4 years ago

Bush visits Alabama to raise awareness for school choice, low income scholarships

jeb-bush

Recently, Gov. Jeb Bush visited Birmingham to spread awareness of school choice efforts in Alabama and to support the Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund (AOSF), which funds scholarships to over 2,000 low-income families across the state. Alabama’s program is similar to the Florida tax credit scholarship program, which was established during Bush’s tenure as governor. The Florida program has been a resounding success with nearly 100,000 low-income children currently on scholarship and resulting in a net savings for Florida taxpayers and academic achievements for public and private education in Florida. “School choice improves the chance of all children to be able to get a quality education. That is what we need in this country to be able to succeed and thrive. It is essential for Alabama’s success,” Gov. Bush said to the 60 business leaders from around the state who were in attendance.

The AOSF is giving choice to thousands of Alabama families through tax credit scholarships. Corporations and individuals may redirect up to 50 percent of their Alabama income tax liability to AOSF to support these scholarships and receive a dollar-for- dollar tax credit. Scholarships are awarded on a first come, first served basis to low-income families with students who are zoned to attend a failing public school. AOSF in partnership with Alabama taxpayers has the unique opportunity to alter the path of a child’s life in a meaningful and transformative way.

“The business community in Alabama is, by far, the largest consumer of the product created by our state’s school systems, so it is imperative that students possess the skills and education that the 21st century workplace demands,” said William Canary, Business Council of Alabama president and CEO, who moderated a panel discussion on how school choice is working in Alabama. Gov. Bush, AOSF chairman Gov. Bob Riley, AOSF Executive Director Lesley Searcy and John Kirtley, founder of Florida’s Step Up For Students and AOSF board member, were on the panel.

Alabama’s high school graduation rates are below the national average. A report from the Business Education Alliance cited that children from poor families lag far behind their peers. Too often, children are not learning the basic skills to succeed. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, only 31 percent of Alabama’s fourth graders were proficient readers in 2013, and their math scores ranked 50th in the nation. Sen. President Pro Tempore Del Marsh said, “Alabama’s children are the building blocks of our future, and they should be given every available option to succeed.” AOSF’s mission is to break down the educational barriers of poverty and zip code by empowering parents to choose the schools that best fit their child’s needs.

Gov. Riley thinks the parent-driven model AOSF uses is its greatest asset. “Where I live in Clay County, you don’t have the businesses and money that can support a program like this. When we leave the choice of where a child should go to school to the parents and have donors all across the state supporting these scholarships, you end up with kids in 36 counties on an AOSF scholarship. Those kids in counties like Clay now have a chance,” said Gov. Riley. This idea of parent choice became a theme of the event.

“This program is such an easy way for businesses and individuals to help a very vulnerable population of children who are seeking an education that meets their needs,” said Lesley Searcy, AOSF Executive Director. The AOSF cannot keep up with the demand. Since 2014, 15,000 families have applied for an AOSF scholarship with over 2,000 children currently on scholarship. Alabama taxpayers already support education and now they have the opportunity to support choice in education. “We are encouraging Alabama businesses and individuals to make a tax contribution to the scholarship organization so low-income kids can gain the power of knowledge,” said Gov. Bush.

Larry Newby is the grandfather and sole guardian of two AOSF students in Huntsville, Ala. They were one of the first families awarded an AOSF scholarship in 2014, the program’s first year. Mr. Newby and his grandsons attended the event last Friday. “I will be able to see great things I have achieved through them. Seeing them walk down the aisle with their gown and cap on. I’m already proud of them, but it will make me more tearful and joyful to see that happen,” he said of his grandsons and the bright future he sees for them. An emotional Mr. Newby said, “Looking around this room and seeing all of these people. I just never knew so many people cared about my kids’ education.”

40 mins ago

Birmingham, Huntsville rated best business climates among cities their size

Business Facilities magazine has ranked Birmingham and Huntsville as two of the most business-friendly cities in the United States.

Birmingham was ranked as the number one most business-friendly mid-sized city, and Huntsville took the number one ranking for small cities.

The same magazine ranked Alabama as the fourth-most business-friendly state in the nation, behind Texas, Virginia and Tennessee.

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Ed Castile, director of Alabama Industrial Development Training (AIDT), told Made in Alabama why he believes Alabama received good grades in business rankings.

Castile said it is because the state has “an available workforce with an extraordinary work ethic, world-class companies that choose Alabama and hire our citizens, a business-focused Governor and Legislature who are totally engaged in our workforce strategies, and a Secretary of Commerce who helped create the Accelerate Alabama strategy that is the foundation of all our work.”

Business Facilities is a national publication that targets the industrial development and site selection industry. It has been publishing for more than 5o years.

“Alabama, home to thriving automotive and aerospace sectors, continues to expand its reach,” the publication wrote about the Yellowhammer State.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

56 mins ago

Trump, Cavanaugh support players’ #WeWantToPlay movement to save college football season

President Donald Trump on Monday tweeted his support for the #WeWantToPlay movement, of which University of Alabama star running back Najee Harris is a prominent leader.

The movement, brought to light after a Sunday evening conference call among players involved, is attempting to save the 2020 college football season.

The Big 10 and Pac-12 on Monday seemed poised to formally cancel their fall seasons, but the other Power 5 conferences have not made decisions. Reports suggest the SEC and ACC are most likely to play football this year, although Oklahoma and Texas are pushing other Big 12 teams to join them in supporting playing.

After Yellowhammer News reported on the fluid situation and Harris’ leadership on Monday, President Donald Trump came out in support of the movement.

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The president tweeted, “The student-athletes have been working too hard for their season to be cancelled. #WeWantToPlay.”

Trump was joined by one of his Alabama Trump Victory campaign co-chairs, Public Service Commission President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh, in supporting this player-led effort.

“The college football season needs to happen,” Cavanaugh told Yellowhammer News on Monday afternoon. “Our players and coaches have put in so much hard work to get to this point. Communities and small businesses across Alabama and the rest of the country depend on these games being played. We need to continue taking precautions, but we also need to get on with our lives. Now is not the time to back down.”

While not a member of a Power 5 conference, Troy Trojans head coach Chip Lindsey on Monday also came out in support of the #WeWantToPlay cause.

“I met with the leaders of our team today & the response was unanimous, #WeWantToPlay,” the former Auburn assistant coach tweeted. “The work they have put in on the field & to follow all of the safety protocols must be commended. They deserve the chance to see their work payoff with a season; I stand with & support them.”

The Sun Belt Conference, of which Troy is a member, is currently planning on a schedule that features eight conference games, also allowing up to four non-conference contests.

The SEC has adopted a conference-only, 10-game schedule for this season. Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey on Monday tweeted, “We know concerns remain. We have never had a [football] season in a COVID-19 environment. Can we play? I don’t know. We haven’t stopped trying. We support, educate and care for student-athletes every day, and will continue to do so…every day.”

UPDATE 2:20 p.m.

University of Alabama Director of Athletics Greg Byrne has weighed in.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 hours ago

Crimson Tide star helps spearhead effort to save college football season

University of Alabama running back Najee Harris is a leader in the #WeWantToPlay movement to save the 2020 college football season.

On Monday, the Big 10 canceled its fall football season, according to reports, and the Pac-12 is expected to follow their lead.

That leaves the SEC, ACC and Big 12 as the remaining Power 5 conferences yet to make a decision on playing their fall schedules.

While some of the national (and in-state) sports media world continues to cheer the death of the season, key players from Power 5 schools on Sunday jumped on a conference call to try and rescue the situation.

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ESPN reported that the Crimson Tide’s Harris was one of the players on the call, along with the likes of Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

During that call, the players came up with a list of key takeaways to share with the college football universe. That list has been turned into a graphic and shared widely on social media by players since the call.

Former Bama quarterback Greg McElroy reacted to the players’ efforts in a tweet on Monday.

“All weekend, it felt like the 2020 College Football Season was doomed,” he said. “But, the #WeWanttoPlay movement has given it new life. Ultimately, I don’t know if it will make a difference, but it feels like the players are the only people that can make a season happen.”

Kristen Saban Setas, daughter of head coach Nick Saban, also advocated for the season to occur in a tweet of her own.

If the SEC ultimately forges ahead with a season (with or without the ACC and Big 12), there could also be the question of further conference alignment changes — at least for this fall.

One Ohio State player has suggested the Buckeyes bail on the Big 10 and play in the SEC this year, and Notre Dame has already signed up with the ACC in an effort to preserve their season.

Even more movement is expected this week in the college football world, with the SEC, ACC and Big 12 each set to hold regularly scheduled meetings of their directors of athletics.

Reports on Monday morning said that Texas and Oklahoma are the Big 12 schools trying to save their fall season, however the SEC could be looking to scoop up those schools if the Big 12 as a whole decides not to play this year.

Right now, the SEC has adopted a conference-only, 10-game schedule for this season.

Alabama is scheduled to play homes games versus Auburn, Georgia, Mississippi State, Kentucky and Texas A&M, along with contests at Arkansas, LSU, Ole Miss, Missouri and Tennessee.

Auburn has home games against Arkansas, Kentucky, LSU, Tennessee and Texas A&M, as well as games at Alabama, Georgia, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and South Carolina.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 hours ago

Alabama pre-apprenticeship program launched to create better pathways to workforce

The Alabama Office of Apprenticeship (AOA) announced Monday a new program for those seeking to develop marketable skills and enter the workforce quickly.

The pre-apprenticeship initiative will use “a combination of curriculum, on-the-job training and simulated work experiences” in order to “allow a person to gain access to a specific industry and improve existing skills,” according to a release from AlabamaWorks.

Individuals applying for the pre-apprenticeship must include a signed memorandum of agreement with a registered apprenticeship program for the application to be considered by the AOA.

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The application instructions available on the agency’s website indicate that those applying for a pre-apprenticeship have an amount of flexibility in constructing the experience they will undergo as part of the pre-apprenticeship.

AlabamaWorks says that pre-apprenticeship programs also help employers, because they provide “pre-screened, ready-to-work employees who have already begun their training.”

“A major focus of the AOA right now is to help employers think beyond these uncertain times and use this moment as an opportunity to invest in their own future success,” Josh Laney, director of AOA remarked in a statement.

“Ultimately our economy will rebound and the companies who are investing in training programs now will be the ones poised to capitalize when it does,” he continued.

Laney concluded, “Apprenticeships are also going to serve as critical vehicles for people to access the training they need to become re-employed in higher skilled and more durable occupations.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

4 hours ago

Alabama GOP legislative leaders request fourth presidential debate in Yellowhammer State

Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth (R-AL), State Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) and State House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) have requested that an additional presidential debate be scheduled ahead of November’s general election.

The Republican legislative leaders jointly sent a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates asking for a fourth debate on top of the three previously scheduled by the commission.

Currently, presidential debates are set for September 29 in Cleveland, OH; October 15 in Miami, FL; and October 22 in Nashville, TN. The election will be held on November 3, featuring President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden — the presumptive Republican and Democratic nominees, respectively.

Ainsworth, Reed and Ledbetter began their letter, “In order to continue preserving fairness and transparency in this year’s presidential election, we are writing today to request that an additional, earlier debate be held in our home state of Alabama, this September.”

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“As you are aware, presidential debates are a critical part of the electoral process,” they advised. “Unlike television ads or pre-written speeches, debates give Americans a firsthand look at each candidate’s own policies and intellect in an unscripted setting. They allow voters to hear the candidates’ platforms firsthand and give candidates the opportunity to respond to the tough questions at the forefront of every voter’s mind.”

The three Alabama officials explained that the current debate schedule begins too late, considering Alabamians will have already begun casting absentee ballots before the first presidential debate. More voters are expected to choose the absentee route this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Secretary of State John Merrill has extended absentee voting because of the ongoing pandemic to ensure all eligible voters are able to exercise their rights.

“This monumental election will determine the very future of our nation. The least we can do is equip voters with the facts necessary to aid them in electing the next President of the United States,” Ainsworth, Reed and Ledbetter concluded.

Read the full letter here.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn