What did he know and when did he know it?

June 27, 2017

Forty-four years ago this month, the nation was watching the US Senate hearings about Watergate unfold.  This was before cable news, the internet, telephones that took pictures, etc.  So we were not bombarded with 24/7 news from Washington as we are today, thank goodness.

A key player in the hearings was Tennessee senator Howard Baker.  On June 29, 1973 Baker asked John Dean, “My primary thesis is still, what did the president know, and when did he know it?”  Though he served another 12 years in the Senate, this question became the defining moment in Baker’s career.
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An answer to API

June 12, 2017

Education Matters
Larry Lee

According to its website, The Alabama Policy Institute “is a non-profit, non-partisan research and education organization dedicated to influencing public policy…We do this by providing fact-based, objective analysis of key issues.”

However, when you dissect the following op-ed written by Taylor Dawson about the recent defeat of an amendment to the Alabama Accountability Act, it is hard to figure out where the facts are:

“Parents with children trapped in failing schools did not have a real school-choice option in Alabama prior to 2013. With the passage of the Alabama Accountability Act (AAA), families zoned for Alabama’s worst-performing schools finally had better opportunities through scholarships and tax credits.”
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An open letter to Gov. Ivey

May 15, 2017

By Larry Lee

Governor:

Just a month ago the Alabama political landscape was turned upside down and you suddenly found yourself moving from the State House to the Governor’s office. I have been praying that you meet each new day with clarity of purpose and resolve to make lives better.

You are carefully weighing appointments made by Governor Bentley and putting your own team in place. Our state department of education should be a top priority.
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What happens when politicians forget about children

April 26, 2017

By Larry Lee

At best, it was a shotgun wedding. A contrived affair with reason thrown to the wind and political outcome the only thing that mattered. A crudely manipulated process with ethics casually tossed aside. A shameless example of blind ambition being the one constant.

The result was the installation of Mike Sentance as the Grand Poobah of all of k-12 public education in Alabama. A decision that months later still leaves Alabama educators shaking their heads in dismay and became so sordid five people have been called forth by a law suit to defend their actions.
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A teacher named Wendy

April 3, 2017

Education Matters
By Larry Lee

Wendy Lang is a longtime elementary school educator in Decatur, AL. She left the classroom a year ago to work for the Alabama Education Association.

In 2016 she was asked to be a part of a fund-raising event for the Carnegie Visual Arts Center. She shares the wonderful story of why she was happy to. In this day when all we seem to hear about is data and test scores, it is a wonderful reminder that the education experience is so much, much more.
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Survey says: No one trusts the Governor, State Superintendent, School Board

March 23, 2017

Education Matters
By Larry Lee

At this writing, nearly 700 have responded to the survey we posted on Friday, March 17, 2017. Results basically track the last survey made in December which showed little confidence among educators in State level entities charged with helping public schools. You can see all results here.

Respondents were 69 percent female, 93 percent white, 70 percent work for a school system and 46 percent are teachers. Sixty percent have either children or grandchildren attending a public school.
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Fake news, alternative facts

February 17, 2017

Education Matters
By Larry Lee

Just to prove they understand “alternative facts,” the Alabama Federation for Children sent out a news release and a study proclaiming that the Alabama Accountability Act is saving taxpayers millions of dollars.

The report, done by Auburn University Montgomery, contends that every time we divert money from the Education Trust Fund and give it to a scholarship granting organization to give a voucher to a private school student we save money. As best I can tell, their “logic” is that private schools educate students at less expense than public schools, so paying for scholarships in less expensive that paying for that child to go to a public school.
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Big splash to UWA

February 2, 2017

Education Matters
By Larry Lee

At its heart, education is more about hand-to-hand combat than about ballyhooed plans and initiatives. Sure, we love the big splash, but at the end of the day it’s all of the little splashes that make a difference.

And that’s what just happened at the University of West Alabama, tucked away in tiny Livingston, AL. President Ken Tucker and Dean of Education Jan Miller announced the creation of the Black Belt Teacher Corps at a reception and recognized the first 10-member cohort of the program. Read More

More questions on “smear sheet” investigation: Who knew what when?

January 19, 2017

By Larry Lee
Education Matters

More than 40 years ago, the late Tennessee Republican Senator Howard Baker asked during the Watergate hearings, “What did the President know and when did he know it?”

I was reminded of that yesterday, January 18, 2017, as I listened for nearly two hours while Senators Gerald Dial, Quinton Ross, Greg Allbritton, and Rep. Steve Hurst, convened for their third round of questioning of those who could shed light on how an anonymous “smear sheet” became public knowledge, and an integral part of the effort of the State Board of Education to select a new State school chief last summer. Read More

Something fishy about “failing schools” list

January 17, 2017

By Larry Lee

The State Department of Education just released the latest “failing schools” list, an annual ranking is required by the infamous Alabama Accountability Act. The Legislature decreed that the bottom six percent of all public schools are “failing” and should be identified annually.

So lists were distributed in June 2013 and January 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

This always causes an outcry from educators they think some schools that face great challenges are being unfairly labeled (The list tells us each year is what we already know, schools with high poverty levels and high minority populations face an uphill battle). Read More

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