2 years ago

Byrne to lead charge as House sponsor of ‘historic’ Trump education bill

Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-1) has been chosen by the Trump administration as the House of Representatives sponsor for a landmark school choice bill previewed in the president’s State of the Union address earlier this month.

Byrne will introduce the bill Thursday at 10:00 a.m. CST in Washington, D.C. alongside U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who is sponsoring the legislation in the upper chamber.

In an interview with Yellowhammer News Wednesday, Byrne explained that his involvement in the new proposal, which is being hailed as “historic” by the Trump Education Department, began when he hosted DeVos for a visit to Mobile in 2017.

However, Byrne’s interest and involvement in education policy issues goes back decades, exemplified by his time serving on the Alabama State Board of Education and later as chancellor of the state’s two-year/community college system.

He said he is “honored” to have been trusted by the Trump administration with this important presidential priority. Byrne advised that he has already spoken with Cruz about the bill, too.

“I’ve had a couple of conversations with him about it, and we’ll be working together to push this piece of legislation that’s so important to President Trump through Congress,” Byrne said.

General overview of the bill

The bill, building specifically on Trump’s call for increased school choice in the State of the Union, is similar to a federal version of the Alabama Accountability Act. It would create a new dollar-for-dollar, non-refundable tax credit for contributions from individuals and businesses to state-identified nonprofits called Scholarship Granting Organizations (SGOs).

SGOs would distribute these contributions as scholarships, expanding students’ access to a variety of educational opportunities, including private education advanced, remedial and elective courses; private and home education; tutoring; educational therapy; concurrent and dual enrollment; apprenticeships; industry certifications; summer- and after-school education programs; and transportation.

Byrne noted that for states like Alabama that have already successfully implemented this type of tax credit system, the new federal program would be supplemental and not a substitute for the state-run system.

“I think it’s very important that we give opportunities to all children in America,” he outlined. “And to force children, or the parents of their children, to send their children to these schools that perennially fail – that’s like confining those children to a second-class existence. That’s not America. America gives people equal opportunity and in the 21st century, if we’re going to give you equal opportunity, we’ve got to give you equal opportunity to a high-quality education. If we don’t, you’re a ‘have-not.’ And that should not be America.”

Byrne, coming from a district and state where manufacturing and other skilled-labor industries are a critical component of the economy, emphasized that he “feels strongly” about the inclusion of workforce development-focused educational offerings in the new bill. He spoke to the fact that business owners in Alabama – and across the nation – have been identifying the urgent need for more qualified workers as unemployment has gone down in recent years.

“We’re creating lots of high-wage, good jobs – not just in Alabama but around the country – but we’re having a hard time finding the people to fill all those jobs,” Byrne explained. “So, this creates a scholarship for people that don’t have the education or skills to take advantage of these jobs, to go out and get that education [and] those skills so they can get the jobs and make a lot better money than they’re making today.”

He continued, “So, I feel very strongly about it. The president feels very strongly about it. You look at my background, and I’ve been working on these things for 20 years. And the president is certainly a big proponent of it, so this is an idea whose time has come, and I think you’re going to see a lot of bipartisan support for that part of it.”

What’s next?

While he and Trump are certainly hand-in-hand on this specific policy issue, the president’s trust in Byrne to carry the bill in the House signifies a strong overall working relationship between the two men. In a state where Trump has routinely enjoyed his highest approval numbers in the nation, this could be a bonus for Byrne – who is the only currently announced Republican candidate against Sen. Doug Jones’ (D-AL) 2020 re-election bid.

“The opportunities for Alabama and for individuals citizens of Alabama depend on our ability to have good, high-quality education at every level, for every person in the state. And I’m going to use my position in Washington every way that I possibly can to give Alabamians more opportunities for higher education and better education,” Byrne stressed. “And this is just one example of the efforts that I’ve been making for awhile to do that.”

He added, “Now, I’m not doing this alone. I’m a part of a team, and I appreciate being a part of this team. The trick here in Washington is to understand that you build teams of people to create policy that works for people. So being a part of a team that’s advancing President Trump’s policy on school choice is exactly what I think I’ve been prepared to do, going back decades before I got here.”

Byrne expects some of his fellow Alabama congressional delegation members to cosponsor the legislation.

Specifics on the bill will be released Thursday at the official announcement at the U.S. Department of Education’s headquarters. The event will be live-streamed on Facebook and Twitter.

You can read a joint op-ed by Byrne, DeVos and Cruz released Thursday morning here.

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

1 hour ago

Alabama surge needed in 2020 Census participation

It’s the final week of the 2020 Census, and Alabama is counting on every household to submit its survey by Sept. 30. This quick, easy questionnaire collects information that determines Alabama’s federal representation in the U.S. Congress and funding levels for the next decade.


Help shape Alabama’s bottom line by completing the 2020 Census in one of three ways:

  1. Online at my2020census.gov.
  2. By phone at 1-844-330-2020.
  3. By traditional paper form you received in the mail.

Any information given in the 2020 Census is strictly protected by federal law.

A reduction in Alabama’s census could have adverse impacts to federally funded public service programs that affect every single resident.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, lawmakers, business owners and other entities will use 2020 Census data to make critical decisions. The results will show where communities need new schools, clinics, roads and more services for families, older adults and children. The results will also inform how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding are allocated to more than 100 programs, including Medicaid, Head Start, block grants for community mental health services, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP.

For information on the 2020 Census, get the facts here.

View the 2020 Census questions and learn why they are asked.

Visit Privacy and Security to read about how the U.S. Census Bureau protects your household information.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 hours ago

Racers coming to Alabama for world’s longest annual paddle race

Paddlers from across the United States will be racing each other down 650 miles of Alabama’s scenic rivers later this month in the Great Alabama 650, the world’s longest annual paddle race.

The second annual Great Alabama 650 begins Sept. 26 on Weiss Lake in Centre. Racers will have 10 days to reach Fort Morgan in Mobile Bay via the core section of the Alabama Scenic River Trail, the longest river trail in a single state. Laura Gaddy, communications director of the trail, said this year’s race will be different.


“In 2019, racers with a wide range of skill level and paddling experience competed in the Great Alabama 650, but just three boats made it to the finish line,” Gaddy said. “Even advanced paddlers had to drop out of the race before finishing, underscoring that this race is best suited for paddlers with a proven record. Therefore, this year we limited registration to paddlers who have competed in previous races. As a result, this year’s class of entrants is even more competitive than the inaugural class.”

Paddlers compete in nation’s longest state river trail from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The field features 16 racers, including 2019 overall winner Bobby Johnson, as well as female solo winner Sallie O’Donnell and Alabama native Ryan Gillikin. Johnson covered more than 85 miles per day to finish the race in seven days, 8 hours, 1 minute and 55 seconds.

“Several of our racers have not only completed some of the toughest paddle races in the world, they have won them,” Gaddy said. “Some are or have been professional paddlers. Others have represented the United States in paddling competitions abroad.”

Alabama’s diverse habitats are on full display during the race as competitors experience rushing whitewater, ambling river delta and everything in between. The course includes portages around several Alabama Power dams.

“The Great Alabama 650 elevates our state to the international stage and points to the 600-plus-mile Alabama Scenic River Trail as one of the premiere paddle destinations in the United States,” Gaddy said. “Even the most competitive athletes can be encumbered by the unpredictable challenges presented by the natural world. This is a race to watch.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced race organizers to restrict portages to race staff, crews and racers. Gaddy said there are still plenty of ways for fans to cheer on the racers.

“There are several ways to track the progress of the competitors without leaving your home,” Gaddy said. “Race updates are reported on our Facebook and Instagram accounts, and viewers can visit AL650.com to see our live map, which is updated at least every 2 minutes.”

Viewers can also track the race on social media using the race hashtag #AL650, which may link viewers to behind-the-scene photos posted by racers and their crew members.

“Last year several people with a waterfront property also stood out on their piers to cheer the racers,” Gaddy said. “Some even made signs. When the racers made it to the finish line, they said that the support they received from these spectators helped them to keep going when the race got tough.”

The race, which is sponsored this year by Cahaba BrewingMustang SurvivalMammoth Clothing and Alabama Power, begins Sept. 26 on Weiss Lake in Centre. The prize purse will be awarded across three categories: Male Solo, Female Solo and Team. To follow the progress of the competition or to learn more, visit al650.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

5 hours ago

Nick Saban: Time for Crimson Tide to flip switch from practice to game mode

Alabama coach Nick Saban said his Crimson Tide football team is showing the right effort and intensity in practice, but it’s time to flip the switch and start finishing plays like they would in a game.

“We haven’t played a game in a long time,” Saban said. “We’ve got to get out of practice mode and make sure we’re practicing to develop the habits that are gonna become a part of our DNA as competitors in terms of how we play in a game.”

Alabama opens the season on the road against Missouri at 6 p.m. Saturday. The game will be televised on ESPN.

Nick Saban: Crimson Tide focuses on finishing as season kickoff approaches from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

6 hours ago

College football picks — SEC week 1 and more

The Season of Sankey officially gets underway today. The SEC takes the field for the first time this fall as a result of conference commissioner Greg Sankey’s well-planned approach to playing football amid COVID-19 conditions.

During the last two weeks, a parade of conferences have backtracked on plans to cancel their seasons and put in place schedules set to kick off beginning next month. If only they had followed one simple rule: be more like Sankey.

No doubt the season will be unusual. Expect the unexpected. And, as always, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Here are a few picks.



No. 2 Alabama (-29) at Missouri: The Crimson Tide have the fewest non-COVID questions of any team in the country. They also have the most talented roster. Missouri will have a tough time scoring while Nick Saban gets to pick his team’s score.

The pick: Alabama 41, Missouri 9

No. 4 Georgia (-28) at Arkansas: Not a lot of intrigue here, either. The D’Wan Mathis era begins. Georgia wins. Maybe the only real question is: how will Kirby Smart handle dipping and wearing a mask at the same time?

The pick: Georgia 34, Arkansas 7

No. 5 Florida (-14) at Ole Miss: Everyone loves Lane. We get it. But there is a difference in these rosters. Through rain, sleet or snow — or direct deposit — Kiffin will recruit better talent to Oxford in the coming years. Right now, Florida is a markedly better team top-to-bottom.

The pick: Florida 52, Ole Miss 20

No. 8 Auburn (-6.5) at Kentucky: Everyone and their momma is taking Kentucky and the points in this game, not to mention the number of people picking the outright upset. Is it bowl game fatigue? Is it Auburn’s losses on the defensive line? We don’t know. What we do know is that Chad Morris may be the best offensive coordinator in the country if Gus Malzahn lets him cook.

The pick: Auburn 35, Kentucky 24


No. 16 Tennessee (-3.5) at South Carolina: This is a “the barely proven head coach got a raise the week before playing the first game” pick. Plus, South Carolina finally has some actual structure on offense with the addition of Mike Bobo as offensive coordinator and a serviceable starter at quarterback in Collin Hill.

The pick: South Carolina 20, Tennessee 16

West Virginia at No. 15 Oklahoma State (-6.5): This pick breaks two important rules: 1) don’t make a pick because of a coach, and 2) be very wary of the heavily public side. Neal Brown is a rising star. Mike Gundy is something other than that. Neither team has played a game that matters yet, but they looked very different in their respective first weeks. Let’s join the crowd.

The pick: West Virginia 30, Oklahoma State 21


Mississippi State at No. 6 LSU (-16.5): How can we not make a pick in the first-ever SEC game coached by two non-English speakers? All offseason we have heard people ponder about whether Mike Leach’s system will work in the SEC. Any system will work if you have good enough players. The Bulldogs currently do not. On the other hand, one can only imagine the carnage in Baton Rouge post-national championship. At least Coach O gave us this gem.

The pick: LSU 33, Mississippi State 16

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

7 hours ago

Gus Malzahn: Auburn ready to host Kentucky, kick off delayed season

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said he is happy game week has finally arrived, even though he knows his Auburn Tigers football team will be tested by the visiting Kentucky Wildcats.

“It’s been a long time coming to get to this point,” Malzahn said. “We’re playing a really good Kentucky Wildcat team. When you look at them offensively, last year they were one of the best rushing teams in all of college football. To be able to do that in this league says a lot.”

But Malzahn said he is also impressed by his own squad.


“Overall, I’m really excited about this year’s team,” he said. “We have all kinds of new faces out there. I believe we have 13 new starters, so I’m really excited to watch this team grow. I really feel that if we stay healthy, we’ll have a chance to improve each game, and of course with 10 SEC games, it’s important for teams to improve throughout the year. I’m really looking forward to watching our guys play. I’m excited.”

Auburn hosts the Wildcats at 11 a.m. Sept. 26 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.

Gus Malzahn: Kentucky presents a challenge for Auburn’s opener from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)