By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Tea Party groups and conservative grass roots activists have fought for years against the controversial Alabama College and Career Ready Standards which are part of the unpopular Common Core Curriculum being promoted by President Obama’s (D) administration.
The Indiana state legislature has just voted to overturn and replace their State’s version of the unpopular new curriculum. However in Alabama where Republicans hold super-majorities in both Houses of the legislature and control the state school board, the efforts of conservative groups including: Freedomworks, Eagle Forum, the Rainy Day Patriots, the Wetumpka Tea Party, the Alabama Republican Executive Committee, the Alabama Federation of Republican Women etc. have been largely ignored by Republican legislators to this point.
Alabama State Senator Scott Beason (R) from Gardendale for the second year in a row has sponsored legislation that would have overturned the untested new Alabama College and Career Ready Standards. Last year that bill got to a public hearing and never made it to the floor of the Senate. This year, Sen. Beason negotiated a compromise with his fellow Senators that would have left the decision on implementing the unpopular new standards to Alabama’s local school boards. The compromise bill is SB 443.
Senator Beason said that the standards we had before the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards were adopted were very good standards. Texas and Virginia have both opted out of the Common Core. “The same kind of promises were made in No Child Left Behind” and everybody wanted out of that just a few years into the program. “Lets let duly elected local school boards make this decision.”
On Tuesday an often over the top public hearing was held where conservative parents and grandparents debated the State’s education establishment who support the standards.
Eagle Forum President Eunie Smith said in a prepared statement,
“Common Core standards are not research based. The only professional mathematician on the Common Core validation committee, Dr. James Milgram, says they lower the bar, fail to prepare high school students for STEM, and will put students two years behind other countries. The only English professor on the committee, Dr. Sandra Stotsky, explains that common core is unlikely to prepare students for college and will stunt students’ critical thinking skills by replacing much classic literature with informational reading such as EPA regulations, etc. This is a surrender to the idea that most students should be trained for static jobs in the global economy as cc declares, not nurtured as creative human beings with hearts and minds and souls…Go back to the standards you had before.”
Katey Campbell Smith spoke in opposition of SB 443. “I am member of Macon County Board of Education. I come before you to oppose SB 443 and any effort to legislate Alabama’s education standards. I support Alabama College and Career Ready Standards. Education in Alabama is not a collection of one room schools. The state school board sets the standards. The local school boards implement those standards.” “What the bill offers is simply an illusion and would require us to put to in place out dated standards.” Smith said, “It makes no sense and would dismantle state testing and accountability. Alabama School Boards support Alabama College and Career Ready Standards. I am proud of the Alabama standards. I stand here to protect our standards.”
On Wednesday, the Senate Education Policy Committee voted to give SB 443 passage with a favorable report.
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R) from Anniston who has almost singlehandedly kept the state Senate from having an up or down vote on legislation replacing the unpopular standards then announced that SB 443 won’t come to the floor either because some of his Republican Senators oppose the legislation thus won’t vote with Republicans for cloture of the debate.
Conservative activists are targeting Republican State Senators to change their minds, but there has been a backlash against the Tea Parties by business interests across the country led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, and here in Alabama by the powerful Business Council of Alabama (BCA).
BCA President Billy Canary told Senators, “BCA urges you to vote no on SB 443. The voices of business in Alabama support the College and Career Ready Standards and feels that they are the cornerstone of the state’s Plan 2020. Our children need to be the best educated work force. Elimination of these standards would be a disservice to our children.”
Stacy Tolbush from Leeds complained that since Leeds City Schools adopted the new standards her children have suffered. “I have been told that I do not have the option of opting out of Common Core. I was told by teachers that they are just following orders. I was told not to teach my children myself. I was told ‘Don’t box her (Tolbush’s daughter) in to my way of thinking. I asked to see a text book….No reply. I have to spend 2 to 3 hours a night teaching my children myself. My Superintendent (John Moore) mocked me when I took my concerns to him. I have to teach my children the old math. I make less than $30,000 a year. I can’t afford private school.”
This debate is likely to carry on to Republican Primaries where some tea party activists have targeted Common Core Supporters like Sen. Marsh and outspoken Alabama College and Career Ready Standards supporter on the state school board, Mary Scott Hunter (R). Business groups have similarly vowed to fight Tea Party candidates who oppose Comon Core.
To this point the state has only adopted Common Core for math and reading. The results of this election will like determine whether the state expands the controversial new standards to include Science and Social Studies as well.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Roughly half of Alabamians are straight-ticket voters.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
We expect to have service restored to 95% of affected customers by Tuesday. pic.twitter.com/pguaDzAdO4
— alabamapower (@alabamapower) October 31, 2020
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.
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.
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.