in and start selling off school buildings. It also sued so the board could name a new superintendent and hire an attorney.

The reason Richardson is so angry with AEA is because they continue to be right. Each time they file a suit, the courts end up agreeing with them.

Which, along with all of the exaggerations and sky-is-falling scare tactics at Wednesday’s press conference, should probably raise a serious question: if you’re really trying to do the right thing, why are you being so shady?

 

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Josh Moon

Opinion | Alabama remains a safe haven for hate

Josh Moon

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In 1968, shortly after gunning down Martin Luther King Jr. at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, James Earl Ray was running from police, who were, he believed, right on his tail. He was looking for an escape route — a place where people might not be too upset by his crime.

He turned his Mustang towards Alabama.

Ray believed Alabamians would be sympathetic towards him, that then-Gov. George Wallace — whose hateful segregationist rhetoric had inspired Ray in the first place — would protect him, even pardon him, for killing King.

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Alabama was his safe haven.

This has been the perpetual image of Alabama for decades now.

A safe haven for racists.

And with good reason.

From our slavery roots, through Jim Crow, and George Wallace and anti-immigration bills and Roy Moore and Bull Connor and Jeff Sessions and all-white juries and breakaway school districts and separate but equal and the schoolhouse door, we have more than earned this reputation as a state filled with backwoods, good ol’ boys who hate anyone whose darker than khaki on a paint chart or rolls their R’s when speaking.

We’re the Hate Capital.

Over the last few years, as the KKK numbers dipped nationally, they grew in Alabama. Which helped the state place fourth in the number of hate groups — a number that also increased for Alabama as more hate groups moved in.

We’re like Boca for hate groups, apparently.

We draw in the hateful and ignorant. And we do it by refusing to change, refusing to correct the sins of the past, and instead we elect leaders who cater to those sins. Who tell us that it’s OK to cling tightly to ignorant ideals if label them “history.”

People like Kay Ivey.

A popular interim governor, Ivey has enjoyed widespread support thanks to her political strategy of staying out of sight. That might seem like a simple strategy, because it is, but the last guy couldn’t do it.

Instead of using that political capital to steer this sinking ship of a state towards a brighter, more inclusive future, Ivey, who once bragged that “no step is too high for a high stepper,” did what Alabama politicians seem to always do: take the easiest and lowest road.

On Tuesday, Ivey’s campaign released an ad with her essentially praising confederate memorials and blaming “out-of-state liberals” for attempting to get us to take some down. Ivey refers to the monuments as “history” and says it’s important that we understand it.

This explains quite a bit about the failings of Alabama’s school kids during testing. Instead of books, our students are traveling monument to monument to learn history. (I can’t wait until they get to the monuments for kamikaze pilots in Hawaii or the hijackers in New York.)

Apparently nuance is the step too high for the high stepper.

Because no one has advocated tearing down historical markers at sites where significant events occurred or even tearing down memorials for the men who died fighting for the South during the Civil War.

But there’s a difference between historical markers — this is where the nuance comes in — and grand statues honoring traitors, like the one outside of the capitol building depicting Jefferson Davis, who proclaimed after the war was over that he’d gladly do it all again. Or the one in Selma honoring Nathan Bedford Forrest, a man so vile that he was a business outcast after the war for his part in a massacre of surrendered, black Union soldiers and who was a founding member of the KKK.

Leaving up signs that mark where slaves were bought and sold or where battles were fought or where soldiers were treated — that’s history. Those are the sort of sites and monuments that teach future generations, that make our history more understandable.

The idolizing of vile men, and the whitewashing of their awful deeds, through these monuments serves only one purpose: to push the idiotic notion that the Civil War was about anything other than slavery, that there was some noble goal for which the South fought, that we were right and the North was wrong and we don’t have to be ashamed of what we did and what we’ve continued to do.

So, people like Ivey pander to those who want to believe such garbage, because it is politically expedient. And those people believe because it’s “history” and their lawmakers and leaders say it’s OK.

And Alabama continues to be a safe haven for hate.

 

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Josh Moon

Opinion | How has Trump deceived you? Let’s count the ways

Josh Moon

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Over the weekend, the same Facebook post kept popping up on my feed.

It was, essentially, a long whine about how poorly Donald Trump has been treated by pretty much everyone since becoming president. And at the end, before sharing it to show support for dear leader, each person signed his or her name and listed their hometowns.

I was not shocked to find that most of the names were from Alabama.

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Trump is essentially a poor man’s George Wallace — all of the hate, shadiness and ego, none of the craftiness and intelligence — so of course he plays well among this crowd. He hates non-white people, thinks we should hear the white nationalists’ side of things and made a public display of praying with the Alabama football team. We’re already looking for a stretch of interstate to name after the dope.

But if you’re looking for real world reasons to support the guy, well, that’s where the good people of Alabama lose me.

Trump doesn’t just lie all the time, he’s lied to you, Alabama voter, repeatedly. And not small lies. Big lies.

And YUGE failures.   

  • “I’m gonna say, ‘Mexico, this is not going to continue, you’re going to pay for that wall,’ and they will pay for the wall.”

— Donald Trump, Aug. 5, 2015

Guess what? Not only has just 20 miles of border wall been approved so far, you won’t believe who’s paying for it. Here’s a hint: It’s not Mexico, and it looks a lot like the person you see in the mirror.

  • “We will repeal and replace disastrous Obamacare. You will be able to choose your own doctor again.”

— Donald Trump, July 22, 2016

You’ll be shocked to discover that Obamacare was not repealed. Also, there was no Trump health care plan that covered everyone for much less, as he also promised. The plan he did introduce — so awful that even Congressional Republicans didn’t have the heart to pass it — cost ten times as much and covered 20 million fewer people.

  • “We will bring back coal and get clean coal” to “put you (coal workers) back to work.”

— Donald Trump, July 28, 2016

Nope. Since Trump took office, coal jobs have continued to decline. You know, it’s almost as if it’s an outdated energy resource that’s being replaced by less costly, more efficient resources. Because that’s exactly what’s happening. Which is why the last president — you remember, the black guy you thought was the antichrist — tried to give you job training in those new technologies. Instead, you trusted the billionaire who literally thought “clean coal” meant scrubbing the black off. Good call.

  • “When I see the crumbling roads and bridges, or the dilapidated airports or the factories moving overseas to Mexico, or to other countries for that matter, I know these problems can all be fixed, but not by Hillary Clinton. Only by me.”

— Donald Trump, June 22, 2016

We’re well over a year into this presidency now and Trump has just dumped out his “plan” for infrastructure — an utterly impossible dream that would be unworkable even if he hadn’t ballooned the annual deficit with his stupid tax cuts for the wealthy.

  • On day one of a Trump administration, the U.S. Treasury Department will designate China a currency manipulator.

— Donald Trump, Nov. 9, 2015 (Wall Street Journal)

China … still not labeled a currency manipulator on Day 475.

  • “We are getting rid of the carried interest loophole.”

— Donald Trump, Aug. 11, 2016

Narrator voice: He did not get rid of the carried interest loophole.

  • “I’m so much more into the middle class who have just been absolutely forgotten in our country. Everybody’s getting a tax cut, especially the middle class.”

— Donald Trump, May, 2016

Funny story: the tax plan will actually benefit the middle class the least, with the top 1 percent receiving 84 percent of the cuts by 2024 and 53 percent of Americans actually paying more.

And it doesn’t stop there.

Trump has been engulfed in scandal since his first day, when he started a stupid fight over his inauguration crowd size, and has slowly eroded any decency associated with the office of U.S. president. He’s been caught paying off a porn star, has been accused by multiple women of sexual assault, has spent more on golf vacations in one year than Obama did in three, has run through more White House staff than most presidents do in two terms and he’s employed some of the swampiest of swampy DC insiders.

And none of that even touches on the ongoing Mueller investigation, which has already led to four Trump associates being indicted and the raid of Trump’s lawyer’s office.

It’s an embarrassment that will cheapen the office of president for years to come. But these folks in Alabama — the same ones who wanted to impeach Obama because of this thing that happened in Benghazi that he was probably responsible for, because he was a secret Muslim terrorist sent by George Soros — are signing public declarations of support.

But then, I can only give you the facts. I can’t comprehend them for you.

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Josh Moon

Opinion | The Alabamization of America is complete

Josh Moon

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It seems as if the Alabamization of our federal government is now complete.

The final block fell into place on Monday, when the law office of the president’s personal attorney was raided by FBI agents looking for evidence of, among other things, the lawyer’s payoff of a porn star.

That does it.

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Now America knows what it feels like to live in Alabama. To live under the most absurdly corrupt and defiantly stupid government imaginable.

For decades, the rest of America made huge to-dos over politicians wearing tan suits, talking funny, lying about affairs and being modestly corrupt. And all the while, the fine people of Alabama couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was about.

We don’t even count that stuff as scandalous anymore.

But what we never knew — because, let’s be honest, knowing stuff ain’t exactly our forte ‘round here — is that other places were cultivating dumb people too. Because that’s what it takes to get a government as continuously corrupt as Alabama’s — a whole bunch of ignorant voters.

Now, before someone gets all fired up and starts scratching out a letter of complaint to me, I’m not pretending that all people who vote or believe differently than I do are dumb or ignorant.

But there’s a difference between having, say, a difference of opinion on the theory of “trickle-down economics” and believing that the reality TV star-turned-president will force Mexico to pay for a big, beautiful, YUGE border wall.

To believe the former requires only a basic misunderstanding of economic principles and the investing habits in today’s market. To believe the latter requires outright stupidity.

As it turns, we now know, there are enough of those stupid people, along with a frothy mix of Never Clintons, the politically disenchanted and Russian bots, to sway an American presidential election.

Believe me, I was as surprised as anyone.

Hunter S. Thompson once wrote of Richard Nixon — on the occasion of Nixon’s death, no less — that Nixon was scum, and that the country had never encountered a crook like him.

If only Thompson had lived to see the era of Trump.

From his phony college to his taped confession of sexual assault to his porn star payoff to his Russian sellout to his moronic and corrupt children holding down jobs that real statesmen have been honored to hold to his complete and utter bumbling stupidity at every turn, this will be the worst president any of us will ever know.

He is George Wallace without the cunning.

But unlike Wallace, Trump had the good fortune to launch a campaign at the low point of American intelligence — at a time when a game called “Farmville” could be the undoing of the Republic.

And so, America has been treated as if it were one big Alabama, with incompetent buffoons running wild. Like Scott Pruitt, the corporate polluters’ choice for EPA director, who is, right now, probably taking a security escorted ride through Times Square to buy Hamilton tickets on the EPA credit card.

Or Jeff Sessions, the Alabamiest of the Alabama-like Trump appointments, who has managed to blame every problem on too many civil rights, and the rest of it he can’t recall.

Or Ben Carson, the head of HUD who has single-handedly made everyone question the long-accepted belief that brain surgeons are smart people, and who thought it was cool to buy a $31,000 dinette set for his HUD office.

And these are the people who have managed to hold onto their jobs. At least 35 other senior officials — more than left the Obama or Bush White Houses in eight years — have already fled the Trump administration in the first year.

And there’s also this distinctly Alabama trait: We’re worse off.

The economy is worse. Jobs numbers are worse than at any point in Obama’s final two years. The stock market has faltered, reacting to the whims of a crazy person running the country. And the federal government is set to borrow 84 percent more than it did under Obama in 2016.

But here’s the real sign that the Alabamization is complete: the people who voted for this clown show don’t care.

As long as Trump and his cronies keep hating the same non-white people that they do, keep talking like them by using cuss words and making fun of the way people look, and keep waving Bibles around, they’ll be just fine.

Even as the tariffs rip family farms out from under the farmers who lined up to vote for this conman. Even as the coal miners continue to be — surprising no one — unemployed. Even as the promised health care that was going to cover everyone better and for cheaper still doesn’t exist. And even as the noose of Robert Mueller’s investigation tightens around the grifter’s neck.

They still believe.  

Welcome to Alabama.

 

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Opinion | Why is the state takeover of Montgomery’s schools so shady?

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