Byrne: Giving our students the best education possible

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

This question is probably the single most-asked question of any child throughout the world. Here in the United States, many children are able to achieve their dreams through hard work, dedication and a quality education.

But, for some here in our own country, hard work and dedication are not enough when it comes to circumstances out of their control like where they live or how much their family makes. Too many students find themselves stuck in failing schools.

Every child has boundless individual potential, and we must do everything we can to ensure they have the opportunity and freedom to realize that potential. To do that, we must ensure all children have access to choice in education.

Education has always been a passion of mine. In fact, concerns over public education first motivated me to run for office and work to make a difference. As a first-generation college graduate, I’ve seen firsthand the power a quality education can have on an individual’s life.

So, I have always been an advocate for public education and worked to make sure our schools have the resources they need to do help educate our students. I’ve also fought to limit the heavy hand of the federal government in our classrooms, in an effort to make sure decisions are made by local and state officials who best understand their students.

Whether it was serving on the Alabama State Board of Education or more recently as a member of the House Education and Labor Committee, I have made it a priority to put forward solutions to create a better future for our nation’s children.

Most recently, I worked with the Trump administration to introduce the Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act. This legislation will give students and parents in Alabama and around the country the freedom they deserve to make educational decisions that are right for them.

The Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act was developed in consultation with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Senator Ted Cruz as the Trump administration’s leading education proposal. Our bill responds to President Trump’s State of the Union call for greater school choice and builds upon the model that has already been successful in Alabama.

Every student in America should have the opportunity to receive a high-quality education, and we can help accomplish that goal through a new federal tax credit. Our bill will create a non-refundable federal tax credit for contributions from individuals and businesses to state-identified nonprofits called Scholarship Granting Organizations.

These scholarships can be used to expand students’ access to a variety of educational opportunities, from advanced or remedial courses to private and homeschooling to CTE opportunities.

It puts control in the hands of states and localities rather than the federal government when it comes to educational choice and scholarships.

Very important to me, the bill does not take a single penny away from public education. I know the vast majority of students in Alabama and in the United States attend public schools, like my children did, and I will remain steadfast in fighting for our traditional public schools, teachers, and students.

Through the Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act, we will increase opportunity for families to make informed decisions that work for them and their individual needs, rather than cookie cutter solutions that don’t work.

By providing greater freedom in education and continuing to fight for our nation’s children, we can help every student realize their goal of “what they want to be.” In doing so, we can make our state and our country even stronger.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

58 mins ago

Bill to repeal Common Core in Alabama passes Senate

MONTGOMERY — Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh’s (R-Anniston) bill to eliminate Common Core in the state of Alabama passed the State Senate as amended by a 23-7 vote on Thursday afternoon, despite a passionate filibuster by Democrats in the chamber.

The bill, SB 119, now heads to the House to take up after the legislature’s spring break next week.

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SB 119 was given a unanimous favorable recommendation on Wednesday by the Education Policy Committee.

State Sen. Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman) introduced a friendly amendment that was adopted by the Senate before they passed the bill. The amendment would move Alabama away from Common Core standards directly to new standards adopted by the state school board in 2021-2022 (instead of using transition standards next school year and then new standards in 2020-2021).

Gudger’s amendment also addressed concerns that the bill would inadvertently bar Alabama from utilizing things like AP tests and national certifications and exams.

Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth (R-AL), who presides over the Senate, told Yellowhammer News Wednesday that he strongly supports the repeal of Common Core.

RELATED: Ivey on Common Core: ‘We should be deliberate in determining a course of study for our state’

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 hours ago

Marsh’s bill to help build Trump’s wall passes Senate

MONTGOMERY — Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh’ bill (R-Anniston) that would voluntarily allow a taxpayer to divert a portion or all of their own state income tax refund to We Build the Wall, Inc. passed the Senate by a vote of 23-6 on Thursday afternoon, overcoming an organized Democrat filibuster.

The bill, SB 22, now is set for a first reading in the House, which can take up the legislation after the legislature’s spring break next week.

“I thank the Senate for their support on this matter and I look forward to working with the House to give Alabamians a voice and are able to express their desire to support President Trump and stronger border security,” Marsh said in a statement.

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After Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) started a filibuster Wednesday, Marsh carried the bill over.

On Thursday, the bill was named to the Senate special order calendar and was again filibustered when it came up, this time with multiple Democrat senators joining in the effort. Republicans, seeing the filibuster was set to continue for hours, successfully adopted a cloture petition to end the filibuster so the Democrats would not continue blocking the chamber from conducting business.

“People I talk to across Alabama are sick and tired of politicians in Washington D.C. talking and nothing being done about the crisis on our borders. This bill is about sending a message to Washington that we support President Trump and his mission to secure our southern border,” Marsh advised.

He added, “Alabamians overwhelming favor securing our borders, protecting our citizens and their jobs and supporting President Trump. This bill simply allows citizens, if they choose, to send a message that they want to see our borders secured by sending a portion of their tax refund to donate to build the wall.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

BONEFROG, ‘The world’s only Navy SEAL obstacle course race’ heads to Alabama this Saturday

Do you love anything military, obstacle course or NASCAR racing-related? If so, you’ll want to head down to Talladega Superspeedway this Saturday for BONEFROG. With obstacles placed every quarter mile, BONEFROG is sure to test even the most seasoned athletes.

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Brian Carney, CEO and Founder of BONEFROG, said the race is designed to push racers past their limits and see that they can accomplish anything they set their minds to.

“We try to replicate the same type of obstacles we trained on in SEAL training but on a smaller and safer scale,” said Carney. “With BONEFROG you can feel the military authenticity throughout the entire event and especially throughout the course.”

This year, the race will offer several options: the 3-mile Sprint, 6-mile Challenge, 9-mile TIER-1, 8 Hour Endurance and the all-new 18+ mile TRIDENT.

For those with children, BONEFROG will also offer quarter and half-mile courses with scaled down obstacles.

Set up at Alabama’s historic Talladega Speedway, Carney says the Alabama BONEFROG race isn’t one to miss.

“There’s so much history here and we utilize every inch of the speedway to make this race stand out from any other. If you’re coming to BONEFROG to race then Talladega tops them all in that department,” Carney said.

At BONEFROG racers can expect not only to be challenged but inspired. Carney says he will never forget watching Alabama veteran, and former Dancing with the Stars contestant Noah Galloway complete the race’s Black OP’s obstacle.

“For those who don’t know, Noah’s an army vet who lost an arm and a leg in combat. To see him on the monkey bars in front of our massive American Flag taking on one of our toughest obstacles just sent chills through my body,” Carney said.

Carney continued, saying that moment continues to linger in his memory.

“To say it was inspirational would be a massive understatement. It’s stayed with me ever since and pushed me and my entire team to always strive to put on the best events we possibly can because our racers deserve just that.”

With 20,000 to 30,000 racers expected to participate in this year’s BONEFROG races, it’s safe to say popularity is unmatched.

More than just a fun and challenging race, BONEFROG partners with nonprofits, like the Navy SEAL Foundation, to give back. Carney said the company has raised over $200,000 for charity to date.

If you’re ready to test your limits and join the race, there’s still time. To register or to learn more about the company, visit the BONEFROG website at www.bonefrogchallenge.com

5 hours ago

Marsh: State will see infrastructure improvements within months

For more than a year, state lawmakers have conducted meetings with different groups about Alabama’s infrastructure needs, along with the use of recent university research to help back up a gas tax increase that would raise about $350 million for critical infrastructure projects.

The result – the Rebuild Alabama Act, which took only a five-day legislative session to pass.

“The reason it only took five days is because this had been a methodical process – we met with anyone who had anything to do with infrastructure, from city and county officials, ALDOT, asphalt and concrete groups, the docks – and the meetings were open to all who wanted to attend,” said Sen. Del Marsh (R-Anniston). “We were looking at our needs 20 years down the road as well. We also looked at studies from the University of Alabama and Auburn University to get the facts. The facts were known.”

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The Rebuild Alabama Act raises the tax per gallon by six cents beginning in September, with two cents more added in October 2020 and in October 2021 that will result in a total of 10 cents more per gallon. The gas tax was last raised in 1992. Every two years, the tax could go up by another cent without legislative approval because of a perpetual indexation. Even so, officials said it is likely that will not happen.

“Had we been using the index – the National Highway Construction Cost Index – for the past 16 years, the tax would actually have gone up a total of about a penny,” Marsh added. “We are still competitive with all our neighboring states, we still have the lowest tax burden in the nation, average median incomes are up 20 percent, yet we are going to have a major investment in our infrastructure.”

The average Alabamian will pay about $200 a year as a result of the increase.

“People have to pay $100 a month for cell phone service and other things, and they will pay only about $200 a year for this,” explained Marsh. “That is cheap, especially for all we will get in infrastructure improvements.”

So, when will they begin to reap the benefits?

“You will begin to see the benefits in about six months,” Marsh said. “This bill also allows for more accountability – it makes sure ALDOT is accountable for each project, and people will be able to see what is being done and how the money is spent.”

The bill allows for a more competitive bidding process between asphalt and concrete, whereas before the state has chosen one kind of road surface based only on the upfront cost rather than long-term sustainment. The law will provide money to deepen and widen the federal channel at the Alabama State Docks to allow for larger ships to travel to the port. There also is a system for the money to be distributed to cities and counties.

Lori Chandler Pruitt is a journalist whose contribution is made possible by a grant from the Alabama Alliance for Infrastructure

5 hours ago

Alabama legislature honors Mike Spann, opposes releasing of ‘American Taliban’ responsible for his murder

MONTGOMERY — Both chambers of the Alabama legislature on Thursday passed a joint resolution honoring Winfield native Johnny Micheal “Mike” Spann, who was the first American known to be killed in “The War on Terror” in Afghanistan after 9/11.

The resolution also condemns the early release of John Walker Lindh, commonly known as the “American Taliban,” who was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2002 but is now set to be released from a federal penitentiary on May 23.

Spann’s mother, Gail, was present at the State House on Thursday, escorted by her local state representative, Tracy Estes (R-Winfield), and state senator, Larry Stutts (R-Tuscumbia). She delivered a powerful speech on both the Senate and House floors, speaking to members of the press in between. Estes added that he thinks Lindh should have been executed for his crimes.

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Gail Spann speaking on the Senate floor (S.Ross/YHN)

Gail believes that Lindh bears responsibility for the death of her son, who was killed in the line of duty during a prison riot at Mazar-e Sharif. The charges originally filed against Lindh included a murder conspiracy role in the slaying of Americans, including Spann, in an uprising at this Afghan prison where Lindh and others had been sent after their capture.

Gail explained that Spann interviewed Lindh shortly before the riot broke out, and that Lindh did not warn him that the prisoners had weapons and were primed to attack both him and another American operative, as well as allied guards.

“I want him to spend the rest of the three years [his remaining sentence time]. I do not want him out,” she said, adding, “I would [ideally] like him to spend the rest of his life in prison, but that’s not possible.”

“He could have saved my son’s life, he knew [of the weapons and prisoners’ plan] and Mike had brought him out because he thought he was a prisoner [being held wrongly] and he was going to save John Walker Lindh’s life. John Walker Lindh had the opportunity to tell Mike right there… he chose not to because he was working [with them], he was a Taliban [member]. He’s a traitor to our country,” Gail advised.

Despite the odds, Spann managed to kill seven terrorists before being overrun by the rioting masses. He was executed “cowardly” shortly after, as the Alabama legislature’s resolution explains.

The resolution said Lindh’s release is an affront to American values and everyone who has ever served under the nation’s flag.

Spann’s mother also warned that Lindh is still a threat to Americans domestically and abroad if allowed to go free.

She described the level of support she and her family have received from state and federal government officials – as well as the citizens of Alabama – since Spann’s death as “amazing.”

“America’s the greatest country in the world,” Gail emphasized.

Spann was also an Auburn University graduate and Marine Corps captain when he joined the CIA as a paramilitary officer. He was a father of three at the time of his death at age 32.

Gail explained that now-CIA Director Gina Haspel had served as Spann’s partner on many occasions.

The two women spoke recently, and Gail shared an emotional moment from that visit.

“When I went last year to her first [appearance as director], she said, ‘You know [Spann] would have been director now instead of me if he had been here.’ That’s how good of an agent that he was,” Gail outlined. “They loved him. They still love him. They honor him all the time.”

You can read more about his life and heroism here.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn