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Response to “The Stubborn facts regarding Common Core” by Alabama Superintendent of Education Tommy Bice

Elois Zeanah

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By Elois Zeanah
Immediate Past President, Alabama Federation of Republican Women, 2010-2014

“Yes, Dr. Bice, If you like your doctor and your health insurance, you can keep them.” Your promise that Alabama can maintain full “state control of our public education system” is right up there with this promise. Alabama has signed agreements with the federal government to implement Common Core K-12 education standards one hundred percent as written. Common Core is a one-size-fits-all national standards for K-12 that will be compulsory and will replace existing state standards for curricula, textbooks, testing, teacher instruction, teacher evaluation, and assessments. Despite your careful parsing and clever spins, these are “stubborn facts.” But facts didn’t matter from the beginning when the state board of education agreed to adopt Common Core to replace Alabama’s tradition educational standards without public debate.

Like ObamaCare, neither you nor the state board of education knew what would be in the Common Core curriculum when you rushed to sign up when the federal government dangled billions of dollars to states who would sign on to Race to the Top to usher in revolutionary education reform, which was not written, untested and unresearched, and would be used by the Obama Administration as official education policy. You obligated parents, teachers, and legislators (who have final authority over public education) without their approval and took away parental and states rights. Neither you nor the state board of education had that constitutional right. This is a “stubborn fact” that you ignore.

The Application of Race to the Top and Waivers to No Child Left Behind Mandated the Implementation of Common Core

While it’s a “fact” that Alabama was not awarded Race to the Top grants, Alabama applied and was refused twice but nevertheless Alabama had to agree to adopt and implement one hundred percent the Common Core Standards, not yet written, whether or not Alabama received the federal bait. The same was true to get the Obama Administration to grant Alabama a waiver to No Child Left Behind. Yet you continually omit these “stubborn facts.”

Common Core is Copyright and Cannot be Changed by States

You also never mention who owns the copyright to the Common Core Standards. You should since you are a member of one of those two private organizations, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), which has partnered with the National Governors Association (NGA). The writing and marketing of the Common Core standards, written without transparency and without legislative authority, were written under the auspices of these two lobbying organizations. Both organizations have accepted hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government and Gates Corporation to convince states to approve national, one-size-fits-all K-12 education standards. Changes to Common Core can only be made by the copyright holders. Importantly, the copyright that your organization holds includes a disclaimer that the organization cannot be held liable or accountable for any harm that might come to our students from the implementation of the standards.

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Children’s Privacy is Breached

Parents are spooked that changes have been made to the FERPA law that allows the collection of confidential student data and its storage in a giant database online, which will be shared by federal agencies and private parties. Such sharing (illegal until the Obama Administration changed the FERPA law, again bypassing Congress and without a whisper of alarm from Dr. Bice about this presidential abuse of power and how it would remove protection from our students.) As exposed by crack investigative journalist Stephanie Simon and stated by Diane Ravitch, a former Reagan education cabinet member, now, our children’s and grandchildren’s “personal and confidential data will be sold or given to entrepreneurs for marketing purposes” such as to the Gates Foundation, Carnegie Corporation, Compass Learning, Pearson, and others. Instead of blindly and silently giving into the lawlessness of the Obama Administration, and working with big business to boost their profits at the expense of our children’s privacy and safety, the Alabama state board of education should be shouting from the rooftops about how FERPA endangers our children.

Dr. Bice also ignores the fact that Common Core textbooks and suggested reading materials that teach that: (1) “Government is like a nation’s family because it sets rules and takes care of needs such as health care and education. So says a worksheet for social studies homework … complete with a drawing of Uncle Sam cradling a baby that represents the citizens.” (2) Some textbooks and related materials include porn, incest, profanity, promiscuity and encourage having children out of wedlock, writings that condemn Christianity, capitalism, and praise Castro and communism.

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Does Alabama Want to Help President Obama use Education to Fulfill his “Battle for Social Justice?”

President Obama’s Secretary of Education has characterized Common Core as a “revolution” to help in the “battle for social justice”. Why should Dr. Bice, the state board of education, and the Alabama legislature play any part in embracing Common Core and be used to fulfill a socialist fantasy so against Alabama values and in violation of the Tenth Amendment?

The only way to stop this travesty, and to restore parental and states’ rights over local education is to replace incumbents who support Common Core and convince Alabama legislators to repeal Common Core before it, like ObamaCare, is embedded.

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Opinion | Historic opportunity – Alabama’s chance to change abortion history

Amie Beth Shaver

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Alabama’s Constitution states that the sole purpose of Alabama’s government is to protect the life, liberty, and property, of its people. The State’s Constitution does not mince words—any variance from this mandate is nothing short of “usurpation and oppression.” Alabama’s statutes, courts and Constitution have made it clear that unborn children are people, no different under the law than those that are born. Because, in Alabama, the unborn are persons, they possess an inalienable right to life and are entitled to the protection of it.

Yet, abortion on demand continues without abatement in the state of Alabama. Every day, unborn babies—who have the same rights of all born people under the Alabama Constitution —are deprived of their right to life. In Alabama alone, over 6,000 abortions are performed each year. The horrific nature of these killings happens so often that it has become commonplace. We have been forced to live with the death of the innocent for so long that we have become numb and indifferent to the great and inexcusable injustice which stains the soul of our state. We must wake up and remember that the rights recognized by Alabama’s Constitution pertain to all of its people.

There is a new hope! There is a novel and strong 10th Amendment argument which does not conflict with or fall within the contemplation of the Roe decision—but it will likely rebalance or displace Roe’s power significantly. Roe declared the U.S. Constitution was silent regarding the rights of the unborn. The 10th Amendment, therefore, empowers the states to act where the Constitution is silent. Through this empowerment, a state can recognize and define the rights of the unborn within its borders. With both mother and child finally on an equal footing of rights, both mother and child can be justly protected.

This argument, at this very moment, is in front of the Supreme Court of Alabama.

On January 22, Helen Light—quietly and without fanfare—filed an emergency petition with our highest court. In it she asks the Court to acknowledge that the U.S. Constitution permits, and Alabama’s Constitution requires the protection of unborn children within our state. Further, she asks the Court to clarify the power and legal obligation of Governor Ivey and other officials named as Respondents, to uphold their duty and take immediate action.

The Alabama Supreme Court has discretion to hear petitions like Ms. Light’s. Normally, it would issue its decision to accept or decline a case within a few days. In this case, over four weeks have passed without an utterance from the Court. We believe that the Court is concerned with upholding the separation of powers, and struggles with the propriety of requiring Governor Ivey to take such a significant action to assert Alabama’s right to enforce its Constitution. Ms. Light’s petition asks the Court to walk the razor’s edge of upholding the purpose of our Constitution without fracturing the framework of it. There can be no more difficult a task asked of our judges.

We come here today to ask Governor Ivey to bring relief to the Court so it may act. By voluntarily stepping forward and asking the Court to hear the case, she can remove their conflict. Through this action, the separation of powers will be preserved, and the Court can freely hear Ms. Light’s case. And our Court should hear this case!

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If this argument is ultimately successful, it will not only change the face of abortion on demand in Alabama, but throughout the nation as well. Each state can follow the 10th Amendment path laid by Alabama to speak where Roe has declared the Constitution to be silent. Each state can elevate the legal status of its unborn citizens to protect their lives.
State by state, a change can be made until abortion on demand is a dark memory in
America’s past. All of this can be accomplished if our brave Governor steps forward to seize her moment in history. Certainly, there is a formidable cost each time America has protected the dignity of its forgotten people—yet we do it without regret because we are Americans. We will do what is right, regardless of the sacrifice, because that is who we are as a people. There is no doubt that our brave governor understands this well. No one that has achieved what she has done without pain and blood.

Governor Ivey is good, but she is also human. What we are asking her to do requires great courage and bravery on her part. However, it is a noble thing that we ask of her, and never in the history of our nation, can so many lives be saved with so little ink.

Governor Ivey, we love you. We will support you. We will stand by you. Please push back against the encroaching darkness, stand up for the lives of the innocent and ask the Court to hear this case!

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Amie Beth Dickinson Shaver, a resident of Birmingham, is an author, speaker and former Miss Alabama (’94)

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Opinion | Understanding the role of medical marijuana in the opioid crisis

Benjamin McMichael

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Last week, the Alabama Legislature took some of the first steps on SB165—a bill that would ultimately legalize medical cannabis in Alabama. This bill would move Alabama from the minority of states that continue to prohibit the prescribing of medical marijuana to the majority of states that do. While advocates and proponents of this bill have offered a number of arguments for and against the legalization of medical cannabis, a common thread has come to dominate much of the public debate over this bill. And that thread concerns the impact legalization of medical cannabis would have on the opioid crisis.

As the defining public health crisis of this generation, the opioid crisis has rightly been placed at the forefront of the medical cannabis conversation. In 2017, one American died of an opioid overdose every 11 minutes, and some estimates place the cost of the opioid crisis at over $500 billion. Alabama has not been immune from this crisis, and Blue Cross Blue Shield estimates that its Alabama members were more likely than others across the country to be on a long-duration opioid regime. Given the high stakes involved, the question of how medical cannabis legalization will affect the opioid crisis is obviously an important one.

In a study recently published in the Journal of Health Economics, two co-authors and I investigated the impact of medical cannabis access laws on opioid prescriptions across the country. In that study, we found strong and consistent evidence that enacting medical cannabis access laws reduces opioid prescriptions. In general, these laws decrease opioid prescriptions by 4.2 percent. While this may not, by itself, be enough to reverse the opioid crisis, reducing opioid prescriptions is an important step in addressing this crisis.

Our study was not the first to examine the impact of medical cannabis access laws on opioid prescriptions. However, the strength of our study lies not in its novelty, but in the data it analyzes. Instead of examining counts of opioid prescriptions among Medicare or Medicaid beneficiaries, we analyzed a dataset of over 1.5 billion individual opioid prescriptions across the country. This dataset included approximately 90 percent of all opioid prescriptions written in the United States between 2011 and 2018. And our data came from prescriptions paid for by commercial insurance, Medicaid, Medicare, other government assistance, and even cash.

With such rich data available in our study, we were able to obtain a clearer picture of the effect of medical cannabis access laws than has previously been possible. While we found that these laws reduced opioid prescriptions in general by 4.2 percent, they had larger impacts on certain groups. For example, medical cannabis access laws reduced opioid prescriptions to those with commercial insurance by 4.4 percent and to those with Medicaid by 5.2 percent.

These laws may reduce opioid prescriptions in various ways, and our study found suggestive evidence that one important way may be facilitating the substitution of cannabis for opioids in the treatment of pain. In addition to reducing the use of prescription opioids, our study revealed evidence that medical cannabis access laws also reduce NSAID prescriptions. NSAIDS are often found in common, over-the-counter pain medications. This reduction in another type of medication used in the treatment of pain suggests that the reduction in prescription opioids may be driven by a decreased need for pain treatment once individuals can access medical cannabis. And our results are consistent with the conclusion of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine which found “conclusive. . . evidence that cannabis. . . [is] effective. . . [f]or the treatment of chronic pain in adults.”

As the Alabama Legislature completes its task of debating whether to join the majority of states that allow access to medical cannabis, understanding the role of this law in the opioid crisis will be critically important.

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Opinion | Vote “yes” for better education

Jimmy Parnell

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Did you know Alabama’s schools are ranked 52nd in math and 49th in reading? This is unacceptable. Yes on Amendment 1 takes the first step toward improving our schools.

Gov. Kay Ivey has made it abundantly clear. Alabama’s failures in education are not the fault of students or our hardworking teachers, principals and superintendents. The problem is lack of stable, visionary leadership.

Our current system is not working. In Alabama, we’re used to winning. But in education, the state is consistently dead last. We wouldn’t tolerate this kind of performance from our coaches or business leaders, and we must not settle for mediocrity when it comes to our children’s future.

Alabama is one of only six states that still has an elected state school board, and this board has had five superintendents in the last four years.

Amendment 1 gets politicians off the board and replaces them with nine commission members who will bring focus, innovation and accountability to Alabama’s K-12 education system. Our community college system transitioned to this model and has lifted itself out of the mire of scandal by refocusing on student achievement and preparedness.

Commission members will serve no more than two consecutive six-year terms and will be accountable to our elected state senators. They also are required to reflect the diversity of Alabama’s public school students.

Amendment 1 clearly outlines responsibilities for the commission: teacher certification, professional development, student assessment and accountability. In addition, it requires adoption of education standards to replace common core.  

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Amendment 1 does not take control away from local school boards, and it does not diminish the value of our teachers. To the contrary, Amendment 1 will help teachers, students and local schools by bringing strategic, productive leadership to education policy at the state level. 

Gov. Ivey said it best. “For us to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s opportunities, it is time we get serious: It’s time for creativity. It’s time for accountability. It’s time for stability.

“It’s time to vote YES for Amendment 1 on March 3rd!”

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Opinion | Alabama’s economic boom should be heard and felt across the state

Congressman Robert Aderholt

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When I was growing up in Haleyville, I can remember people in July and August saying, “it’s hotter’n blue blazes outside.”  Well, you could certainly describe America and Alabama’s current economic boom as being “hotter’n blue blazes.”  Alabama’s economy is scorching hot, with the lowest unemployment numbers in our state’s history.  One county economic development director told me that “if you want a job, you can find one right now.”

​I don’t doubt that’s true, but unfortunately it also depends on what part of the state you live in.   If you are willing and able to drive a couple of hours to and from work, then you certainly have many more options.  Our Defense and Space industries are experiencing tremendous growth. Agriculture is booming. Alabama is the nation’s second largest producer of poultry – and that’s a good thing.

But we can do even better. A lot of people can’t commute long distances every day to reach good jobs, so we’ve got bring the jobs to them. I believe we can bring high paying, quality jobs to every corner of the 4th District and Alabama and rural America as a whole.  We need to rebuild our essential manufacturing base – and that’s something that President Trump has focused on.

And to build upon that, we must prioritize building up our infrastructure. We must expand high speed internet to every square mile of the 4th District and North Alabama.  We must protect rural hospitals and clinics to make sure people everywhere have access to high quality healthcare. And we must ensure we have a highly trained work force with the skills employers are looking for.

During a recent visit to a locally owned business in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, I was told they have jobs available, but they can’t find candidates who can pass a drug test.  This is why I worked in Congress to allocate more than a billion dollars to fight the opioid epidemic.  A highly skilled workforce is essential, but we also need a workforce that isn’t dependent on illegal substances to get though the day.  Lack of employment and dependency on drugs is an evil and all-consuming cycle.  We can break that cycle.

We also need to make sure our trade policies are based on common sense.  We want to increase trade by eliminating unfair foreign trade policies.  President Trump did that in the U.S.- Mexico- Canadian (USMCA) trade deal, which opens more markets for American products and helps make America more competitive.  That makes a big difference for our farmers, manufacturers, businesses and for consumers.  We’ll have more opportunities for common-sense trade deals in the coming years.

​It’s also time for us to stop associating social status and class on whether someone has a four-year college degree.  Trust me, I know many people who have bachelors and master’s degrees that aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.  And at the same time, I’ve heard of people who have two-year welding degrees from colleges like Wallace State who are making money we normally associate with a doctor.

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Two-year associate degrees and high school vocational classes are just as valuable to our economic wellbeing than an economics degree from Harvard.  If someone aspires to achieve a four-year degree, that’s great, but they should never be celebrated more than the person who decides to open his own plumbing business.  This is why I’m so supportive of our state’s two-year college system and our vocational schools.

​Alabama has so much economic potential.  I hope you will join me in making sure we see this economic expansion continues in places like Huntsville, but also expands into places like Lamar, DeKalb and Fayette counties.  There’s no reason we shouldn’t all be able to take part in how hot the Alabama economy is right now.   As we also used to say in Haleyville, it’s 100 degrees in the shade!

 

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