Alabama’s education circus never stops

September 7, 2017
Alabama Superintendent Michael Sentance

By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter

The Alabama State Department of Education circus keeps chugging along.

As department staff and superintendent Michael Sentance gear up for an all-important board meeting next week – yet another meeting that could bring an end to Sentance’s tenure – ALSDE has been dealing with fires on a number of fronts.

News of Sentance’s decision to fire popular deputy superintendent Jeff Langham has angered most of the state’s education community. Several sources have told APR that State Board members were also angered by the move and see it as the final indication that a future with Sentance at the helm is unworkable.

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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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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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In praise of doing what’s right

July 31, 2017

By Larry Lee
Education Matters

Ain’t no way 11 months ago I would ever write what I am now writing. That’s because I had just watched state school board member Stephanie Bell raise her hand on Aug. 11 as one of five votes to hire Mike Sentance as State Superintendent.

I thought then–and still do—it was one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen a group of adults do.  Given his lack of qualifications and lack of support from educators, how do you justify selecting him?
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State Department ignores State School Board directive

July 17, 2017

By Larry Lee
Education Matters

As the Montgomery County school “intervention” has tediously unfolded with little to see but mounting expenses for high-priced consultants and well-paid administrators, the State School Board finally threw up its hands on June 8, 2017, and said “Enough is enough.”

So they passed a resolution saying all spending for Montgomery should stop until Mike Sentance and his folks came up with some budget numbers. As we explained here, this is when Sentance tried to stop Montgomery from hiring teachers and blaming it all on the state school board. When certain State Board members learned what Sentance was doing they quickly scrambled to bring some clarity to the situation so that Montgomery could hire teachers.
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Did the race for Lt. Governor end before it began?

July 10, 2017

By Larry Lee
Education Matters

Candidates for election in 2018 have now turned in their first monthly financial report to the Secretary of State.  This covers the month of June.

These include the three announced Republican candidates for Lt. Governor–Will Ainsworth, Mary Scott Hunter and Rusty Glover.  The differences in the reports are astounding and do not bode well for either Hunter of Glover.

At the start of the reporting period, Hunter had a beginning balance of $50,000.  However, she only raised $6,720 while spending $7,076 and ended up with less in the bank than she had a month earlier.  Glover’s numbers tell about the same story.  He started with $60,911, raised $13,801 and spent $19,199 to leave a balance of $55,513.
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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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Sentance keeping final report of smear campaign investigation locked up

June 19, 2017

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

A final report on the scandal surrounding a smear campaign launched to torpedo the candidacy of Dr. Craig Pouncey, for State Superintendent of the Department of Education is hidden away in the office of the man who ultimately landed the job.

Superintendent Michael Sentance is holding the results of an internal investigation into the Pouncey matter, claiming it is a “draft copy” of the final report. However, according to well-placed sources within the system, the report was not delivered to Sentance as a draft but as a completed document. These sources, not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, say Sentance is stalling for time. An email from the State Superintendent’s Office to APR said the report might be ready for the next Board meeting to be held this Wednesday.
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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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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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