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Ivey reports successful first year for “Strong Start, Strong Finish” education initiative

Brandon Moseley

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Monday Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) reported progress on her Strong Start, Strong Finish (SSSF) education initiative that she announced on July 26, 2017.

Governor Ivey launched Strong Start, Strong Finish to integrate Alabama’s early childhood education, K-12 education and workforce development efforts into a seamless educational journey. SSSF is composed of three major strategies: Pre through Three; Computer Science for Alabama (CS4AL); and Advanced Training, Better Jobs.

The Pre through Three initiative focuses on ensuring the Alabama First Class Pre-K program is available to all families who choose to participate and ensuring that all of Alabama’s third graders are proficient readers by 2022.

CS4AL will ensure that a computer science course is offered at all of Alabama’s middle and high schools by 2022.

Advanced Training, Better Jobs will prepare 500,000 more Alabamians to enter the workforce with high-quality postsecondary degrees, certificates or credentials by 2025.

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Over the past year, Governor Ivey has secured progress toward each of her ambitious SSSF goals in the following ways.

Governor Ivey reports that under her leadership, investment in First Class Pre-K has grown in one year from $77.5 to $96 million. The $18.5 million increase in 2018 was the largest ever single-year increase in program funding approved by the Legislature.

Jn the 2018-2019 school year, First Class Pre-K will officially break the 1,000 classroom mark for the first time with 1,040 classrooms serving 18,720 four-year-olds, which will reach 35 percent of the eligible four-year-old population.

In December 2017, Governor Ivey announced that Alabama received a $1.5 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to support the launch of the Pre-K-3rd Grade Integrated Approach to Early Learning pilot program (“P-3”), starting with 35 classrooms in 2017-2018. The program will grow to 75 classrooms in the upcoming 2018-2019 school year.

Gov. Ivey empaneled a diverse, 100-member Executive Team to assist in establishing 11 regional councils that will recruit a host of local campaigns for grade-level reading. The Executive Team met for the first time in June 2018, and the team will begin establishing the regional councils and recruiting local campaigns during the fall of 2018.

During the 2018 Legislative Session, Ivey secured a $4 million increase for the Alabama Reading Initiative (ARI), which will be used to refocus ARI on grades K-3 and to reinforce the gains produced by the First Class Pre-K program.

During the summer of 2018, Ivey established the Alabama Summer Achievement Program (ASAP) for students who are reading below grade level proficiency in grades 1, 2, and 3. Governor Ivey created an ASAP pilot program at four elementary schools in Montgomery County, serving hundreds of children, with plans for expansion in the summer of 2019.

In 2016, only 86 schools in Alabama offered a high-quality computer science course. Today, more than 175 Alabama high schools offer such classes. In September 2017, Governor Ivey established the Governor’s Advisory Council for Computer Science Education.

In March 2018, Governor Ivey and the Alabama State Board of Education approved the Alabama Digital Literacy and Computer Science Course of Study and Standards. Currently, only 10 other states in the nation have computer science standards.

Gov. Ivey also worked to secure $300,000 for computer science professional development for middle and high school teachers, during the 2018 Legislative Session.

On April 2, 2018, Governor Ivey championed and signed legislation creating the Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering.

Based in Huntsville and scheduled to open during the fall of 2020, the school will be a destination magnet school that will also serve as the hub for computer science professional development in Alabama.

On April 30, 2018, the Attainment Committee issued the Success Plus Plan for post-secondary attainment. Based on those recommendations, Governor Ivey set the statewide post-secondary attainment goal of adding 500,000 highly-skilled Alabamians to the workforce by 2025.
To achieve that goal, and in light of the recent reauthorization by Congress of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, Governor Ivey is working to increase the efficiency of our workforce development programs to meet Alabama’s growing economic demands and to incentivize more private-sector partners to offer apprenticeships.

The Jobs for Alabama’s Graduates (JAG) program has grown from 23 to 29 programs in 2018 alone. Ivey worked to secure a $250,000 increase in the state appropriation for JAG, which provided funds for four new programs in Tuscaloosa, Morgan County, Madison County and Wilcox County. Governor Ivey also utilized federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) monies to establish two additional JAG programs in Geneva County and Montgomery County.

Governor Ivey said that she is happy with the progress thus far, but plans to further work toward these goals and continue to strive for improvement in Alabama’s education system.

Gov. Ivey inherited one of the worst educational systems in the country. Gov. Robert Bentley (R) admitted to the state’s economic development association that: “Our schools suck.” But struggled to roll out a plan to change that. Ivey is a former educator who has worked in the classroom.

Upon being elevated to Governor on April 2017, Ivey has prioritized improving education in the state and upgrading the state’s workforce development.

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Elections

Opinion | Walt Maddox has lost his mind

Josh Moon

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Walt Maddox is nuts.

That’s the only explanation I have for what the man’s doing — going around the state and trying to engage voters on the issues. Holding press conferences talking about health care and offering plans for increasing Medicaid coverage.

The guy’s got an infrastructure plan. He’s got an education plan.

He’s got details and costs and information on how we can do it all and actually pay for it.

And this nonsense is what he believes will get him elected governor.

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See? Nutty as a fruitcake, that Walt Maddox.

Because Alabama voters do not care about such trivial things as an improved quality of life, better education for their kids and increased job opportunities that actually pay you enough to live and eat.

They don’t care.

Trust me on this. I’ve been banging my head against this particular wall for all of my life.

I screamed and screamed and screamed some more over Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. I pointed out the benefits and the zero costs. And I pointed out the meticulous studies done that showed massive increases in jobs, revenue and health services if that expansion occurred.

You know what people cared about?

That it was named after the black president.

That’s right. This bunch of hillbillies would rather drive across two counties while suffering a heart attack than give the “libs” the pleasure of knowing that their health care plan wasn’t terrible.

Oh, but that’s not even the most mind-boggling conversation I’ve had with Alabama voters.

That honor goes to anyone opposing gambling.

This is inevitably the dumbest debate. Because it starts with a flawed premise — that any lottery or gambling bill passed in the state — like the one Maddox is proposing — would “bring gambling to Alabama.”

I was in one of the three legally operating casinos in this state a month ago. I’ve known people who place bets with bookies or on online gambling sites. I’ve attended cash bingo games where thousands of dollars changed hands. I’ve bet on both dogs and horses, legally. And I’ve stood in line just across the borders in Tennessee, Georgia and Florida to buy lottery tickets.

Gambling has been here for decades now. The only thing we don’t have are the tax revenues that are paying for other states’ kids to attend colleges, eliminating other states’ food taxes and helping fund thousands of classrooms in other states.

But the voters here, they don’t care.

That’s why they keep electing goobers who vote against even allowing Alabama citizens to vote on the issue. Because democracy is great unless the majority is going to agree on something you don’t like.

This is the reality facing Walt Maddox, as he travels around the state on a bus, trying to pretend that Alabama voters know that a governor can’t influence either abortion laws or gun laws, but can ensure their children get to see a doctor this year.

The voters in this state are so unconcerned with the issues that they don’t really care if Kay Ivey ever debates Maddox. Because, honestly, they’d rather not know that she has no ideas, can’t think on her feet and can’t lead in a crisis.

It’s much easier to not know. To just vote blindly for the GOP candidate, convinced that it’ll all work out eventually (even though it never, ever has).

Walt Maddox foolishly believes that he can reason with these people, that at some point their sense of self-preservation will kick in, that they’ll grow tired of remaining stuck living paycheck to paycheck, that the GOP corruption will finally chase them to at least consider another option.

Basically, what I’m saying, is that Walt Maddox is nuts.

 

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Fact check: Yes, Alabama pays Nebraska to manage an Alabama savings plan

Josh Moon

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Why is Alabama’s Treasury Department paying Nebraska’s Treasurer to manage a Medicaid-related savings plan in Alabama?

That question came to APR from a reader who had been told an outrageous tale of apparently misspent tax dollars: Alabama’s Treasurer, Young Boozer, was paying the Nebraska Treasurer an annual sum to manage the ABLE Savings Plan in Alabama.

Could this be true?

Turns out, yes.

That is 100 percent true. But it’s not clear yet why it’s true.

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First, let’s lay out what we know.

Each year, Alabama’s Treasury Department sends the State of Nebraska a check for $20,000. According to Brittany Matthews in the Alabama Treasury office, that money pays the Nebraska Treasurer who is the trustee of the Alabama ABLE Program.

That program, implemented in 2014, allows for disabled people in Alabama to open tax-free savings accounts that can be used to make disability-related purchases. The accounts don’t affect the person’s maximum threshold limits for receiving benefits through Medicaid and other programs.

Each state is required to offer an ABLE program through its treasury department. Alabama’s program, as odd as it might sound, is completely operated by Nebraska.

“(The $20,000 annual payments are) for the administration, operation and maintenance of the Achieving a Better Life Experience (Enable Alabama) program that the State of Alabama offers,” Matthews wrote in an email. “This includes marketing, investment management, site visits and other services. They manage the entire program for Alabama.”

Why this is the case isn’t clear.

A follow-up email from APR to Matthews, asking why Nebraska manages Alabama’s plan, was not answered on Monday afternoon.

However, it’s possible the decision is simple math. It might cost more than $20,000 annually for the state to manage its own ABLE program.

On the other hand, it could be yet another example of how the state’s failure to properly fund government offices has yet again cost taxpayers even more money.

But one thing is certain: The Nebraska Treasurer is being paid by Alabama’s government to manage a government program in Alabama.

 

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Elections

Alabama Hospital Association pushes for Medicaid expansion, backs candidates who do not

Bill Britt

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According to a recent AP report, the Alabama Hospital Association has launched a campaign to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. However, the organization is supporting Republican candidates who are either trying to kill the law altogether or refuse to expand its coverage in the state.

The association has so far this election cycle given nearly $20,000 each to appointed Attorney General Steve Marshall and Gov. Kay Ivey. Marshall and Ivy, both Republicans, owe their current offices to disgraced former Gov. Robert Bentley.

Marshall is actively using his office to abolish the law that provides health care for low-income Alabamians and is currently suing to overturn provisions that allow individuals with pre-existing conditions to not be denied health coverage.

Ivey for her part falls back on the standard line that the state can’t afford to expand Medicaid and has also signaled that she will not support the expansion sought by the Hospital Association.

Danne Howard, executive vice president and chief policy officer for the Alabama Hospital Association, told AP’s Kim Chandler, “One in every ten people who walk into a hospital doesn’t have insurance. At some point, those providers, those hospitals, are not going to be able to maintain operation. They are not going to be there, either closing their doors or cutting back services.”

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Howard expressed the need to expand Medicaid to AP but has failed to answer APR‘s question as to why the organization is supporting candidates who oppose expansion.

Democrat gubernatorial candidate Walt Maddox has promised to expand Medicaid if elected governor, likewise, Democrat attorney general nominee Joseph Siegelman vows to protect Alabamians with pre-existing conditions should he win in November. The Hospital Association isn’t supporting either candidate even though their campaign platforms align with the association’s stated goals.

Since Howard refuses to answer APR‘s request for information, there is no way to understand why the Hospital Association would back Ivey, who has said she would not support expanding Medicaid and Marshall who is actively working to end guaranteed coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.

According to The American Journal of Managed Care, “Medicaid expansion… was associated with increases in coverage, service use, quality of care, and Medicaid spending. Among those who benefitted the most are adults without a college degree, patients with cancer, and patients with diabetes.”

If Marshall prevails with his current lawsuit, Alabamians with cancer, diabetes and other pre-existing conditions would no longer have guaranteed access to health insurance.

Current law allows states to expand Medicaid eligibility to non-elderly adults with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

Howard says that there is a real possibility that doctors and hospital care will not be available if Medicaid does not expand, yet, her association is financing candidates whose goals are to stop expansion and cut options for those who have persistent medical problems.

 

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Jeff Sessions addresses law enforcement symposium in Hoover

Brandon Moseley

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Monday, United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions (R) was in Hoover to address a Department of Justice National Public Safety Partnership Symposium. Sessions told the members of law enforcement gathered there, “We have your back and you have ours.”

U.S. Attorney Jay Town, Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Hale (R-Jefferson County), Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall (R), Birmingham Police Chief Patrick Smith, Hoover Police Chief Nicholas Derzis, and the Department of Justice’s Director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance John Adler were also present at the Symposium.

“It is good to be back in Alabama,” AG Sessions said. “I had a good weekend.”

Sessions said that U.S. Attorneys Jay Town and Louis V. Franklin, “Are already doing a great job fighting crime,” and that Richard Moore will do an excellent job in the Southern District.

“The people in this room represent the finest in American law enforcement,” Sessions said. American law enforcement is unsurpassed, but “When you have 800,000 law officers somebody is going to make a mistake every now and then.”

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“We have had some very confused thinking in recent years and we are working to put an end to that,” Sessions said. The U.S. Attorneys that President Donald J. Trump (R) has appointed, “Felt to me like 1981 when President Reagan put together his team of U.S. Attorneys. This is a good bunch. I am proud of them I think they will make a difference.”

“President Donald Trump is a law and order President,” Session stated. “During the last two years of the previous administration violent crime increased. Murder went up more than 20 percent in 2015 and 2016.”

Sessions said that from 1964 to 1980 crime tripled in America and then from 1991 to 2014 violent crime had dropped by half. Murder had dropped by half and rape by a third. Violent crime has dropped steadily for the last 30 years, then ticked up in 2015 and 2016.

“We are not going to let the progress that we worked so hard for be lost,” Sessions said. “We are going to work to reduce crime rates.”

“We are on your side,” the AG told law enforcement. “We are not confused. We are on law enforcement’s side not the criminals’ side. We have no intention to preside over rising crime rates in America.”

Sessions said that just yesterday we had three police officers shot in this country: in Boston, in Baltimore, and in Selma a police office was shot several times in his vehicle.

“Some people think the crime rates do up and down like the tide,” Sessions said. “That is not the President’s view and that is not this Attorney General’s view.”

Sessions praised Project Safe Neighborhoods, “I am confident that it works.”

“We send our diagnostic teams to find out where crimes are rising,” AG Sessions said. “We want to help you find the most violent criminals and help you put them behind bars.” Sessions said that their focus will be on what New York City calls alpha criminals.

Sessions praised the National Public Safety Partnership which he said, “Is already leading to successes in your cities.”
Session said that the DOJ has identified a crime hotspot in Memphis, thanks to the Public Safety Partnership (PSP) and here in Birmingham the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) arrested more than 20 violent crime members who are charged with more than 800 crimes and took 70 illegal weapons off the streets. The 800 crimes is just the ones we know about that they committed.

“Last month I announced that we are expanding PSP,” to other cities, Sessions said. “Our goal is not just how many people we can arrest, but making communities safer. We are going to keep supporting PSP because it is supporting you and your communities. The Department of Justice will provide funding for gun crime intelligence centers.

Sessions said that there will be grants announced to fund training for 230 school resource officers. “We are firming up some really good ideas to make our schools safer.”

“In 2017 the Department of Justice brought more cases against violent criminals than in the 25 years we have been keeping records,” Sessions said. “We have charged the most federal firearms crimes in a decade.”

Sessions said that the overall violent crime rate has dropped in the thirty biggest cities by five percent from this point last year and murder in our 30 biggest cities is down six percent.

Sessions said that you get more crime when you let the ACLU run the Justice Department. “If you want less crime let professional law enforcement run the program.”

“One thing each of you can be certain of is: We have you back you have ours,” Sessions concluded.

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Ivey reports successful first year for “Strong Start, Strong Finish” education initiative

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 4 min
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