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Opinion | A standing ovation for teachers

Bradley Byrne

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Teachers hardly get the credit they deserve for the challenging jobs they do every day. Not only do they educate our children, but teachers also provide guidance, support, and serve as positive role models for the next generation. Their efforts and sacrifices should not go unnoticed.

I have dedicated a good part of my life to improving education in our community. From my time on the Alabama State School Board to serving as chancellor of Alabama’s two-year college system, I have spent a fair amount of time in classrooms throughout Alabama.  As a Congressman, I serve on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, which has jurisdiction over K-12 education.

In each of these roles, I have interacted with the many teachers, support staff, and administrators who keep our schools running. The dedication of these men and women on a daily basis is impressive, though they rarely get the attention they deserve. Without fail, I always leave these visits with a greater appreciation for the work our teachers do and the challenges they face each day.

Just last week, we celebrated Teacher Appreciation Week, a time when we take extra steps to show our support for the educators who make a living prioritizing our children’s futures. Whether it is simply saying an extra “thank you” or treating a teacher to a special gift, this week is all about displaying our appreciation for the work they do year-round.

Ultimately, teachers educate our students so they may have bright and successful futures. In fact, it is often teachers who make the biggest impression on our young students. Be it teachers in the classroom, coaches on the school sports team, or faculty keeping activities running smoothly, these leaders play a significant role in our students’ lives.

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Very few professions can totally alter the course of someone’s life like a teacher can.  Personally, this week gives me time to reflect on the meaningful figures I have had throughout my life.  I always think of Ms. Kay Ladd, my first grade teacher who taught me how to read.  As such an integral part of my childhood, she will be forever in my thoughts as one of the most remarkable women I know.

Another important figure that stands out to me is Colonel Tim Reddy, who taught my four children at Fairhope High School. Tim Reddy was an Army Colonel who taught math and coached the soccer and swim teams.  Sadly, Col. Reddy passed away after a battle with cancer. As we look to the future of education, we need to elevate people like Col. Reddy and Kay Ladd who made such a positive impact both in and out of the classroom.

The work I do in Washington is just one of the ways I show my appreciation for our educators. As a member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, one of my top priorities is rolling back the red tape and paperwork that burden our teachers. I am always looking for ways to return control of education to the local level, where it belongs.

When Washington plays the middle man, it prevents teachers from doing their jobs and negatively impacts the overall education system. Our local teachers and administrators best know the needs of their own students, and there is no room for the federal government to interfere with day-to-day operations.

I will always appreciate the unique, pivotal role that teachers play in our education system. It is because of their commitment, guidance, and sacrifice that our children can pave the way to a better future.

 

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Education

Opinion | What the new Carnegie classifications mean for Alabama universities

Allen Mendenhall

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The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Chip Brownlee/APR)

The new Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education is out. Once operated by the Carnegie Foundation, the so-called “Carnegie classifications” are now run by the School of Education at Indiana University.

The classifications are by university type or category: doctoral universities, master’s colleges and universities, baccalaureate colleges, baccalaureate / associate colleges, associate’s colleges, special focus institutions, and tribal universities. When you hear people refer to the coveted R-1 status, they’re referring to a sub-classification within the “doctoral universities” category, which until this year trifurcated into “highest research activity” (R-1), “higher research activity” (R-2), and “moderate research activity” (R-3).

Under this taxonomy, Auburn, Alabama, UAB, and UAH were classified as “Doctoral Universities,” whereas Troy, Samford, Faulkner, Montevallo, and Alabama State were classified as “Master’s Colleges & Universities.” Huntingdon, Stillman, Tuskegee, and Talladega were designated “Baccalaureate Colleges.”

The many universities in Alabama fall into different classifications.  I have mentioned only a few universities not to suggest favor or quality, but to illustrate the spectrum of classification possibilities.

Not long ago, I wrote that “Carnegie should drop the phrases ‘highest research activity,’ higher research activity,’ and ‘moderate research activity’ that accompany the R-1, R-2, and R-3 label because they are misleading: the Carnegie rankings do not measure research activity but research expenditure.” Carnegie has corrected this flaw to some extent, relabeling its R-1 and R-2 categories as “Very high research activity” and “High research activity,” respectively—thereby eliminating the “er” and “est” suffixes (in “higher” and “highest”) that indicated the comparative and superlative degree (i.e., that made certain universities sound better than others).

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So where do Alabama universities fall in the new 2018 classifications?  

Auburn, Alabama, and UAB are the only Alabama universities in the R-1 category. UAH is an R-2. Troy, Faulkner, Montevallo, and Alabama State remain “Master’s Colleges & Universities.” Tuskegee entered that category. Samford is now classified under the heading “Doctoral / Professional Universities” that did not exist in earlier classifications. This category accounts for professional-practice degrees like juris doctorates or medical degrees.

Huntington, Stillman, and Talladega remain “Baccalaureate Colleges.”

If you’re curious about the classification of your alma mater or favorite Alabama university, you can search the listings here.

It would be a mistake to treat these classifications as a hierarchal ranking of quality.  They are, rather, descriptive differentiations that inform the public about the size and spending of universities. The only category in which universities receive something like a vertical ranking is “Doctoral Universities,” which tier universities according to their alleged “research activity.”

Eric Kelderman points out that “critics wonder whether going for more research money and a higher Carnegie classification really has more to do with elevating institutional image, and comes at the expense of academic quality—particularly for undergraduates.” This is a profound concern.

The Carnegie classifications could incentivize malinvestment in doctoral degrees and number of faculty members. The job market for humanities faculty is shrinking while the number of humanities doctorates is rising, but to achieve their desired Carnegie classifications, universities continue to churn out humanities Ph.Ds. who have diminishing chances of landing tenure-track positions.

The Carnegie classifications don’t measure research quality, either. One university could spend millions on research with negligible outcomes while another could spend little on research yet yield high-quality, groundbreaking scholarship.

The Carnegie classifications are not perfect, but they command attention among administrators in higher education and can involve public funds. For that reason alone, anyone who has a stake or interest in a university in Alabama should pay attention too.

Allen Mendenhall is associate dean at Faulkner University Thomas Goode Jones School of Law and executive director of the Blackstone & Burke Center for Law & Liberty. Visit his website at AllenMendenhall.com.

 

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Opinion | A week of good news

Bradley Byrne

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There was much to celebrate this past week in Washington.

That sentence may surprise you if you just go off what you hear from the national news media, but the reality is we continue to get work done here in the People’s House.

To be clear, there is still work to be done, and that starts with passing funding necessary to secure the border and protect the American people. That said, I think it is worth pausing for a moment and reviewing the wins from this past week.

One of the biggest wins last week was passage of the 2018 Farm Bill.

As I have said before, our farmers and foresters are our future. I am pleased to have voted for this bipartisan legislation to better support our farmers in Alabama and throughout the country.

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The 2018 Farm Bill will allow for improved crop protections and loan options for farmers, incentivize rural development, support animal disease prevention and management, and will continue our nation’s commitment to agriculture and farmers.

I am especially pleased to see the substantial resources provided to improve rural broadband access to communities. Providing Internet access to people in rural Alabama is absolutely critical to economic development and the success of these communities in the 21st Century.

A few of the other provisions in the bill will greatly benefit the cotton and peanut growers here in Alabama; help maintain access to crop insurance through reduced premiums and waived fees; boost critical funding for feral swine control; and restore funding for trade promotion efforts in an attempt to keep pace with trading competitors around the world.

Most importantly, the 2018 Farm Bill will help equip and train the next generation of farmers both here in Alabama and throughout the United States. I was proud to support this bill, and I look forward to President Trump signing it into law.

Another piece of good news we received this week was the passage of a bill to help drain the Washington swamp.

The American people are sick of Congress being able to play under different rules than the rest of the country, and that must change.

That is why I am proud to be one of the leaders on the effort to reform the way sexual harassment claims are handled on Capitol Hill to increase transparency and accountability.

No longer will members of Congress be able to use taxpayer dollars to pay settlements for their own misconduct when it comes to sexual harassment. No longer will members of Congress be able to cover up their personal wrongdoings at the expense of the American people.

It was important for Congress to make this statement. With this legislation, we did the right thing. By doing the right thing, we not only do right by the people who work around us and for us, but we do right by the American people.

This has been a tough fight, but with these reforms we will make the Washington swamp a little less swampy and shine light on what is happening in the halls of Congress.

With this week of good news, it is also important to remember that the best news of all will be celebrated next week: a small baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger.

This good news is the birth of our Savior, bringing God’s light directly into the world through His son.

It is easy to lose sight of the meaning of Christmas with all the bustle of daily life and routine. But this week, I challenge you to stop and remember what this season is about in preparation for the good news yet to come.

 

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Opinion | What the next mayor needs

Artur Davis

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The coming mayoral race in Montgomery matters whether you live in city limits, or whether it is simply important to you or your business that Alabama’s capital thrives.  The conversation on the ground is that the outcome could be the next historic milestone for the city that launched civil rights.

Former U.S. Magistrate Judge Vanzetta McPherson caused a stir with a recent Montgomery Advertiser column that argues “it is time for the occupant of the mayor’s office to reflect the predominant (African American) citizenry.” She further suggests that there is a burden on black voters and leaders to “filter black candidates early”, so that the ranks be purged of those who by some test fail, in her words, to “serve the best interests of the African American community.”

I know the Judge’s sentiments are well intentioned but as one of the seven or eight folks who will be running for Mayor, as the only contender who has officially registered a campaign committee, I view this election through a different lens. Montgomery has challenges at every turn. The test is not the mayor’s color or gender but whether the city’s next leader is visionary and substantial enough to unlock those opportunities disguised as challenges.

Mayor is not an entry level job, as the Judge correctly observed. The mayor-to-be will have to learn and master the details of making urban policy work for ordinary people. The job demands persistence and a clear eye about the questions that threaten Montgomery’s future.

Can our schools be rescued? For a while now, the leadership of our school system has resembled its population demographically: that by itself has meant nothing to the children in our eleven failing schools, or the 37% of children who graduate high school without core reading and math skills.

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The next mayor must join forces with the new school board to extricate the schools from the state takeover, a mismanaged event that creates the kind of uncertain chain of command that makes it impossible to attract a national caliber superintendent.

The next mayor will have to sell the neighborhoods whose children are in magnets or private schools on the imperative of financing traditional schools adequately. He or she will also need to overcome forces who resist innovative reforms or stricter accountability.

Can we make a real dent in Montgomery’s poverty problem? West and North Montgomery are statistically identical to the chronically poor Black Belt. The southern boulevard is one long patch of neglect and collapsed businesses. Too many of our working people are still poor and trapped in dead end jobs. For decades, the struggling parts of our city have had representation that “looks like them”. That fact has not yet stopped the decline.

Can we roll back crime and the root causes of crime? An overwhelming majority of criminal defendants are drop-outs. Our city has yet to fashion a comprehensive plan to identify and engage students who have encounters with the law or are chronic disciplinary problems. At the same time, if a city as complex as New York can reduce its rates of gun violence and murder, the next mayor of Montgomery should be expected to devise an anti-crime plan more robust than empathy and short- term anger management courses.

I could go on. We have reached new heights in corporate investment in the city but more of that newly infused wealth must be targeted toward creating jobs that pay high wages. Promoting minority investment is an urgent, consistently unmet need that takes more than conferences at the Renaissance to solve.  Our municipal government structure has not been reorganized since the time when smartphones had not been invented and the internet in this city was limited to government offices.

The record of the mayor who is leaving, Todd Strange, will loom over this election. I ran against him but will grant him this: in an era when national politics has degenerated into all or nothing partisanship and what the experts call tribalism, Mayor Strange has kept the volume temperate and moderate in Montgomery. The next mayor should emulate that decency. He or she must match it with a boldness and a capacity to challenge old assumptions and challenge 21st Century problems.

I do agree that this city is on the edge of making history. But the test for candidates is not how well we represent one community or satisfy that community’s insiders and gatekeepers. It is whether any of us has what it takes to make Montgomery a trendsetter in repairing failing schools and blighted neighborhoods and in forging a more prosperous, more equitable future.

If you live in Montgomery, vote for the guy or lady you think just might know how to get us there.

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Opinion | Alabama’s native son: E Pluribus Unum

John W. Giles

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All of us are called upon to lend our name for a job referral, political appointment or the endorsement of a candidate. Over time, my engagement for this kind of request is limited and almost extinct. I can count on two or three fingers those I would fall on the sword for because of their indisputable character, dignity, integrity, humility, sense of duty and honor. I only hope I can do justice in this article about one of Alabama’s great native sons who carried our economic, social, moral and constitutional values to Washington, D.C.

For approximately forty three years, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III (Jeff Sessions) has served our state and nation in many capacities. I believe history will be very kind to this great statesman who served our state and nation flawlessly. In the public square, we may call him Senator or Attorney General, but back home, we all know him as Jeff.

Jeff’s noble track record dates back when earning the Distinguished Eagle Scout recognition. Jeff went to high school at Wilcox County High School, earned a B.A. at Huntington College and then earned a Juris Doctor from the University of Alabama Law School in 1973. He also served in the Army Reserve in the 1970’s; with the rank of captain. His public service began as Assistant U.S. Attorney in the southern district of Alabama in 1975. In 1981, President Reagan tapped Jeff to be U.S. Attorney for the same district, he was Senate confirmed and served in that capacity for twelve years until President Clinton was elected and appointed one of his own. Reagan also appointed Jeff for the Federal bench in 1986, but that nomination failed due to the mounting resistance from liberal groups like the NAACP, ACLU and People for the American Way. Their logic of resistance was incomprehensible and certainly not worth noting.

I met Jeff in 1993, over twenty five years ago, when I was running for Lt. Governor and he was running for Alabama Attorney General against incumbent Jimmy Evans. You get to know someone pretty well after spending a year on the road together at events and forums. I did not make it through the primary, but enjoyed being a surrogate speaker for Jeff and Governor James during the summer. Jeff defeated Evans and asked me and a dozen or so folks to serve on his 1994 AG Transition Team. In 1996, many of us supported the idea of Jeff running for U.S. Senate. He was elected and served until February 8, 2017, when confirmed to be U.S. Attorney General appointed by President Trump. He served until November 7, 2018.

I firmly believe Trump was wrong about Jeff, and while I support his reelection in 2020, I took issue with his treatment of Jeff in an editorial I wrote: “Trump, Sessions and the woodshed.” Jeff did call me one night this past August to catch up. In our conversation, Jeff, in his unrehearsed, professional and gentlemanly manner; never mentioned one whiff about the public attacks from Trump and mockery in the media, nor did I push him. He was a complete southern gentleman as we all know him to be. Trump does not know Jeff like we all do back home; and it hurt deep to see our warrior and friend’s unmerited public lashing and maligned by Trump. Jeff was swimming in shark infested waters at the DOJ and given time, he would have delivered.

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Trump made it as a billionaire so he does not need my advice, but the exhaustive list of turnovers of high level professionals in the Trump administration is setting a pace competitive with the Talladega 500. The West Wing door of the White House might need the same revolving door installed at Trump Towers in New York. It appears Trump does listen at times and takes all counsel under advisement before making decisions on big issues; personally I do not think he does well unless you are a 100 percent, “Yes Man.” I have been in business, industry and government over the years and a high turnover within any organization is a systemic problem that is historically derived from a hand full of reasons.

There are several in the pit stop revving up their engines to run for the coveted post of U.S. Senate against ole one-third-term Jones. By the way, Doug needs to come back home and head up the George Soros Alabama get out the vote effort, become a lawyer for the ACLU or maybe raise money for the Southern Poverty Law Center. In the name of full disclosure; when Governor Ivey called the Special Election, I enthusiastically served as chairman of Proven Conservative Super – PAC that endorsed Chief Justice Roy Moore for U.S. Senate. Jeff sacrificially gave up his seat to be the U.S. Attorney General and in my view, if he wants it back, the eager GOP contenders for this seat should unanimously step aside and roll out the red carpet path back to the Potomac River for Jeff.

Embedded in the Great Seal of the U.S. Senate is E Pluribus Unum. In 1782, congress adopted the Latin phrase, E Pluribus Unum, meaning “out of many, one” for our Great Seal. Think about the power of unity in that slogan. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, III if you choose to re-engage for your old seat back, in my view, you would consummate in the flesh, “out of many, one.”

Alabama Loves Jeff Sessions.

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Opinion | A standing ovation for teachers

by Bradley Byrne Read Time: 3 min
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