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Bentley, Canary, Riley Plan to Control Education’s Future

Bill Britt

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By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—In June, Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur) emailed members of the State Board of Education to encourage them to keep interim Superintendent Philip Cleveland, “a few more months to work on efficiency and effectiveness of the department and the programs.” But what Collins calls “efficiency and effectiveness of the department and the programs,” is part of a larger, darker plan to wrestle control of public education away from the State’s elected Board.

“The goal is ultimately is to put both K-12 and post-secondary under the Department of Commerce, because they see education as workforce training,” said an anonymous source with close ties to the education sector. In fact, several current education experts have privately stated the same, while at the same time accusing Gov. Robert Bentley of being a “useful tool,” for Billy Canary and former Gov. Bob Riley.

Speaking on background, a former BCA member said, “BCA wants its hands on education, and Riley wants his money in the till, and amazingly, Bentley is their useful tool.”

Collins is “the darling” of the Business Council of Alabama (BCA), who recently was awarded its Business Champion Award, “for her commitment to improving Alabama’s economic climate and education system.” At the ceremony Canary said, “The Business Champion Award is testimony to Rep. Collins’ unwavering commitment to improving education for all students in Alabama and for providing a positive environment for job creation.”

Collins sponsored the House version of SB45, the Alabama School Choice and Student Opportunity Act, and carried the Senate version in the House.

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In an email, Collins lauds the work of Jeana Ross, Gov. Robert Bentley’s Cabinet for Early Childhood Education, writing, “I’ve worked closely with Jeana Ross and Pre-K and she has my utmost respect, her credentials are impressive, but what she has accomplished with her agency is above all expectations… Her willingness to serve our state in this way is a true opportunity for our state.”

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Even while Mike Hubbard was on trial for felony ethics violations, his closest allies, Canary and Dax Swatek, were soliciting Bentley’s help to make Ross the permanent Superintendent. Mrs. Ross is the mother of John Ross, a partner at Swatek, Howe and Ross, who were part of Hubbard’s kitchen cabinet as revealed at his criminal trial. Mrs. Ross holds a Master of Arts Degree in Education Leadership from the University of Alabama and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, according to her bio of the Governor’s official website.

Ross, who has never served as superintendent of any school, has applied to become State Superintendent.

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In March of this year, Bentley appointed her chair of Alabama Every Student Succeeds Act Implementation Committee, which he created by Executive Order 16. The committee will, “determine best practices for the implementation of academic standards, testing, accountability, school improvement, and teacher quality,” according to Bentley’s order. But the real purpose, according to those with intimate knowledge of the overall goal, is to diminish the power held by the elected board, to the end that education planning will be controlled by a few elites with close ties to Canary and Riley.

At the end, Collins takes an opportunity to disrespect former Assistant Superintendent Dr. Craig Pouncy, who has also applied for education’s top spot.

“Lastly, I’ve only been associated with one person that actually had a letter written to Dr. Bice from the Speaker, asking him to not send a person back to the State House, and it was Dr. Pouncy. I hope you do not consider him, he does not fit the priorities you set as a Board,” wrote Collins.

However, in his report, Larry Lee confirmed with former Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice that no such letter was ever received. Lee writes, “she opposes Pouncey because former Speaker Mike Hubbard wrote a letter to Bice telling him to not let Pouncey come back to the Statehouse.” He further wrote, “And what was the ‘crime’ Collins is concerned about? During a legislative hearing, Pouncey stood up for public education when a legislator attacked public schools.”

Those close to the process say this is just the tip of a very ugly iceberg that hopes to dominate State education through any means possible. “If we can shed the light of day on what they are doing, it may not scare them but it could, maybe draw some attention before it’s too late.”

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Vaccines should protect against mutated strains of coronavirus

Public health experts say it will be some time before vaccines are available to the wider public.

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Multiple vaccines for COVID-19 are in clinical trials, and one has already applied for emergency use authorization, but how good will those vaccines be against a mutating coronavirus? A UAB doctor says they’ll do just fine. 

Dr. Rachael Lee, UAB’s hospital epidemiologist, told reporters earlier this week that there have been small genetic mutations in COVID-19. What researchers are seeing in the virus here is slightly different than what’s seen in the virus in China, she said. 

“But luckily the way that these vaccines have been created, specifically the mRNA vaccines, is an area that is the same for all of these viruses,” Lee said, referring to the new type of vaccine known as mRNA, which uses genetic material, rather than a weakened or inactive germ, to trigger an immune response. 

The U.S. Food And Drug Administration is to review the drug company Pfizer’s vaccine on Dec. 10. Pfizer’s vaccine is an mRNA vaccine, as is a vaccine produced by the drug maker Moderna, which is expected to also soon apply for emergency use approval. 

“I think that is incredibly good news, that even though we may see some slight mutations,  we should have a vaccine that should cover all of those different mutations,” Lee said. 

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Wisconsin-Madison found in a recent study, published in the journal Science, that COVID-19 has mutated in ways that make it spread much more easily, but the mutation may also make it more susceptible to vaccines. 

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In a separate study, researchers with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation found that while most vaccines were modeled after an earlier strain of COVID-19, they found no evidence that the vaccines wouldn’t provide the same immunity response for the new, more dominant strain. 

“This brings the world one step closer to a safe and effective vaccine to protect people and save lives,” said CSIRO chief executive Dr. Larry Marshall, according to Science Daily

While it may not be long before vaccines begin to be shipped to states, public health experts warn it will be some time before vaccines are available to the wider public. Scarce supplies at first will be allocated for those at greatest risk, including health care workers who are regularly exposed to coronavirus patients, and the elderly and ill. 

Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, speaking to APR last week, urged the public to continue wearing masks and practicing social distancing for many more months, as the department works to make the vaccines more widely available.

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“Just because the first shots are rolling out doesn’t mean it’s time to stop doing everything we’ve been trying to get people to do for months. It’s not going to be widely available for a little while,” Harris said.

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Tuberville looks forward to public service “probably for the rest of my life”

Tuberville’s term as senator will begin on Jan. 3 when the 117th Congress is sworn in.

Brandon Moseley

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Senator-elect Tommy Tuberville during an interview with Sean Spicer on Newsmax.

U.S. Senator-elect Tommy Tuberville, R-Alabama, told Newsmax’s Sean Spicer that he looks forward to the opportunity to give back to this country.

“After winning this and after being up here a couple of weeks and seeing how much of a difference we have made just to this point in the Senate has been gratifying,” Tuberville said. “I look forward to doing public service probably for the rest of my life.”

Tuberville said that he was 18 years old when the Vietnam War was coming to a close and then got into coaching so never served in the military and looks forward to the opportunity to give back to the country.

“As I went around the state of Alabama for those two years though I learned the respect of the people and how much that they want this country to remain the United States of America that we know and grew up in to go by the Constitution and those things. As I went through the campaign I got more and more fond of that I want to give back,” Tuberville said.

“I never served, I never gave back, but God was so good to me and my wife my family,” Tuberville said. “Giving back means so much to me after I was given so much for many, many years.”

Tuberville said that education will be a priority for him, getting education back to fundamentals like reading, writing, history and math. Tuberville said that unless the country gets back to fundamentals in education, “This country is not going to make it. We have got to get back to fundamentals and we are getting farther and farther every day.”

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Tuberville was the only Republican on Nov. 3 to defeat an incumbent Senate Democrat when he unseated Sen. Doug Jones.

“I want to be the voice for the people of Alabama,” Tuberville explained. “The previous Senator was a voice for his party, the Democratic party.”

Tuberville, a career college football coach, reiterated his position that we should play sports and send kids back to school despite the coronavirus global pandemic.

“I think we are doing a lot better in sports than we are doing in a lot of other areas,” Tuberville said. “I was keeping my fingers crossed back in August that we would let our young kids go play high school sports, number one, and then we get into college sports. There are so many people throwing negatives on why we should not do that. But I can tell you, you can see many more positives if we go back to school and we play sports. It’s important that we attack this virus as it has been attacking us. If it gives us an inch, we gotta take it.”

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Tuberville reiterated his opposition to shutting down restaurants, schools and businesses to fight the virus.

“We have to get back to everyday life,” Tuberville said. “You can’t keep shutting people down. Freedom is a power that we have. A power that we have earned because of our forefathers. We can’t give that up.”

Tuberville is an Arkansas native. He was the head football coach at Auburn University where he won an SEC championship, Ole Miss, Texas Tech, and Cincinnati. Prior to that, he was a national championship defensive coordinator at the University of Miami. He was also the defensive coordinator at Texas A&M.

Tuberville’s term as senator will begin on Jan. 3 when the 117th Congress is sworn in.

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National

UAB cancels third game

The only remaining game on UAB’s schedule is a game at Rice on Dec. 12.

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

The UAB Department of Athletics on Thursday announced that it is canceling its final home game of the season. UAB was scheduled to play Southern Mississippi on Friday at Legion Field, but the game was canceled due to continuing problems with COVID-19.

UAB has said that it will “continue to work with Conference USA on the remaining regular-season schedule.”

The only remaining game on UAB’s schedule is a game at Rice on Dec. 12.

UAB currently has a record of just four wins and three losses.

A win at Rice would guarantee the Blazers a winning season, but in this COVID altered season, a four and three or four and four record is probably good enough to be bowl eligible.

Southern Miss has had a dreadful season. They are two and seven and have two remaining games, against UTEP and Florida Atlantic. Both of those games were postponed from earlier in the season.

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Unless the season is extended a week to the 19th, there is no way for UAB and Southern Miss to make up the canceled game.

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Official state Christmas tree was delivered

The approximately 35-foot tree will be displayed on the front steps of the state Capitol building.

Brandon Moseley

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The 2016 state Christmas tree in front of the state Capitol.

Alabama’s official Christmas Tree was delivered to the state Capitol this week.

This year’s tree was donated by Robbins Taylor Sr. It is an Eastern Red Cedar that was grown in Letohatchee, Alabama.

The approximately 35-foot tree will be displayed on the front steps of the state Capitol building.

The tree will be adorned with lights and decorations ahead of the Christmas tree lighting ceremony on Friday, Dec. 4. Gov. Ivey’s Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at the Capitol in Montgomery.

Alabama became the first state in the nation to make Christmas an official government holiday in 1836. Christmas was declared a federal holiday in the United States on June 26, 1870.

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