Annual PDK poll shows public opinions on education

December 6, 2017

By Larry Lee
Education Matters

The PDK poll of public attitudes about public schools has been a steady reflection of U.S. opinion since 1969.  It is the most trusted source of public opinion about K-12 education because of its rigor, depth and commitment to capturing all voices and viewpoints.

And once again, the 2017 poll shows the ideas that lawmakers often tout as being just what education needs — vouchers, public money for private schools, increased standardized testing, etc. — are not supported by the public.

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A clear, crisp night in Georgiana

November 13, 2017

By Larry Lee
Education Matters

Editor’s Note: This piece was written on Friday, Nov. 10.

Tomorrow 90,000 people will cram into Jordan-Hare stadium on the Auburn University campus to watch Auburn play the University of Georgia.  It is the South’s oldest football rivalry, going back to 1892 when Auburn won 10-0.

It will be a spectacle  An orgy displaying the mega bucks that dominate such events.  There will be acres upon acres of expensive motor homes hosting tailgaters,  Luxury suites where corporations wine and dine customers and friends.  Fancy multi-million dollar “scoreboards” showering the stadium with ads and replays.
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Alabama Accountability Act:  By the numbers

November 1, 2017

By Larry Lee
Education Matters

Now that we have several years of experience with the Alabama Accountability Act, let’s look as closely as possible at the numbers available to see what’s been done.

The legislation creating AAA was passed early in 2013 under rather mysterious conditions. Basically one bill went into a conference committee and a radically different one emerged a few hours later. It was as if you went to pick up your prom date, she met you at the door of her house all cute and bubbly and told you to wait a moment while she got her coat. And minutes later her mother shows up, wrinkles and all, and says “let’s go have fun.”

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Thank God And Greyhound — The Sentance Saga, Part 4

October 10, 2017

By Larry Lee
Education Matters

The Alabama Education Association has now filed suit against Sentance and Reggie Eggleston, who is in charge of the Montgomery takeover, contending that the state cannot deny the elected school board the right to hire a superintendent.

Under Sentance and his “leadership team,” the work environment at the state department was described as “toxic.” Too many necessary jobs went unfilled. State board members were inundated with complaints from their district school systems about the difficulty of getting calls and emails answered.

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Thank God And Greyhound — The Sentance Saga, Part 3

October 9, 2017

By Larry Lee
Education Matters

Why all the shenanigans?

There is little unity of purpose among board members and certainly was no consensus going into the selection process as to what the state’s top education priorities were and what kind of person and experience were needed to get us to that point.

Of the six finalists, three were local superintendents, one was a member of the governor’s cabinet and two were policy wonks from California and Massachusetts with no hands-on education experience.

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Thank God And Greyhound — The Sentance Saga, Part 2

October 6, 2017

By Larry Lee
Education Matters

Things really got funky at the state board meeting on July 12.

Each board member got an envelope with an unsigned “complaint” to the state Ethics Commission alleging that Pouncey plagiarized his 2009 doctoral dissertation for Samford University, as well as getting excessive help from department employees.

The Ethics Commission will not investigate unsigned complaints, so the info became a moot point. In fact, six of the eight board members testified that they paid no attention to this letter and discarded it.

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Thank God and Greyhound — The Sentance Saga, Part 1

October 3, 2017

By Larry Lee
Education Matters

In 1970, country singer Roy Clark cranked out a little tune, Thank God and Greyhound. When I got the news on Sept. 13, that Alabama’s state school superintendent had resigned, this song came immediately to mind.

And why not?

Since he took office one year and one day from his resignation, the reign of Mike Sentance had been one misadventure after another. It involved two governors, a rogue state school board member, the state Ethics Commission, a legislative committee digging into a smear campaign and questionable contracts and hires.

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Sentance is having money problems

August 29, 2017

Larry Lee
Education Matters

News that the State Department of Education’s projected operating budget for next year presently has a deficit of $8,028,074 fell on board members like an anvil last week.

Andy Craig is the chief money man for the Department.  He revealed that at the moment, the projected budget has receipts of $30,100,000–but expenses of $38,128,074.

Much of this shortfall is attributed to Sentance’s habit of hiring administrators at six-figure salaries like a drunk sailor spends money on shore leave.  For example, the present budget shows personnel expenses of $23,581,134.  This jumps to $26,495,799 next year.  Compounding the problem is that there are a number of vacant slots now at ALSDE.  There are seven jobs in Career Tech that have not been filled.

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Gov. Ivey playing politics with Sentance

August 13, 2017

By Larry Lee
Education Matters

Unfortunately, Governor Kay Ivey is now playing politics with our children.  Three weeks ago she said she did not know enough about the performance of State School Chief Mike Sentance to join State Board members in evaluating him  (By virtue of her office, she is President of the State Board).

However, she issued a statement on August 10 supporting Sentance and urging the board to give him more time.

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Sentance & Saban

August 9, 2017

By Larry Lee
Education Matters

First there was Governor Robert Bentley telling a business group last September that hiring Mike Sentance as state school superintendent was “like hiring (Nick) Saban.” Of course, we now know Bentley was living in a fantasy world at that time and is the same guy who recently proclaimed himself to be the best governor Alabama ever had.

Now along comes the Alabama Policy Institute again trying to compare Sentance to Saban and pleading with the state board of education not to fire him. In an article of 514 words of mostly nonsense and few facts, they contend that since we gave Coach Saban more than one year to prove his worth, we should do the same for Sentance.

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