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Josh Moon

Opinion | The Alabama Charter School Commission does not care

Josh Moon

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Last year, the Alabama Charter School Commission gave approval to a Washington County charter school known as Woodland Prep.

It gave that approval despite the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, which was contracted by the Alabama State Department of Education to review charter school applications, writing in its review of Woodland that the school’s operational plan and building plans were suspect and raising concerns about the number of students it might draw. The NACSA had specific concerns about the lack of a building, lack of community support and about a for-profit management company from out of state that was charging high rates.

The Commission gave the NACSA report a collective “pfft,” and green lit the school.

Well, on Friday, just two months before that school was scheduled to open, Woodland Prep was back in front of the Commission, this time asking for a year-long extension.

And you’ll never guess why.

Because the building still isn’t built. The community still hates the charter school, which has just 50 students enrolled. And the management company, Soner Tarim’s Unity School Services, still hasn’t managed to hire any staff for the school. (It had a principal but she quit.)

During the lengthy Commission meeting, chairman Mac Buttram took great care to walk Tarim and other Woodland reps through the many delays, problems and general screw-ups that have delayed the opening of Woodland to such a degree that there currently is not one brick of a school building in place.

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It was bullying, they said.

That simple.

Certain people in Washington County were so against the charter school that they had bullied the other people in Washington County. Contractors wouldn’t build. Teachers wouldn’t apply. Students wouldn’t register.

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Out of fear.

It was … ridiculous.

Yes, people hate the Woodland charter school in Washington County. And yes, they have been very vocal about their disdain for a school that will suck millions of dollars from a good local school system that is already massively underfunded.

But, um, that’s not “bullying.” That’s called the majority of teachers, parents and interested parties in that county standing up for the school system they believe in.

And it’s also a clear indication that the community does NOT support this charter school — a requirement under the charter school law.

The fact is every warning that the NACSA gave about Woodland and its sketchy application has proven accurate.

But, of course, that didn’t matter to the Charter School Commission. It again approved Woodland Prep, giving it a one-year extension to open its doors.

The Commission gave that extension despite Woodland’s team, led by Soner Tarim, admitting that fewer than 50 students were enrolled, there is no building, there is no staff and there is no commitment from locals to fund the school.

In the meeting, with Buttram lobbing softball questions at Tarim, the Woodland reps claimed that students wanted to enroll, but that the “bullying” was preventing many people from registering. Same with donations. Same with contractors. Same with every problem.

There was also racism, they said, because Tarim’s very real and well documents connections to the Gulen Movement have been documented in state media, and some people were making anti-Muslim comments. That racism appeared to be contained solely within one newspaper letter to the editor and social media posts, mostly from anonymous users.

But while a little racism is still way too much racism, there’s zero evidence that Tarim’s religion played any role in any of the organized groups who are protesting this charter.

Instead, they seem to be motivated by reason and common sense: Their schools are good, and they don’t want money sucked out of them to pay for a needless charter that seems wholly unprepared to build, open or operate a school.

If only the Charter Commission cared.

 

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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Opinion | Electing Tuberville could cost Alabama billions

If your conscience or decency isn’t enough, vote your wallets.

Josh Moon

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Sen. Doug Jones, left, and Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville, right.

Money matters in Alabama. Oh, I know that we’re not supposed to say that out loud. That we’re supposed to promote our image of southern grace and hospitality, of churchiness and care, of rich people never getting into heaven. 

But the truth is greed is our biggest character flaw in this state. 

Every problem we have can be traced back to our unending thirst for dollars. Our ancestors didn’t keep slaves because they hated black people. They did it because they loved money and the difference in skin color gave them an excuse — a really, really stupid excuse — to mistreat other humans to take advantage of the free labor. 

Our rivers and lakes and dirt aren’t filled with poisons from factories because we’re too dumb to understand how this works. They’re that way because our politicians are paid off to turn a blind eye to the dumping of toxic waste. 

Our schools aren’t terrible because we have dumb kids or bad teachers. It’s because we’re too cheap to pay for them. 

You see what I mean? It’s our lust for the almighty dollar. Every time. 

We love money. 

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Which makes me seriously wonder why so many people in this state are going to vote for a man who will cost us all — and especially our biggest businesses — so much of it. 

Tommy Tuberville will be like a money vacuum for Alabama. Billions of dollars will vanish for this welfare state that relies so much on federal contracts, federal programs and federal dollars. 

If you doubt this, don’t simply take my word for it. Just Google up the press releases from Sen. Richard Shelby’s office from the last, say, six years — the most recent span in which Republicans have controlled the Senate. 

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Almost every single release is about Shelby securing millions or billions of dollars in federal funding for this project or that project, getting the state’s share of dollars from a variety of different programs and initiatives implemented by Congress. 

Shelby and I obviously have different political viewpoints, but it’s hard to argue that the man has been successful in securing money for Alabama. Lots and lots of money. 

Money for airports and roads. Money for defense contractors in Huntsville. Money for the port in Mobile. Money for car manufacturers. Money for farmers. 

Money. Money. Money. 

Shelby can do that because of three things: He’s on the right committees, he’s a member of the party in power and he’s liked by the right people.

Tuberville will be none of those things. 

Most pundits are predicting that Democrats will take over the Senate, tipping the balance of power and giving the party control of both houses and the White House. 

That automatically means that a first-time senator in the opposition party will have little to no say in any decisions. 

But what’s worse for Tuberville, and for Alabama, is that other Republicans don’t like him either. 

Establishment Republicans essentially openly campaigned against Tuberville in the primary, tossing tens of millions of dollars behind his opponent, Jeff Sessions. They even favored third-place finisher Bradley Byrne over Tuberville. 

It’s not hard to understand why — he’s clueless. 

I know that’s a Doug Jones talking point, but this one happens to be true. Let me give you an example: On Thursday, Tuberville tweeted out what was meant to be a shot at Jones, claiming that Alabama’s current senator wouldn’t meet with Trump’s Supreme Court nominee because Jones knows “he won’t have much time in the Senate to work with her.”

If you’re unaware, the Senate doesn’t “work with” the Supreme Court. They’re separate entities. 

Combine that with his other nonsensical answers on COVID relief, school reopenings, the Voting Rights Act, senate committee assignments, education, foreign affairs — really, the list is almost endless — and it shows how little work he’s put in over the last two years to understand this job he’s applying for. 

Now, that might be just fine with Alabama voters who care more about the party affiliation and owning the libs, but it’s not OK with grownups who take the job of running the country seriously. 

And those people — both Rs and Ds — don’t like Tuberville or his here-for-an-easy-check-like-always approach to one of the most serious jobs in the world. 

He will be frozen out of the most sought after committee assignments. His voice will carry zero weight. His presence will be all but forgotten. 

And in the process, so will Alabama. Especially in two years, when Shelby retires and his senior status is lost. 

In the meantime, Jones is highly respected by senators on both sides of the aisle. He already has a presence on top committees, and is so well liked within the Democratic Party that he’s on the short list to be Joe Biden’s AG, should he not be re-elected. 

The choice seems pretty simple. On the one hand is a competent, prepared and serious statesman who knows how to maneuver his colleagues to get the most for the state. On the other hand is an unprepared, uncaring, lazy carpetbagger who doesn’t understand any process. 

If your conscience or decency isn’t enough, vote your wallets.

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Josh Moon

Opinion | Doug Jones believes in Alabama voters, even if they don’t deserve it

For some reason, Jones still has faith. 

Josh Moon

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Alabama Sen. Doug Jones speaks during the Democratic National Convention.

Doug Jones still has faith in the people of Alabama. How that can be, I have no idea. But he does. Trust me, I asked him, and then asked him if he was sure. And then asked if he heard the question correctly. 

Current polling has Jones, Alabama’s current U.S. senator, trailing challenger Tommy Tuberville by double digits. Jones is a Democrat. Tuberville is a Republican. And that is the only reason for the state of the polls. 

It doesn’t matter that Jones has been anything but a liberal during his two years in D.C. He’s sponsored more bipartisan legislation than any other senator, and he’s generally well liked by his colleagues on both sides of the aisle. 

Even here in Alabama, among those who plan to vote for his opponent, the knocks on Jones are vague and lacking in substance. For most, there’s no real vitriol or outrage. It’s almost as if the people of the state are pre-programmed to zombie-walk into a voting booth and vote for the GOP candidate because, well, hell, that’s what everyone else is doing. 

Forget, of course, that the GOP candidate in this instance is an unprepared carpetbagger who doesn’t live in this state and who doesn’t know really basic stuff about governance, like what the Voting Rights Act is, and who doesn’t have a position on anything. That candidate is also currently in hiding, refusing to speak publicly or have any of his campaign events recorded, apparently believing that Alabama voters would rather vote for a comatose imbecile with an R beside his name than a qualified Democrat. 

It’s pathetic. 

But for some reason, Jones still has faith. 

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“I think this state is full of fair minded people,” Jones said. “If you look back to 2017 and what happened with our campaign, the people of this state proved that they will take a look at a better candidate. Our problem as Democrats in this state is that for so long we haven’t had the resources to get our messages out, to promote good candidates all over the state, to give people that other option. That’s going to change.”

It already has. 

No matter what happens in Jones’ Senate race, perhaps the biggest change in Alabama politics moving forward has already occurred — Jones and his faction of the Alabama Democratic Party, the Reform Caucus, wrestled control of the party away from Joe Reed and Nancy Worley last year. That changeover has resulted in a new energy within the party, particularly among younger voters and women, and it has helped spur what has been ADP’s most profitable year of fundraising in years. 

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There have been growing pains, and quite a few people have learned that building a party almost from scratch is not an easy or quick task. But ADP, at this point in time, is finally in a position to start identifying quality candidates, attacking vulnerable ALGOP incumbents and establishing a viable second party in this state. 

“You can’t build a house without a foundation,” Jones said. “What we did in 2017 is lay a good foundation. The house isn’t built yet, but you can definitely see the framing.”

That is not to say that Jones is giving up on his race with Tuberville. Polling in Alabama is notoriously unreliable, and he still sees a handful of pathways to victory. 

Without the straight ticket voting option on Alabama ballots, the race would be neck and neck, and Jones might actually have a slight advantage.

And why wouldn’t he? 

I mean, for God’s sake, it’s not like things are great under Republican rule. We’re last in almost everything good and first in almost everything bad. From education to health care to infrastructure to ethical government, tell me where things are going swell, please. 

Even in the good economy (thanks, Obama!) prior to COVID, this state’s jobs numbers were built on low-wage, service-industry gigs that vanished like smoke at the first sign of economic trouble. 

“Besides send a bunch of people from their party to prison, what have (Alabama Republicans) done in the 10 years they’ve been in charge?” Jones said. “Everything is worse. Sure, they’ve attracted some businesses in here — and that’s the thing they talk about — but what has that done for us?”

Not much. 

Our schools are still near the bottom. Our health care system is bordering on third-world, and at least five hospitals are on the verge of economic collapse right now. We can’t manage to get people the unemployment compensation they’re owed. We have no plan for coronavirus and Alabama Republican leadership, outside of Gov. Kay Ivey, hasn’t even bothered to pretend to address the situation. 

And with all of that going on, Alabama voters are preparing to send a candidate to the U.S. Senate who hasn’t offered a single detailed plan for any of those problems. Instead, Tuberville has rolled around the state saying “Donald Trump” as often as possible and literally telling people that he doesn’t know how to solve tough problems. 

But Jones won’t give up on those voters. He’s going to continue his campaign, continue to spread his message, continue to let people know that there is at least one person in the race who’s actually trying to address the state’s problems. 

“Democrats have done a lot for this state over the years,” Jones said. “I think there are still a lot of people out there who know that.”

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Elections

Opinion | New AUM poll: We’re all losing

Slap an R out beside the name of an actual tree and 60 percent of Alabama voters would slog into a voting booth and declare that the tree best represents them. 

Josh Moon

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U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, left, and Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville, right.

Nothing matters anymore. A new poll from Auburn University Montgomery proves that point. At least as far as Alabama voters are concerned, there’s nothing that a Republican can say or do — short of allegedly molesting young girls — that can swing the vote from R to D.

That poll from AUM showed President Donald Trump with a 20-point lead over former Vice President Joe Biden and shows former Auburn coach and current Florida resident Tommy Tuberville with a solid 12-point lead over current U.S. Sen. Doug Jones.

So, see? Nothing matters.

Slap an R out beside the name of an actual tree and 60 percent of Alabama voters would slog into a voting booth and declare that the tree best represents them.

It’s pathetic.

I mean, really, at this point, what would it take to sway voters in this state? Because this polling was done after more than 200,000 COVID-19 deaths and after the president was caught on tape lying about the seriousness of the virus.

So, lying to the point of killing the population of Birmingham isn’t a deal breaker for Alabama voters.

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Nor is lying about pretty much anything.

Because Trump has done so nonstop from the start. In fact, it’s hard to think of a single thing that he hasn’t lied about.

Remember when he said he was going to save the coal industry? Nope. Didn’t do that. It’s actually much worse now.

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Remember when Mexico was going to pay for the wall? Nope. Didn’t happen. As a matter of fact, we stole money from military housing to pay for a portion of it.

Remember when he was going to have a beautiful, wonderful health care plan to replace Obamacare? Nope. Despite fighting all the way to the Supreme Court, neither Trump nor congressional Republicans have even an imaginary health care plan.

Remember when he said he’d protect pre-existing conditions? Nope. The thing that actually protects them is Obamacare, and Trump is currently suing to kill those protections.

Remember when he said in April that the coronavirus was basically like the flu? Nope. Turns out that in February, he told Bob Woodward that the virus was much worse than the regular flu.

Remember when he said … you know, I could go on and on and on like this. Because the list of nonsensical, hyperbolic, ridiculous things that this president has said is almost endless.

But what’s the point? You know these things are untrue and you’re voting for him anyway.

And you’re also going to allow the most ignorant U.S. senator in modern history to tag along. Because that’s who Tommy Tuberville will be if you elect him — the dumbest.

Dumber than Ted Cruz. Dumber than Kelly Loefler.

Tubs will stroll in on day one without knowing what the Voting Rights Act is. Without a position on climate change. Without a position on the economy. Without a stated position on COVID relief.

The Montgomery Advertiser’s Brian Lyman sent basic questions to both the Jones and Tuberville campaigns, asking them both straightforward questions about climate change. It was the second round of such questions, and both rounds got the same response.

Jones sent detailed answers. Tuberville ignored them.

Why? Because you don’t give a damn.

Tuberville hasn’t answered a single question about anything so far. Not one.

He’s up 12 points and you know — YOU. KNOW. — that he is by far the less qualified candidate in the race. You don’t have to say it out loud. Everyone knows it. And we all know you know it too.

That’s a sad state.

And I fear that there is no bottom. Because, really, what would it be?

If 200,000 dead Americans doesn’t do it, even as you’re listening to the president admit he’s lying to people about it, what would be the catastrophic event that actually did turn Alabama voters?

I’m not sure I want to find out.

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Josh Moon

Opinion | The laziest man in politics

He hasn’t bothered to learn even the most basic things about our government, our laws or the state he plans to represent. 

Josh Moon

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Republican Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville (TUBERVILLE CAMPAIGN)

Tommy Tuberville is a likeable guy. I was always fond of Tuberville when I covered him during his days as Auburn’s head coach. He was personable, approachable and funny. He would tell you things that other coaches wouldn’t dare say out loud, especially these days. And generally speaking, his Auburn teams weren’t terrible. They were usually well coached and understood how to attack the opponent. 

But there was one problem with Tuberville. It’s the same problem he has in politics. 

Tommy Tuberville is lazy. 

That fact, in relation to his short political career, was glaringly obvious a couple of weeks ago, when Tuberville couldn’t explain the Voting Rights Act. And I don’t mean that he couldn’t explain the intricate details of the VRA or why it’s a topic of discussion lately, I mean Tuberville quite obviously had zero idea just what the hell the VRA even is. 

Seriously, here’s his full answer about what should be done with the VRA during a recorded call with the Birmingham Sunrise Rotary Club: 

You know, the thing about the Voting Rights Act it’s, you know ― there’s a lot of different things you can look at it as, you know, who’s it going to help? What direction do we need to go with it? I think it’s important that everything we do we keep secure. We keep an eye on it. It’s run by our government. And it’s run to the, to the point that we, it’s got structure to it. It’s like education. I mean, it’s got to have structure. Now for some reason, we look at things to change, to think we’re gonna make it better, but we better do a lot of work on it before we make a change.”

This man is nearly two years into a campaign for U.S. Senate, and he hasn’t bothered to learn even the most basic things about our government, our laws or the state he plans to represent. 

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That should bother you, no matter what letter sits beside his name on the ballot. 

I mean, dear God, if he doesn’t know something as basic as the Voting Rights Act, what else doesn’t he know? And what good will he be to any of us if he’s this ignorant? 

Because let me tell you, he’s not going to learn this stuff. He’s not going to put in the effort. He’s not going to work — not like Doug Jones has been. Not even like Jeff Sessions did, and you can’t name one thing Sessions did in 20 years. 

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Because lazy has been Tuberville’s Achilles heel his entire professional life. 

His MO has been to work just hard enough, and then bail out when the job demanded more. 

Doubt that? 

Let me take you back to January 2007, when Nick Saban stepped off the plane in Tuscaloosa and was treated like Football Jesus. From that day, as Saban laid the recruiting groundwork and started going after prospects across the Southeast, Tommy Tuberville knew he was doomed. Because to compete with Saban meant hard work, hours at the office, recruiting trip after recruiting trip after recruiting trip. 

What happened? 

He quit. 

And that’s not me summarizing, or offering an opinion on, what happened. That’s what really went down. 

After getting steamrolled 36-0 by Saban and Alabama, and watching Saban put together two recruiting classes that were going to dominate Auburn, Tuberville knew he couldn’t hack it. But instead of either manning up and giving it his best effort or even simply walking away, he essentially blackmailed Auburn, according to longtime Auburn beat writer Phillip Marshall. 

Writing for 247sports, Marshall detailed Tuberville’s final days, saying that both the Auburn president and athletic director had met with Tuberville and told him that they would support him moving forward. Tuberville was going to remain Auburn’s head coach, as far as they were concerned. 

Tuberville “shocked” them by saying that his heart was no longer in it. But he wanted his $5 million buyout before he’d leave. 

That left Auburn in one hell of a predicament. Either continue to pay a coach who is mailing it in, all the while falling further and further behind Saban, or give him $5 million to go away. 

Auburn chose the latter. 

That wouldn’t be the last time Tuberville chose the easy way out. Three years later, following a disappointing season as Texas Tech’s head coach, Tuberville found himself meeting with another disappointed AD who wanted to know Tuberville’s plan to work hard and make the team better. Tuberville said all the right things, told the AD that he was going to get the job done, said that he was committed to Tech. 

The next night — THE. NEXT. NIGHT. — Tuberville left a group of recruits at a dinner to accept the head coaching job at Cincinnati. One recruit said, “We thought he had gone to the bathroom.”

If that surprises you, it shouldn’t. Because this is who Tommy Tuberville is. 

He has all the required skills and intelligence to be a great coach. He doesn’t have the drive. 

Same for politics. 

Why do you think he bounced around from Kentucky to Alabama to Florida and back to Alabama over the last several years? 

Because Tuberville was testing to see which political race was the easiest for him to win. What was the easiest pathway to a free paycheck and an easy life. 

And he found that easy pathway here in Alabama, where he’s had to know almost nothing about anything. Where he’s been forced by Republican voters to detail exactly zero policy positions. Where he’s been forced to debate zero times. 

This senate race has been a nice, lazy stroll for Tuberville. 

Just the way he likes it.

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