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Educator Speaks Out About Charter Schools

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Dear Mr. Britt,

Your article was very interesting since I have not gotten to see Dr. Mabry in action. My only contact with him has been at AEA Board Meetings since I am a director on the board.

I am a teacher of 25+ years, having taught in Mississippi and Alabama. I have a double major in Special Ed, and Ele., a Masters Degree, National Board Certification, and was teacher of the year for my system and one of the eight finalists for Ele. Teacher of the Year in 2010. I have served as an officer both President and Vice President of Athens City Educators for eight years. I have served on the Board of Directors for the Alabama Association of Classroom Teachers.

I am a third generation school teacher in my family. My grandfather taught in Kentucky and my father in Mississippi. Teaching is both in my blood and in my genes and has been my passion all my life.

I said all of that so that I what I have to say will have some credibility. I would add that I have no political affiliation. I am an Independent.

First of all on the issue with Charter Schools. Research shows (and I have done quite a bit) that charter schools do no better on the whole than public schools. But one thing they really do is drain public schools of finances. In Alabama we have never adequately funded our schools and for the past five years we have cut funding to the point that schools are suffering from the effects. This is not a good time to experiment with something that will cause further cuts.

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The “for profit” companies that manage charter schools are riddled with scandals. All across the country the states with charters are experiencing this since there is such poor oversight and little to no accountability to the public.

They do not have to provide transportation and many times charge even the poorest students for meals. This causes many of the poorest to have to opt out of charter schools because they cannot get their children there and cannot afford to provide money for meals and sometimes uniforms and other expenses associated with the “for profits” who are trying to make a profit. It is strange to me that a private school here in Athens buys meals from our public school’s lunchroom because it is the most cost effective way to provide their students meals. So I wonder how much meals at a charter who is outsourcing will actually cost.

There are problems with special needs students and charters. There are lawsuits all over the country dealing with issues concerning special needs students in charter schools. These students frequently lower test scores but in the end cost schools more money because of unfunded mandates. The charters don’t really want to deal with the issues surrounding special needs students who take so much time, energy, and money. It is a very complicated issue sincebpublic schools have such an array of special education students including those with autism, learning disabilities, physical disabilities, and mental illnesses of all kinds.

I do believe we have schools that are failing students and most of these are the most disadvantaged students and we need something different for them. Dr. Bice, our state superintendent, is working along with AEA on an alternative for these schools. Dr. Bice as Assistant Superintendent of Ed. for Alabama was responsible for turning around many schools in these areas. He was appointed in October and Dr. Bentley did not even meet with him before hiring Emily Schultz as an education advisor. Compare their resumes and see if this makes any sense. Dr. Bice’s resume reads like the perfect resume for a State Superintendent. He has worked in all areas of education, at every level and has been a success each time. He is hands on, no ivory towers here, an real. He is respected by everyone with whom he has worked and our Governor did not have the courtesy to meet with him about what vision and plans he had for the schools in Alabama.

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And who is Emily Schultz? She is a twenty eight year old who was a TFA teacher for two years under Michelle Rhee. Michelle Rhee who is surrounded by scandal at this time. Ms Schultz is being paid $70,000 a year to be an education advisor! We have schools that cannot buy textbooks and we are paying this lady with two years of experience $70,000 to advise the governor. This is incredulous!

As to AEA being a labor union. Go to states that do collective bargaining and you will see some Real labor unions. We lobby like the Medical Profession, Realtors, and other associations. And we are NOT the most powerful political organization in the state. I have had more than one Republican legislator tell me we are not. ALFA and the Timber industry puts us in the shade by light years. They have managed to keep the taxes associated with corporate owned land so low that they are the lowest land taxes in the US. Go visit the schools in those areas. See for yourself what poor local support looks like. The rest of the state has to send money to the Foundation Program to keep them propped up. If those muti-national corporations paid even a fair share of taxes these schools could be funded to a point that they could afford for their students to have at least a semblance of what other schools have in AL. Even high school students who attend Boys and Girls

State know that our 1901 Constitution and these corporations have held Montgomery in a choke hold for over a century. No legislator, democrat or republican, dare cross this group. They fear them like the plague. But they hold the key to many of our financial problems including education.

Also the schools with the poorest of the poor, mainly inner city schools, will in all likelihood have to have wrap -around programs to insure the students succeed. Wrap -arounds are programs that help students in the morning before school starts and also after school. They help in all areas of students lives (like the Harlem Project). They are expensive and I don’t think the powers that be will spend that kind of money but that kind of energy and money is what it take to close the gap for the majority of these students.

As to bus drivers getting a pension. Support personnel has such a little bit of pension that it takes every penny of it to pay for their health care premiums each month. Many legislators want all services outsourced. If didn’t work in education I might have the same belief. We didn’t start busing in Athens until a few years ago. Sometimes we had to rely on the private sector for transportation on field trips and for the band, trips to ballgames. We had many nightmare experiences with this. Drivers leaving us stranded for almost an hour in 30 degree weather, or not showing up at the end of a game and finally returning drunk. Waiting for a replacement driver when one didn’t show up. In all situations dealing with those who work with children, people should be checked out thoroughly and held to the highest of standards. Bus drivers have a huge job and my experience has shown they need to be part of the school family and held accountable to that school family. And if we pay them a pittance of a pension for this it is a small thing in the great scheme of things. Go ride on a school bus for a week and see if it changes your mind.

In conclusion, Dr. Mabry is working on failing schools as he works to see that they will not kill the teaching profession in general. AEA is powerful, but is not the Most powerful lobbying group in AL, and charter schools are not a magic bullet and should be considered with caution as states like Florida struggle with the mess they have made in their state.

Decades ago- An education study of Alabama by the Dept. of  Interior, Bureau of Ed.  (before we had a Dept. of Ed.) stated in a report distributed by P.P. Claxton “The principal fault of the AL education system has been the century -old disposition of the people, particularly the molder of policies, to look too much upon edcation as something to be bought in the market by the well-to-do or to be provided by the State at an irksome personal sacrifice of the individual taxpayer. If now the people will see a public responsibility in the provision of schools and will wisely put ample public money in them as an investment paying large dividends, the State may soon take educational rank suited to its great material advantages.”

Not much has changed, has it?

Respectfully yours,

Donna McDaniel
First Grade Teacher- Athens City Schools

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Alabama’s COVID-19 cases continue to rise

Alabama’s ongoing increase in new cases and COVID-19 hospitalizations is especially worrisome for public health experts as flu season arrives and several holidays are just around the corner.

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

The number of new confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alabama continues to rise, with 1,789 new cases reported Saturday, despite fewer tests being conducted, and cases are up 55 percent from two weeks ago, based on a 14-day average of daily case increases.

Alabama’s ongoing increase in new cases and COVID-19 hospitalizations is especially worrisome for public health experts as flu season arrives and several holidays are just around the corner.

Coronavirus cases in the U.S. surpassed 9 million on Thursday, and numerous states were seeing surges in cases and hospitalizations. Nearly 1,000 Americans died from COVID-19 on Wednesday, and the country has reported several days of record-high new cases.

“There’s going to be a whole lot of pain in this country with regard to additional cases, hospitalizations and deaths,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House coronavirus task force adviser and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in a CNBC interview Wednesday. “We are on a very difficult trajectory. We are going in the wrong direction.”

There were 960 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Alabama on Friday, and the seven-day average of daily hospitalizations hit 976 on Friday, the highest it’s been since Sept. 2 and 29 percent higher than a month ago.

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More than 1,000 hospitalizations were reported in Alabama on Tuesday for the first time since August. Huntsville Hospital was caring for 163 coronavirus patients Friday, the largest number since Aug. 19. UAB on Friday had 58 COVID-19 patients and has been hovering between 60 and 70 patients for the last several weeks.

While the number of new cases is rising, the number of tests being performed has been declining. Over the last two weeks, Alabama reported, on average, 6,961 cases per day, 9 percent fewer cases than a month ago.

The rising cases and declining tests are also reflected in the percentage of tests that are positive, which on Saturday was well above public health experts’ target of 5 percent or below. 

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The state’s positivity rate on Saturday was 21 percent, according to APR‘s tracking of new cases and reported tests over the past two weeks. Many other COVID-19 tracking projects calculate the state’s percent positivity by dividing the 7- and 14-day averages of daily case increases by the 7- and 14-day averages of daily test increases.

The Alabama Department of Public Health calculates the positivity rate differently, instead dividing the number of daily cases by the number of individuals who have been tested, rather than the total number of tests done, as some people may have more than one test performed.

There are no federal standards on how states are to report COVID-19 testing data, and a myriad of state health departments calculate positivity rates differently. 

Even so, ADPH’s own calculations show Alabama’s percent positivity is nearly double where public health experts say it needs to be, or else cases are going undetected. According to ADPH’s calculations, the percent positivity on Oct. 24 was 9.6 percent, up 33 percent from the 7.2 percent positivity on Sept. 26. 

As of Saturday, there have been 2,967 confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths reported in Alabama, with 427 reported this month, 19 percent more deaths than were reported in September.

On Saturday, ADPH reported 35 confirmed and probable deaths. 

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Alabama Democrats launch “biggest” turnout campaign in their history

“Our organizers and volunteers have been working relentlessly to turn out the vote,” the Alabama Democratic Party said.

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

The Alabama Democratic Party said Friday that they have launched the biggest get-out-the-vote campaign in their history in a bid to re-elect U.S. Sen. Doug Jones.

“We’ve made over 3.5 million voter contacts this election cycle,” the ADP wrote in an email to supporters. “Today, we’ve started the biggest GOTV campaign in our history. We will be contacting voters around the clock from now until Election Day. As it stands, we have enough money to reach about 91 percent of the voters in our GOTV universe.”

“Our organizers and volunteers have been working relentlessly to turn out the vote,” the ADP said. “They are contacting voters in all 67 Alabama counties, making sure every Democrat has a plan to vote on Nov. 3.”

On Saturday, Jones will make several campaign stops throughout the Birmingham area to encourage voters to turn out on Election Day. He will make stops in his hometown of Fairfield as well as in Bessemer, Pratt City and East Lake.

Jefferson County is the Alabama Democratic Party’s main stronghold in the conservative state of Alabama. Mobilizing Democratic voters to come out, especially in Jefferson County, is essential if they are to have any hope of re-electing Jones, who has been trailing in public polling.

Jones’s shocking upset of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore in the 2017 special election is the only statewide race that the Alabama Democratic Party has won since 2008.

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Jones had a decided advantage in money in that contest to saturate the airwaves and fund a GOTV effort to reach Democratic voters in the special election.

The Jones campaign is trying to build upon that success, but it is an uphill battle and he’s widely viewed as the most vulnerable Democratic senator up for re-election in 2020.

This time, Jones’s Republican opponent is not hamstrung by allegations of sexual misconduct and Trump is at the top of this ticket. The president remains popular in Alabama even if his support has waned in some other states.

Jones needs both an unusually strong Democratic turnout and for a large number of Trump voters to split their ticket and vote for Jones instead of his Republican opponent, Tommy Tuberville.

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Roughly half of Alabamians are straight-ticket voters.

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Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh won’t seek re-election in 2022

Marsh said it would be up to the Republican caucus to decide whether he’ll remain pro tem for the last two years of his term.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston.

Alabama Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh, R-Anniston, the top Republican member of Alabama’s upper chamber, will not seek re-election in 2022. 

Marsh told The Anniston Star, which first reported the story, that he will also not run for governor or the U.S. Senate in 2022 or in the future.

Marsh’s decision to not run again will bring an end to a 24-year career in state politics. Marsh, 64, made school choice a focus of his legislative work over the years, championing charter schools and wrote the Senate’s version of the 2014 Alabama Accountability Act, which allows for tax credits for those who make donations to scholarships for students at private schools. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Marsh found himself on the other side of public health experts’ understanding of the disease, suggesting to a reporter that he’d actually like to see more people become infected to build the state’s overall immunity to the virus, a theory that public health experts say would lead to thousands of unnecessary deaths and many more illnesses. 

Marsh also battled Gov. Kay Ivey over the expenditure of $1.8 billion in federal coronavirus relief aid over the summer, suggesting early on that the state should spend $200 million of that money on a new Statehouse, which drew widespread public condemnation.

The Alabama Legislature later approved Ivey’s plan to spend the federal aid, which does not include a new Statehouse. 

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Marsh explained to AL.com on Friday that during his tenure, the Republican-controlled Legislature has put Alabama’s fiscal well-being on solid ground. 

“Fiscally, I think we’re as strong as a state as we’ve ever been. I think this COVID has shown how financially secure the state is through our policies. I feel very good about our accomplishments,” he told the outlet. “But there comes a time for everything and I just want to make it clear that I do not intend to seek election in 2022.”

Marsh said it would be up to the Republican caucus to decide whether he’ll remain pro tem for the last two years of his term.

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Alabama Power reports progress on restoring power following Hurricane Zeta

Alabama Power said 131,000 outages remain and that the utility provider expects to have service restored to 95 percent of affected customers by Tuesday.

Brandon Moseley

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Crews work to restore power after Hurricane Zeta. (VIA ALABAMA POWER COMPANY)

Alabama Power said Saturday that its crews have restored power to 373,000 customers following Hurricane Zeta, which caused more than 504,000 outages at peak.

As of Saturday at 2:12 p.m., Alabama Power said 131,000 outages remain and that the utility provider expects to have service restored to 95 percent of affected customers by Tuesday.

 

 

Hurricane Zeta hit Louisiana as a category two hurricane on Wednesday before ripping through Mississippi and Alabama. There is an enormous amount of damage across the footprint of the Southern Company, the parent of Alabama Power.

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Alabama Power has said the impact of the storm is similar to what the company experienced during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the April 27, 2011 tornadoes.

Because Zeta was so fast-moving, it did not lose much of its strength as it moved inland. Much of the state experienced tropical-storm-force winds. There is significant, widespread damage throughout the state.

Alabama Power is having to deal with downed poles and trees that knocked out wires. The company’s crews are working with more than 1,700 lineworkers and support personnel from 19 states and Canada.

Alabama Power said that its crews are working quickly and safely to restore power and will continue to work on restoring power over the weekend.

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Alabama Power storm team evaluators, line crews and support personnel worked throughout the day Thursday and Friday assessing damage and repairing poles and wires damaged in the storm.

Crews are working diligently and as quickly and safely as possible to restore service, the company said.

Remember that there are line crews working along roadways all across the state. Cities, counties and homeowners are still working on debris removal so drive slowly and give yourself more time to get where you are going while out.

Alabama Power warns everyone to stay away from downed power lines, as well as fallen trees and tree limbs that could be hiding downed lines. Always assume a downed line is still energized and poses a potentially deadly hazard.

If you spot a downed line, call Alabama Power at 1-800-888-2726 or local law enforcement and wait for trained crews to perform the potentially dangerous work of removing the line or any surrounding debris.

Hurricane season lasts until the end of November.

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