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Alabama’s First Class Pre-K named America’s highest quality program 12th year in a row

Brandon Moseley

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Wednesday, April 18 Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey celebrated the announcement that for the 12th year in a row, Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program has been named as one of the nation’s highest quality state-funded pre-kindergarten programs for 4-year-olds.

This report was released by the National Institute for Early Education Research in its 2017 State of Preschool Yearbook.

“The most important part of a child’s learning journey is a solid educational foundation,” Ivey said. “Providing a high-quality education for all Alabamians, at every stage of life, is my goal. For the 12th consecutive year, Alabama is a national leader in this arena. I am proud of the work of our Pre-K programs and I am thankful for the dedication of Secretary Ross in leading this program.”

Secretary of Early Childhood Education Jeanna Ross has overseen the largest expansion of Alabama’s high-quality, voluntary First Class Pre-K program while maintaining the program’s nationally recognized quality standards.

“As Alabama continues to expand access to high-quality, voluntary Pre-K for four-year-olds, the Department is committed to ensuring the highest quality early learning experiences – without compromise,” Sec. Ross said.

In the 1960s, President Lyndon B. Johnson passed the Federal Head Start program. A few years after the program began a study by Daniel Patrick Moynihan (before he became a Democratic Senator) found that while the program got children ready for school than they were before the program, whatever advantage the kids in the program had in the first grade diminished entirely by the end of fourth grade and there was little to any longterm benefit from the program at all.

The federal government funded it anyway because no elected official wanted to be seen as mean to poor children. Despite $billions spent on Headstart the academic performance gap between affluent and poor children has not diminished noticeably in the decades since then.

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Pre-K proponents argue that is not the case with their program. They point to a recent study by PARCA and UAB found that measured third graders who had participated in the program. They found that there were measurable benefits for poor children that had gone through the program.

According to the researchers, the First Class Pre-K program narrowed the gap in reading proficiency by 28 percent for all children in poverty, 32 percent for White children in poverty, 31 percent for Hispanic children in poverty, and 26 percent for Black children in poverty. The researchers claimed that the program narrowed the gap in math proficiency by 57 percent for all children in poverty, 71 percent for Hispanic children in poverty, and 37 percent for Black children in poverty.

Specifically, the researchers claimed that the program increased reading proficiency for children in poverty by 12 percent overall, 25 percent for Hispanic children in poverty, 23 percent for Black children in poverty and 3 percent for White children in poverty.

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The Researchers claimed that there was increased math proficiency for children in poverty by 13 percent overall, 17 percent for Hispanic children in poverty, 16 percent for Black children in poverty, and 10 percent for White children in poverty.

The Alabama School Readiness Alliance welcomed the good news.

“NIEER’s endorsement of the state’s voluntary First Class Pre-K program is another sign that the investments state leaders have made in early childhood education will have a strong return,” said Allison Muhlendorf, the executive director of the Alabama School Readiness Alliance. “However, being number one in the nation for quality should be only half of the state’s goal. State leaders should also strive to also be number one in access for four-year-olds.”

In the 2016-2017 school year, approximately 14,688 4-year-olds were enrolled in a First Class Pre-K classroom. State leaders have since grown the program to nearly 17,000 4-year-olds.

Ivey has recently signed into law an additional $18.5 million expansion for next year that, combined with Alabama’s four-year federal Preschool Development Grant, will further increase the size of the program.

This year, NIEER introduced major revisions to its research-based quality benchmarks, including requirements for early learning and development standards that are culturally sensitive, supported, and aligned with other state standards and child assessments, supports for curriculum implementation, professional development and coaching for lead and assistant teachers, and a continuous quality improvement system.

The state will spend $96 million on the program this year. That will fund an additional 100 classrooms, increasing the percentage of children served to more than 32 percent. This funding will also allow the Department of Early Childhood Education to ensure teacher pay parity with K-12 public school educators.

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Sheriffs want a database with all concealed carry permits

Brandon Moseley

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Monday the Alabama Sheriff’s Association announced their support for a bill that would create a statewide repository of information about concealed carry permits and would allow officers to check the validity of a concealed carry permit.

House Bill 308 is sponsored by State Representative Shane Stringer (R-Mobile).

“In the past 13 months, Alabamians have encountered a terrible onslaught of violent conduct towards law enforcement officers,” the Sheriffs announced in a press release. “We have suffered a record seven deaths of law enforcement officers in Alabama alone as a result of handgun violence. Recognizing this disturbing trend, the Alabama Sheriffs Association is announcing the creation of a new information system designed for the protection and assistance of all law enforcement officers in the State of Alabama. The Alabama Responding Officer Warning System (AROWS) is designed to verify the validity of an Alabama issued Concealed Carry Permit and will be automatically accessed by law enforcement through the L.E.T.S./ACJIC criminal justice information system any time an officer performs a traffic stop or engages in other law enforcement investigations. Among other data, it will contain critical information such as recent arrests for violent offenses to give officers a clear picture of the persons they are dealing with.’

House Bill 308, introduced in the Alabama Legislature last Thursday, codifies the AROWS system. It is sponsored by Representatives Stringer, Reynolds, Farley, Isbell, Marques, Pettus, Simpson, Sorrells, Shaver, McCampbell, Hanes, Ledbetter and Rich.

In addition to the statewide concealed carry permit repository, HB308 also standardizes the appearance, size and information content of all concealed carry pistol permits across the state to better assist officers in recognizing fraudulent concealed carry permits.

Montgomery County Sheriff Derrick Cunningham is the current president of the Alabama Sheriffs Association.

“We owe an absolute duty to every Alabama officer who puts his life on the line for us every day to see that he or she makes it home to their family safely,” Sheriff Cunningham said. “The AROWS system is a huge step towards arming him with as much information as possible to ensure that happens and we don’t suffer yet another officer shot or killed.”

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The Sheriffs have consistently opposed “Constitutional carry” laws that would end the state requirement that Alabama citizens must purchase a concealed carry permit from their local sheriff’s department. They also oppose legislation giving the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency the authority over managing a state database.

“In recent legislative sessions there have been efforts to remove the local sheriff’s ability to oversee the issuance, monitoring and revocation of pistol permits and transfer this duty to an overworked and understaffed state agency in Montgomery,” the Sheriffs wrote in a statement. “Sheriffs are in our communities, at our schools, in our churches and on our streets every day protecting and serving our citizens. They come in contact with both good law-abiding citizens as well as the bad ones. They know their constituents better than anyone and it is critical that he or she remain in this role.”

“We applaud the Alabama Legislature for their assistance in this effort,” the Sheriffs continued. “Members of both the House of Representatives and the Alabama Senate have been extremely supportive and helpful in making sure our law enforcement officers are kept safe. This collaborative effort between the Alabama Legislature and the Alabama Sheriffs is a great example of governmental entities collaborating to keep all Alabama citizens safe and well protected.”

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Alabama is already an “open-carry” state, where all citizens, who have not lost their gun rights, are entitled to wear their guns openly on their person. Covering the weapon with a jacket or blazer or putting it in a purse however requires having a concealed carry permit. Transporting a gun in a motor vehicle, including a motorcycle, unless it is unloaded and locked in a box out of reach also requires the purchase of a concealed carry permit. Alabama citizens who do not want to purchase a permit, but who still want to have a weapon with them in their vehicles can legally have a long gun (rifle or shotgun) with them.

Senate Bill 1 “Constitutional carry” is being sponsored by State Senator Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa). It has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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Moore legal team files motion for Judge Rochester to recuse

Brandon Moseley

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Attorney Melissa Isaak filed Thursday on behalf of her client, Judge Roy Moore, a motion to recuse Judge John Rochester from further consideration of the legal case between Moore and his accuser, Leigh Corfman.

The Moore team said that is the case due to the following reasons: “Judge Rochester’s continued decision to preside over this case despite the fact that his appointment was “temporary” and expired on January 14, 2019 over a year ago, Judge Rochester’s untimely delay of approximately five months in ruling on dispositive motions in this case brought only to accuse Judge Moore of defamation for merely denying false allegations against him, which is not even a valid cause of action, Judge Rochester’s open friendship, support, and financial contributions for Doug Jones in his 2017 Senate campaign against Judge Moore, according to his own personal Facebook account, Open and virulent criticism of Judge Moore by Linda Rochester, wife of Judge John Rochester during the 2017 Senate campaign on her own personal Facebook page, Judge Rochester’s criticism and mocking of Christianity on his Facebook page with full knowledge of Judge Moore’s strong belief in God, Judge Rochester’s political animus against the Republican Party and President Donald Trump who supported Judge Moore in the 2017 general election, Judge Rochester’s obvious political bias in his quick response to set a trial date in this case, within two weeks of the upcoming Republican primary which will determine the opponent in the general election against Doug Jones.”

Moore claims, “As stated in Attorney Isaak’s motion, any individual would have a solid basis for questioning Judge John Rochester’s impartiality, political motivation, and bias in presiding over this case.”
Moore is claiming that Judge John Rochester’s friendship, support, and financial contribution to Doug Jones in combination with his wife’s open criticism of Judge Moore during the 2017 special election for US Senate in which Judge Moore was a candidate, mandates immediate recusal of Judge John Rochester in this frivolous action.

Moore has also objected in the past to this case being in Montgomery County court, when Corfman’s allegations of improper sexual conduct between her and Moore in 1976 allegedly occurred in Etowah County.

Corfman claims that Moore and her engaged in inappropriate touching through their underwear in 1976 when Corfman was just 15 years old. Under Alabama law, then as now, the age of consent for sexual activity is 16, not 15. Corfman’s allegation, along with allegations by women dating from decades ago were released in an article by the Washington Post after Moore had won the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 2017. The shocking allegations were trumpeted by the national press as well as by Democrats. Moore narrowly lost the December 2017 special election to Clinton era U.S. Attorney Doug Jones (D), the only time a Democrat has won any statewide election in Alabama since 2008.

Moore has steadfastly denied the allegations. Corfman sued Moore in Montgomery Court after the election for defamation of character. Moore has since sued Corfman, the other accusers, and the architects of the Reed Hoffman financed, illicit Russian style tactics, which Moore claims were largely responsible with depressing Republican turnout and increasing the efforts by GOP moderates to defeat Moore by writing in the name of some candidate other than Moore.

While many Republicans accepted the accusations against Moore as “credible” they rejected similar accusations against Supreme Court Brett Kavanaugh.

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Moore was twice elected Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and is a current candidate for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat, currently held by Jones.

The Republican primary is on March 3.

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Alabama Nursing Home Association selects Brandon Farmer as new president and CEO

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The Alabama Nursing Home Association (ANHA) announced on Monday it has selected Brandon Farmer as the organization’s new President and CEO.Farmer brings two decades of health care and political experience to the Association. He joins the ANHA from NHS Management where he was director of governmental relations and public affairs for 17 years. In that role, Farmer was responsible for state and federal legislative strategy, policy analysis and public relations for the Tuscaloosa-based nursing home operator. Farmer often worked with members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate and staff at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on issues important to post-acute and long-term care providers. Farmer began his career as a public affairs consultant for Stephen Bradley & Associates.”Brandon’s background makes him uniquely suited to lead our organization,” said Sal Lee Sasser-Williams, chair of the Alabama Nursing Home Association. “We are pleased he is joining us and confident he can help us successfully navigate the ever-changing landscape of nursing homes and long-term care.”

Farmer will advise the ANHA board on policy, strategic planning and government relations; guide the Association’s staff and serve as spokesman for the organization. Farmer will also represent Alabama as liaison to the American Health Care Association.

“It’s humbling to be asked to lead an organization that so effectively represents its members,” Farmer said. “I appreciate the trust the board placed in me and look forward to working with the members and staff to advance the work of nursing homes across Alabama. While there is a lot to accomplish, I am confident we can achieve great things for the people who live and work in our member nursing homes.”

A native of Tuscaloosa, Farmer earned Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts degrees from The University of Alabama. He and his wife, Laura, have two children. Farmer began his new role February 1. He replaces Bill O’Connor who retired December 31, 2019.

About the Alabama Nursing Home Association: Founded in 1951, the Alabama Nursing Home Association represents 94% of the state’s nursing homes. It is Alabama’s oldest and largest long-term and post-acute care trade organization. For more information, visit anha.org.

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Sean Spicer addresses Alabama Republicans

Brandon Moseley

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Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was in Prattville on Friday as the keynote speaker at the Alabama Republican Party’s annual Winter Dinner event. This year’s event was held at the Montgomery Marriott, in Prattville.

Spicer talked about his life growing up in a non—political home in Rhode Island and his passion for political campaigning that he developed in college. Spicer worked for a number of campaigns before going to work for the National Republican Congressional Campaign (NRCC). Spicer also worked for the George W. Bush administration in trade.

Spicer was going to leave the political world and accept a regular job that would allow him to spend more time with his family when Reince Priebus asked him to join him at the Republican National Committee (RNC). Spicer’s first two years at the RNC were productive but ultimately were unsuccessful when then GOP presidential nominee Governor Mitt Romney (R) lost to incumbent President Barack H. Obama (D) in 2012.

Despite the crushing loss, the RNC kept Priebus and Spicer on for another two years. Spicer said that the experience of losing a presidential campaign was instructive for the GOP team. They studied what they had done wrong and what Obama and his team had done right The Obama team emphasized a ground game, having political operatives on the ground working in the swing states year-round building support for their candidates. The Republican strategy, however, was to just spend more money on a new ad buy to reach swing voters or get out the GOP base. The throwing more money at it approach was not working so Priebus and the RNC team resolved to assemble data on voters and voter districts and do what the data told them to do rather than throwing money at a race. The GOP won control of the Senate in 2014. The RNC kept Priebus and Spicer for another two years.

Priebus and the RNC resolved to assemble the largest ground game ever in political strategy for 2016. Spicer said that Obama had built a strategy around promoting one candidate, Obama; but the RNC strategy was to build a ground game around Republican principles and ideas. GOP operatives were living among the communities organizing and spreading the GOP message in swing states and districts ahead of the 2016 election.

Spicer said that the GOP had an incredible slate of candidates with all kinds of great experience and then they had this Trump guy that tweets. The Trump message however resonated with Republican primary voters and he won the nomination. Once it was clear that Trump would be the nominee the RNC staff met with Donald J. Trump and his campaign staff. They really did not have a ground game at all. The Trump campaign did rallies and Tweets and that is what they did, but this lack of a large candidate infrastructure actually worked well because they adopted the RNC apparatus that was already in place without the conflicting infrastructures that past campaigns have had to meld in a general election run.

Trump defeated former Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton and asked Spicer to join the administration as White House Press Secretary. Spicer admitted that the Tweets were annoying, but added that “you aren’t going to make him (Pres. Trump) stop. That’s who he is.” Spicer said that Trump sleeps for about two hours and then he Tweets.

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Spicer said that he had a really bad week on the job, and then Saturday Night Live did their skit lampooning him. Spicer did not see it live. On Sundays, he goes to church with his family and ignores the calls. All through the service, his phone was getting texts and calls that he ignored. Normally they go out for ice cream following the service but he told his son no and rushed to home to see what had happened. Spicer said that the piece was hilarious, but was devastating and that his tenure never recovered afterward.

Spicer said that President Trump has built the greatest economy in decades, has renegotiated trade deals which no one thought possible, and he has kept his promises to the American people. Spicer acknowledged that losing the election is always possible, but that is why you have to work hard.

Spicer urged Alabama Republicans to united behind whoever is the Senate nominee this time and defeat Doug Jones. Defeating Doug Jones is critical to the GOP maintaining control of the Senate.

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Former State Representative Perry O. Hooper Jr. is a member of the Alabama Republican Executive Committee, serves on Trump’s national finance committee, is running on March 3 in the Republican primary statewide to be a Trump delegate to the national convention.

“Sean delivered a great Alabama Republican Trump Speech,” Hooper said. “Sean spoke out strong that the two most important races in Alabama and America are the re-election of President Donald J. Trump and beating Democrat US Senator Doug Jones. That was music to our ears!”

“Sean and I visited and I asked him what was the plan to take back the House,” Hooper continued. “I told Sean that America cannot take Pelosi, Schiff, and Nadler any more. Sean told me that the plan was to target 50 House seats. We have to win 23 seats to take back control. Sean felt very positive that we will take control of the House. I told Sean that is a must so we can finish implementing to Trump agenda: border security and building the wall, infrastructure, and affordable healthcare.”

Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan presented Spicer with a handmade quilt of valor that a nonprofit group of volunteers makes for veterans. Spicer is an officer in the Navy reserves.

The ALGOP Winter Dinner, the party’s largest fundraiser, was sold out. The Alabama Republican Party is the largest state Republican Party in the country.

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