From the Office of Senator Greg Reed and Senate Majority Leader Jabo Waggoner
MONTGOMERY – A bill that would have provided funding for classroom supplies in Alabama schools was blocked yesterday by Senate Democrats, leaving teachers and parents left holding the bag to continue paying out of pocket for these expenses.
Senate Bill 257, sponsored by Senator Greg Reed (R-Jasper), would have provided for an annual appropriation from the state’s education budget of $300 to each classroom teacher in public school grades K-12.
Senator Reed said the stalling tactics employed by Democrats was shameful, especially considering the financial burden placed on educators and parents during tough economic times.
“It’s unfortunate that my Democrat colleagues would rather put partisan politics over sending money to our classrooms,” Reed said. “Our hardworking teachers and parents have been called upon to pay out of pocket for classroom supplies for too long and this legislation would have helped ease that financial burden. It’s a huge disappointment when politics gets in the way of our children’s best interest as it did today.”
Senate Majority Leader Jabo Waggoner (R-Vestavia Hills) echoed Reed’s response.
“This legislation is important, not just to our hardworking educators, but to Alabama students and parents,” Waggoner said. “Teachers and parents will once again have to pay out of pocket and students go without supplies all because our Democrat colleagues apparently don’t share our commitment to education.”
Reed said he remains committed to this legislation and vowed to work to get the bill back on the Senate’s agenda despite Democrat’s objections.
“This is an issue I’m passionate about because my constituents are passionate about it,” Reed said. “I will work to get this back on the calendar to get these educators the classroom funding they deserve.”
Alabama’s First Class Pre-K a bright spot in state’s Black Belt, report finds
Alabama’s Black Belt communities continue to be hard-hit when it comes to unemployment and a declining population, but according to a report released today, the region’s Pre-K program is a bright spot.
The University of Alabama’s Education Policy Center released its latest report Tuesday in the center’s “Black Belt 2020” series, each looking at different aspects of the majority Black counties that make up the state’s Black Belt.
Tuesday’s report — entitled “Access to Early Childhood Interventions and First Class Pre-K in Alabama; the Black Belt Region“ — shows that the state’s First Class Pre-K program is improving educational outcomes for students in the Black Belt and across the state.
Hunter Whann, a graduate student and research associate at the Education Policy Center, told reporters during a briefing Monday that Black Belt counties have a much higher percentage of single-parent households and, in general, higher percentages of participation among 4-year-olds in Pre-K programs.
Exceptions are Escambia, Lamar, Lowndes and Pike counties, which have less than 37 percent participation.
“Some counties outside the Black Belt still have low access, so a lot of progress has been made, but of course, as always, there’s more progress to be made,” Whann said.
Noel Keeney, another graduate student and lead author of the center’s latest report, said he believes that because there’s a greater percentage of single-parent households in the Black Belt, and higher rates of participation in Pre-K, it’s evidence there’s a need for the resources that Pre-K provides to families.
Stephen Katsinas, director of the university’s Education Policy Center, noted that the National Institute of Early Childhood Education Research in April 2020, ranked Alabama’s First Class Pre-K as the highest quality state-funded pre- kindergarten program in the country for the 14th consecutive year.
Katsinas said that from the very beginning of the state’s First Class Pre-K in 2000, and especially under Gov. Kay Ivey, the focus has been to develop Pre-K in the Black Belt.
“And I would suggest these data show that that has been a successful approach,” Katsinas said.
Barbara Cooper, Alabama’s Secretary of Early Childhood Education, speaking to reporters during the briefing Monday said that from the beginning, officials knew there were some counties and some students that should be the focus of those resources.
“We’ve been able to really see the type of gains in the Black Belt communities because the department has been so purposeful about making sure that we’re serving our most vulnerable populations,” Cooper said, adding that work continues to reach those counties with lower participation rates.
Pamela Truelove-Walker, Region 3 Director for the Office of School Readiness, said Monday that the Black Belt is seeing Pre-K funding of almost $20 million during fiscal year 2020-2021, which employs approximately 466 teachers in those counties.
“So we are excited about the intentionality and the purposefulness with which we are targeting those areas,” Truelove-Walker said. “Because we do know that what it is that we are providing for those children, those families, those homes, and even with workforce development. It is very important.”
The data is clear, both Truelove-Walker and Cooper said Pre-K boosts school readiness skills, reading and math scores, social emotional development, but it is also closing achievement gaps for children living in poverty.
“We are very excited that children who actually attend First Class Pre-K are making gains that are, in many instances, even double the gains that their peers are making who were not able to actually have a First Class Pre-K experience,” Truelove-Walker said.
Additionally, First Class Pre-K allows families the ease of mind to know their children are receiving high-quality education while they themselves enter the workforce.
“Those families are able then to seek jobs and have opportunities for workforce development that they would not have had if their children were not able to be enrolled in a high quality learning environment,” Truelove-Walker said.
Parental involvement in a child’s education, a critical factor in future educational attainment outcomes also gets a boost through participation in Pre-K, Truelove-Walker said, and that involvement is then carried forward as the child progresses in school.
Jinping Sun, assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership, Policy and Technology Studies at the University of Alabama, said Monday that research shows that family participation in children’s early learning is twice as predictive of a student’s academic success as family socioeconomic status.
“The earlier parents become involved in their children’s literacy practices, the more profound the results and the longer lasting the effects will be,” Sun said.
Data also shows that the benefits of Pre-K last well into a child’s later school years, Copper said.
“We have children that have been in Pre-K from its inception, and they continue to outperform their peers in both reading and math,” Cooper said. “We also see long-term benefits of children not having as many behavior referrals, disciplinary referrals in elementary school. Having better attendance, because we tackle attendance from day one in Pre-K.”
To learn more about the Education Policy Center’s previous reports on the Black Belt, visit the center’s website here.
Lilly Ledbetter speaks about her friendship with Ginsburg
When anti-pay-discrimination icon and activist Lilly Ledbetter started receiving mail from late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Ledbetter’s attorney told her to save the envelopes. That’s how unusual it is to get personal mail from a member of the nation’s highest court.
Ledbetter, 82, of Jacksonville, Alabama, shared her memories of her contact with Ginsburg over the last decade during a Facebook live event hosted by Sen. Doug Jones on Monday.
Ginsburg famously read her dissent from the bench, a rare occurrence, in the Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. decision in 2007. The court ruled 5-4 to affirm a lower court’s decision that Ledbetter was not owed damages for pay discrimination because her suit was not filed within 180 days of the setting of the policy that led to her paychecks being less than those of her male colleagues.
Ledbetter said that Ginsburg “gave me the dignity” of publicly affirming the righteousness of Ledbetter’s case, demonstrating an attention to the details of the suit.
Ginsburg challenged Congress to take action to prevent similar plaintiffs from being denied compensation due to a statute of limitations that can run out before an employee discovers they are being discriminated against.
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 was passed by Congress with broad bipartisan support and signed into law by President Barack Obama. It resets the statute of limitation’s clock with each paycheck that is reduced by a discriminatory policy.
Ledbetter said that her heart was heavy when she learned of Ginsburg’s death on Friday. The women kept in touch after they met in 2010. That was shortly after the death of Ginsburg’s husband, tax attorney Marty Ginsburg. She spoke about her pain to Ledbetter, whose husband Charles had died two years before.
“So we both shared that, and we shared a tear,” said Ledbetter.
Ginsburg invited her to her Supreme Court chambers to see a framed copy of the act, next to which hung a pen that Obama used to sign it.
Ginsburg later sent Ledbetter a signed copy of a cookbook honoring her husband that was published by the Supreme Court Historical Society. Included with it was a personal note, as was the case with other pieces of correspondence from the justice that Ledbetter received at her home in Alabama. They were often brochures and other written materials that Ginsburg received that featured photos of both women.
Ledbetter expressed her support for Jones in his race against GOP challenger Tommy Tuberville. The filling of Ginsburg’s seat is a major factor in that, she said.
“I do have to talk from my heart, because I am scared to death for the few years that I have yet to live because this country is not headed in the right direction,” she said.
She noted that Ginsburg was 60 when she was appointed to the court. Ledbetter said that she opposes any nominee who is younger than 55 because they would not have the experience and breadth of legal knowledge required to properly serve on the Supreme Court.
She said that issues like hers have long-term consequences that are made even more evident by the financial strains resulting from the pandemic, as she would have more retirement savings had she been paid what her male colleagues were.
Jones called Ledbetter a friend and hero of his.
“I’ve been saying to folks lately, if those folks at Goodyear had only done the right thing by Lilly Ledbetter and the women that worked there, maybe they’d still be operating in Gadsden these days,” he said.
Census report: Number of uninsured in U.S. increased in 2019
The number of uninsured in America rose in pre-COVID-19 pandemic 2019, for the third straight year, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report released last week.
The bureau’s “Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2019” report notes that while the median household income in 2019, increased 6.8 percent from the prior year, and the poverty rate fell by 1.3 percentage points during that time, the uninsured rate in the U.S. increased by 0.3 percent from 2018 to 2019, and the number of children without insurance in the U.S. increased by about 320,000 during that time.
The only state to have increased the number of insured residents between 2018 and 2019, was Virginia, which effective Jan. 1 2019, had expanded Medicaid in the state under the Affordable Care Act.
The report notes that while the percent of uninsured in Alabama fell from 10 percent in 2018, to 9.7 percent in 2019, the rate of uninsured in states that haven’t expanded Medicaid, which includes Alabama, was twice as high as rates in states that had expanded the federal program.
“The devil is in the details, and the details reveal Alabama’s failure to expand Medicaid has caused more poverty, hardship and uninsurance,” said Jane Adams, campaign director of the Cover Alabama Coalition, in a statement. “It’s shameful that Alabama has such a high uninsurance rate. It does not have to be this way. Governor Ivey could expand Medicaid today and provide an estimated 340,000 Alabamians with access to health insurance.”
The Cover Alabama Coalition is a group of more than 60 advocacy organizations that formed in April to urge Gov. Kay Ivey to expand Medicaid. Alabama is one of 14 states that hasn’t expanded the program.
Children living in the South were more likely to be uninsured than children living in other regions, Cover Alabama Coalition noted in a press release on the bureau’s recent report. Nearly eight percent of children in the South are uninsured, while just three percent of children in the Northeast lack health insurance, according to the report.
“Due to COVID-19, the United States has endured the deepest recession since the Great Depression, fundamentally changing the country’s economic landscape,” the coalition noted in the release. “The economic fallout from COVID-19 will result in more poverty, uninsurance and debt. Medicaid expansion would help by generating nearly $3 billion a year in new economic activity throughout the state and creating an additional 30,000 jobs.”
Approximately 64 percent of Alabamians polled said they support expanding Medicaid in Alabama, including 52 percent of Republicans asked, according to a recent Auburn University at Montgomery poll.
While the 2019 U.S. Census Bureau data showed some gains from the previous year, the COVID-19 pandemic that came afterward had a clear impact on poverty and the number of uninsured.
A study in July by Families USA, a Washington D.C.-based nonpartisan health care consumer advocacy nonprofit, found that 5.4 million workers lost health insurance in the U.S. between February and May of this year. The increase in uninsured was 39 percent higher than in any other annual increase on record.
A separate study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in July estimates that in the last three quarters of this year, 10.1 million in the U.S. will lose their employer-sponsored health care.
Rogers disappointed Democrats have not offered a Homeland Security reauthorization
Congressman Mike Rogers, R-Alabama, wrote an editorial in the Washington Examiner saying that he is disappointed but not surprised that Democrats have yet to offer a reauthorization package for the Department of Homeland Security.
“It’s been over 1,100 days since the last Department of Homeland Security authorization bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives,” Rogers said. “And as we approach the end of the 116th Congress, the chances grow thin of the majority introducing legislation to provide the Department of Homeland Security with the resources and authorities it needs to stop the growing threats to our homeland.”
“I wish I could say I’m surprised Democrats have yet to offer a reauthorization package,” Rogers wrote. “However, this is the party that started out this Congress with calls to abolish U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”
Rogers slammed House Democrats for what he claimed is a trend of becoming increasingly anti-law enforcement and ignoring “violent mobs” that have been rioting in many major cities.
“This is the party that last year called the unprecedented migrant surge at the Southwest border a ‘Fake Emergency,’ and took half a year to vote on critical humanitarian funding to address the crisis,” Rogers said. “This is the party that turned a blind eye as violent mobs took over cities across our country. It’s reached the point that now some on the left are calling for the abolition of DHS and the defunding of our police.”
Rogers said that while Democrats have done nothing, House Republicans have introduced a two-year reauthorization bill in The Keep America Secure Act.
Rogers said that The Keep America Secure Act will provide DHS with the resources and authorities that the department needs to stay ahead of evolving threats and position DHS to be successful on new battlegrounds.
Rogers is the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee and a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee
Rogers represents Alabama’s 3rd Congressional District. He is seeking his tenth term in the U.S. House of Representatives in this Nov. 3’s general election. Adia Winfrey is the Democratic challenger.