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Committee approves bill to repeal Alabama’s Common Core standards

Charlie Walker

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Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh introduced a bill, SB119, into legislative committee on Wednesday that would indefinitely repeal Common Core standards and all of its practices in Alabama public schools.

Common Core, also known by its state version, Alabama College- and Career-Ready Standards, has been a point of controversy among legislators and educators since its adoption in November 2010.

The bill, currently unamended, would require the State Board of Education to replace the Common Core Standards for Math and English Language Arts with the courses of study in place immediately prior to the adoption of the Common Core Standards, pending the adoption of new standards by the board.

Speaking to the committee, Marsh referenced his past support of Common Core.

“Everyone in the room knows I’m the guy that stood in front of doing away with Common Core a couple of years ago,” Marsh said. “I was on the education committee to address this.”

He now says he’s ready to, “clear the field and move forward with education. I’ll be down here next week to meet with educator groups and see what we can do.”

Marsh provided NAEP test scores to encourage backing for his bill.

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In 2017, seven years following the implementation of Common Core, the National Assessment of Educational Progress scored Alabama eighth graders as 46th in the nation in reading, and they were scored as 48th in the nation in mathematics.

Marsh also mentioned that financially, “we have spent, as of 2010, 500 million more dollars in the foundation program, and we have less children in the education system today, and we’ve still got these kinds of scores. We’ve got to do something.”

Sen. Vivian Figures questioned Sen. Marsh’s bill in committee and asked if Common Core was truly the “silver bullet” that was causing these failing test scores in Alabama schools.

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“Before making a decision on anything, I’d like to hear all the sides of the issue,” Figures said. “And I really would like to hear  — I’m surprised there isn’t a public hearing on this bill as it has been in the past. I would like to hear from those other entities who have come before this committee in years past to see where they are. I don’t think that in terms of the statistics you gave us are strictly those statistics because of Common Core. I think there are a lot of other things that go with that.”

Marsh said his concern isn’t that he hates Common Core, but that he’s worried it’s not effective for Alabama.

“It’s not working, and we have got to do something,” Marsh said. “This is critical. I currently believe our next hurdle in Alabama, if we don’t address this education issue, it’s going to catch up with us. I’m going to work with the education committee anyway I can to get us to the right path. This is the wrong path.”

Speaking with APR, Figures said lawmakers should take it slow.

“Before a hasty decision is made to repeal Alabama College and Career Ready Standards, we need to make sure that we are dealing with all of the facts and figures, and not making it a political football,” Figures said. “Sen. Marsh is moving to repeal it because he says that the test scores have been consistently low. There are a variety of reasons that Alabama scores remain low, and yet we have seen progress.”

Common Core has been a target of Republican and conservative ire for years. The plan was pushed by the National Governor’s Association and championed by the states. It is a set of voluntary goals and best practices for teaching K-12 students in English and mathematics.

Common Core is, in fact, not really a common curriculum. It is a set of benchmarks that detail what students should know by the end of each year.

State school boards were largely responsible for approving and implementing the standards, but former President Barack Obama’s Department of Education did rework federal rules so that adherence to Common Core was a de facto requirement for states to maintain control over federal education dollars.

But states had other options. Texas and Virginia wrote their own standards and maintained eligibility for federal Race to the Top grants. By 2015, Congress barred the federal government from tying federal grants to adherence to Common Core standards.

Gov. Kay Ivey has voiced her support for Marsh’s bill.

“As a former educator and president of the Alabama State Board of Education, I know how important it is to have good course materials to teach,” Ivey said. “Efforts like this should not be taken lightly, and I believe we should be deliberate in determining a course of study for our state. I support Senator Marsh’s efforts to ensure that headlines about Alabama ranking last or close to last in education become things of the past.”

The favorable report on SB119 was unanimous and is expected to be heard on the Senate floor in the upcoming weeks.

 

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ACLU of Alabama condemns bill banning transgender treatment for minors

Jessa Reid Bolling

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Alabama has condemned a recently approved bill to prevent doctors from providing hormone replacement therapy or puberty suppressing drugs to people younger than 19 who identify as transgender.

House Bill 303, the Alabama Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act, would make it a Class C felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, for doctors to prescribe puberty-blocking medications or opposite gender hormones to minors. The legislation would also ban hysterectomy, mastectomy or castration surgeries from being performed on minors.

The Alabama House Health Committee and the Senate Health Committee approved the bill on Wednesday in separate hearings, both drawing overflow crowds. The committee approval moves the bill in line for consideration by the full House. 

The ACLU of Alabama said in a statement that the bill targets transgender youth and puts their academic success and health in danger. 

“Transgender girls are girls, and transgender boys are boys,” said Dillon Nettles, policy analyst at the ACLU of Alabama. “Alabama lawmakers are considering legislation that runs counter to medical science, prevailing standards for the treatment of transgender youth and basic human dignity.

“The government shouldn’t threaten medical providers with jail for treating transgender kids and schools shouldn’t discriminate against them when it comes to participation in school sports. HB303 and HB35 are dangerous, discriminatory and put kids at risk.”

Multiple women’s sports advocacy organizations, including The National Women’s Law Center, the Women’s Sports Foundation and Women Leaders in College Sports, support trans-inclusive policies and oppose efforts to exclude transgender students from participating in sports.

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A June 2019 report from the Trevor Project on mental health issues among LGBTQ youth across the United States found that 78 percent of transgender and non-binary youth reported being the subject of discrimination due to their gender identity in the past year. The report also found that 39 percent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the last year, with more than half of transgender and non-binary youth having seriously considered. 

The Trevor Project is a non-profit organization that focuses on suicide prevention and crisis intervention for LGBTQ youth. 

This is the second bill in the State House this year dealing with transgender youth. 

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Rep. Chris Pringle, R-Mobile, is sponsoring House Bill 35, titled the Gender Is Real Legislative Act, or GIRL Act. It would require student athletes in K-12 schools to participate as the gender listed on their birth certificate, preventing transgender athletes from competing as the gender they identify as. 

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Alabama House passes bail reform bill named for Aniah Blanchard

Jessa Reid Bolling

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The Alabama House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly yesterday to pass legislation to give judges more discretion in denying bail to people accused of committing violent crimes.

The legislation, House Bill 81, is named for Aniah Blanchard, a 19-year-old Alabama college student who was kidnapped and murdered last year. The man charged with her murder, Ibraheed Yazeed, was out on bond for charges including kidnapping and attempted murder at the time he was arrested in connection with Blanchard’s case. 

Section 16 of the 1901 Constitution of Alabama currently requires that “all persons shall, before conviction, be bailable by sufficient sureties, except for capital offenses, when the proof is evident or the presumption great; and that excessive bail shall not, in any case, be required.”

This bill would allow judges to deny bail in cases involving certain violent offences and it amends the Constitution to read: ”If no conditions of release can reasonably protect the community from risk of physical harm to the accused, the public, or both, ensure the presence of the accused at trial, or ensure the integrity of the judicial process, the accused may be detained without bail. Excessive bail shall not in any case be imposed or required.”

Blanchard’s father, Elijah Blanchard, stepmother, Yashiba Blanchard, and mother, Angela Harris, were in the House gallery and received a standing after the bill passed by a vote of 104-0. 

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Chip Brown, R-Mobile, goes to the Alabama Senate next for consideration.

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Bill to change the process to implement occupational tax advances in the Senate

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Thursday, the Alabama Senate passed House Bill 147 which changes the process required to implement the occupational tax. The bill sponsored by Rep. Chris Sells (R- Greenville), was passed in the Senate by a vote of 27-7.

House Bill 147 would ensure protection for workers who live outside of the municipality they work and do not have a voice to be in support of, or to reject the occupational tax set forth by local government officials. This bill requires that the legislature vote on the occupational tax rather than local leaders having the power to implement the tax on their own.

Senator Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville) carried the bill on the Senate floor and praised it passage. 

“As was brought in the debate today, representation is fundamental in our country. Lack of representation is what moved our country toward independence. Being subject to an occupational tax without representation is no different. Passage of HB 147 simply gives us that representation,” said Senator Chambliss.

Senator Andrew Jones (R-Centre) expressed his support for the legislation. 

“Today is a great day for hard working Alabamians. The occupational tax is harmful to economic development. I was proud to be one of the Senators who worked to raise this issue and bring it to the forefront and I think that our state will benefit as a whole thanks to its passage. I feel like Alabamians are better off now that the legislature has put accountability in place for these taxes,” said Senator Jones.

The legislation will not affect any municipality that enacted an occupational tax within their jurisdiction before February 1, 2020.  

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With its passage in the Senate, House Bill 147 will now go to the Governor for a signature. 

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Legislature

Legislature declares pornography a public health crisis in Alabama

Brandon Moseley

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Thursday, the Alabama House of Representatives passed a resolution declaring that pornography is a public health crisis in Alabama.

SJ7 was carried by State Representative Danny Garret (R-Trussville) in the House.

Garret warned that pornography leads to sex trafficking, violence against women and other crimes. When I was young it was in Playboy and other magazines now it is online actively seeking out young people.

State Representative Laura Hall (D-Huntsville) opposed the resolution saying that it was a waste of time and questioning if it really constitutes a public health crisis. Hall argued that Alabama has a public health crisis in that many lack access to healthcare. Friday, the two Houses held a joint session honoring Black History month and the many contributions that Black people have contributed to the state. Hall thought that it was inappropriate that a resolution on pornography was the focus of the House on the same day as the Black history program.

Garret said that pornography is an addiction that ruins lives.

Alabama Eagle Forum supported this resolution. They argue that young children are now exposed to hardcore (mainstream) pornography at an alarming rate and that 27 percent of older millennials (age 25-30) reporting that they first viewed pornography before puberty and that 64 percent of people ages 13 to 24 actively seek out pornography weekly or more often, both males and females.

“The pervasive depictions of softcore and hardcore pornography in popular culture, and their easy accessibility via streaming and mobile devices, produce problems and significant risks outside the ability of individuals and families to manage on their own,” Eagle Forum wrote. “Like the Tobacco Industry, the Pornography Industry is Creating a Public Health Crisis. Despite tobacco’s former widespread use and acceptance in American culture, once its harms became apparent, society took action and adopted dramatic new policies to limit the harmful effects of smoking. Similarly, we believe that people need to be protected from pornography exposure and be made aware of the risks associated with pornography use. Additionally, pornography should not be socially endorsed, normalized, or presented as cool. IMPACT ON SEXUAL VIOLENCE Pornography Teaches that Women Enjoy Sexual Violence: Analysis of the 50 most popular pornographic videos (those bought and rented most often) found that 88% of scenes contained physical violence, and 49% contained verbal aggression. 87% of aggressive acts were perpetrated against women, and 95% of their responses were either neutral or expressions of pleasure.[v] Pornography Is Linked to Increased Sexual Violence: A 2015 meta-analysis of 22 studies from seven countries found that internationally the consumption of pornography was significantly associated with increases in verbal and physical aggression, among males and females alike.”

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The House passed SJR7 67 to 19.

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