2 months ago

Ivey ceremonially signs four key education bills

MONTGOMERY — Governor Kay Ivey this week held a bill signing ceremony for four major pieces of education legislation that were passed during the Alabama legislature’s 2019 regular session, with Friday marking two years since the governor unveiled her signature ‘Strong Start, Strong Finish’ education initiative.

The governor’s office in a statement emphasized that these four bills are major parts of implementing the policies espoused in the “Strong Start, Strong Finish” plan.

Ivey outlined that the two-year anniversary of the initiative’s roll-out sees education steadily heading in the right direction in the Yellowhammer State.

“For too long, our state has not seen the education results we want, and that should not be the case. Over the last two years, Alabama rallied behind ‘Strong Start, Strong Finish’ so that instead of being complacent, our state could take the lead in education,” Ivey said. “I am certainly proud of the groundwork that we have laid and look forward to our educators, students and workforce reaping the benefits of these labors.”

“Strong Start, Strong Finish” is comprised of three core components: Pre through Three; Computer Science for Alabama (CS4AL); and Advanced Training, Better Jobs.

The four education bills ceremonially signed this week, which make up this year’s “Strong Start, Strong Finish” legislative package, focus on those three phases of a student’s learning journey. The bills are House Bill 388, House Bill 216, House Bill 570 and Senate Bill 295 and all become effective September 1.

The governor’s office said that this is the most substantial education package a governor has signed into law since then-Governor Albert Brewer fifty years ago.

Pre through Three

The initial phase focuses on building a child’s foundation for their educational journey and beyond. To further this effort, Ivey this year signed into law HB 388, sponsored by State Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur). Known as the Alabama Literacy Act, HB 388 will ensure that all students enter the fourth grade reading proficiently.

“This legislation will focus on helping students improve their reading skills and will enable them to achieve better opportunities in all areas of life,” Collins said in a statement.

This law also refocuses the Alabama Reading Initiative by providing support for educator professional learning in reading and strengthens support for struggling readers.

Computer Science for Alabama (CS4AL)

Computer science education is critical in preparing Alabama’s students for the jobs of tomorrow, and is recognized as such through Ivey’s initiative. To put a greater emphasis on this subject matter, HB 216, known as the Computer Science for Alabama Act, was sponsored by State Rep. David Faulkner (R-Mountain Brook). The bill phases in requirements for public schools to offer courses in computer science.

“Every student in Alabama deserves the opportunity to take a computer science course that better prepares them to have success in a world that is constantly becoming more technology dependent,” Faulkner commented.

In addition to HB 216 providing funds for evidence-based computer science professional learning for K-12 computer science teachers, it also carves a better pathway for public school teachers to be properly trained and certified in computer science.

Advanced Training, Better Jobs

Finally, the governor has made it a priority of her administration to create world-class workforce development programs for Alabamians across the state.

“It is imperative that we continue to find ways to streamline the process for students who are entering the workforce in Alabama,” State Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville) emphasized.

Scofield added that both SB 295 and HB 570 represent “a great step in that direction.”

Sponsored by State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), SB 295 expands the Apprenticeship Alabama Tax Credit by providing an additional $500 for hiring in-school youth apprentices. Additionally, this bill modifies the Apprenticeship Alabama Tax Credit to increase the base tax credit from $1,000 to $1,250. SB 295 also increases the number of apprentices one employer may claim from 5 to 10, as well as the tax credit cap from $3 million to $7.5 million. Additionally, the legislation establishes the Alabama Office of Apprenticeship.

Regarding HB 570, State Rep. Alan Baker (R-Brewton) advised, “The AIRRAP Act will allow multiple state and local entities, as well as the private sector, to come together with a common goal of training our citizens to be productive participants in our state’s economy.”

SB 295 and HB 570 had strong bipartisan support.

“With the constantly changing economy, workforce development must continue to be a focus of the Legislature and our state agencies,” Rep. Rod Scott (D-Fairfield) said. “These bills, without a doubt, advance our efforts to have a 21st Century workforce that is not only equipped for the jobs that exist today, but is also prepared for the new jobs that will be created in the future.”

What’s next?

In addition to these four bills, Ivey supported SB 397 and SB 398 during the 2019 regular session.

Now, SB 397 is up for a referendum of the people on the March 2020 primary ballot.

Read more about the ongoing effort to raise support for that referendum here.

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

1 hour ago

What is the responsibility of business?

The Business Roundtable (BR), a group of chief executive officers (CEOs) of some of America’s largest corporations, recently released a statement claiming that businesses have a broader purpose than simply making profit. By contrast, in a famous essay economist Milton Friedman argued that the social responsibility of business was to increase its profit. The BR statement may perhaps be pure public relations. Still, should we regard profit as less important than other potential business goals?

Answering this depends on the nature of profits. In the market, all transactions are voluntary. No business, however large, can compel anyone to buy their product, work for them, or loan them money. Profit must be earned by producing valuable goods or services. Customers will only buy a product that delivers more value than comparably priced goods, or similar value for a lower price. Workers will only work if the pay and conditions compare favorably to other jobs.

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In a market economy, profit cannot be made through exploitation. Some people, unfortunately, do not have very good alternatives. Many Americans do not consider a minimum wage job attractive; the person willing to work for $7.25 an hour is better off, given their other options. We might lament the lack of better alternatives but any better opportunity is an improvement.

Should corporations lower prices or pay workers more instead of earning profits? Not necessarily. Profit is the reward for investors who enable investment, the hiring of workers, and production. Profit also enables charity. America’s great philanthropic foundations – like the Ford, Rockefeller, and Gates Foundations – were built off enormously successful and profitable businesses. If Microsoft were not so profitable, Bill Gates could not be so charitable today.

Why will stockholders want businesses to earn profits? Millions of Americans own stock, either directly or through their pension plans. They invest for many different reasons: for retirement, to provide for their children or grandchildren, or to enable donations to charitable causes. Money allows the stockholders to pursue these distinct goals. Absent specific evidence otherwise, we should presume that stockholders want profit.

The BR statement says that corporations have commitments to other stakeholders: they should deliver value to customers, treat and compensate employees fairly, and deal ethically with suppliers. I see no real divergence here from Professor Friedman, who insisted that increases in profit had to be achieved within society’s legal and ethical bounds.

This might seem surprising, as corporations appear to many to shortchange customers and take advantage of employees. Yet markets are entirely voluntary. Providing a shoddy product and ignoring customer complaints may reduce costs and increase profit in the near term. But dissatisfied customers will turn elsewhere and damages a company’s reputation.

Corporations rely on their employees, as the owners do not do all the work themselves. The workers know how to make a business’ products. Dissatisfied workers can quit, taking their training and skills with them. Stiffing workers on overtime or benefits may save a little money, but losing skilled workers is very costly.

Treating people the right way – especially customers, employees and suppliers – is arguably how to increase profits. It may be difficult to quantify how much this adds to the bottom line and so may appear to be an item of faith. Still, the BR statement here just seems like good business.

One of Professor Friedman’s concerns remains relevant today. CEOs make decisions, give speeches, and receive media attention but ultimately do not own corporations. Owners ultimately get to make the decisions; the CEO works for the stockholders, represented by the board of directors.

A CEO may choose to support trendy social causes to build a reputation as an enlightened executive. It is easy to be charitable with other people’s money. Hold your applause when businesses support broader social causes. CEOs ultimately should heed the stockholders and not grab the spotlight to boost their egos.

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University and host of Econversations on TrojanVision. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Troy University.

3 hours ago

Alabama Maker Siluria Brewing has tapped into local flavor of Alabaster

Siluria Brewing Company was built in a renovated post office and has delivered on a promise of good beer and an inviting atmosphere for locals and visitors.

Just a few turns off Interstate 65 in Alabaster, Siluria Brewing has established itself as a part of the community since it opened in November 2018.

Danny and Tammy Sample, a soon-to-be-retired military veteran and a retired dental hygienist, respectively, opened the brewery in the city they love.

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Siluria Brewing is an Alabama Maker of local beer from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

“We knew we wanted an old building, we wanted there to be some history and character and we didn’t feel like we could do that if we built a new building,” Tammy said. Renovating took almost a year, but what they have now is a place that represents them and Alabaster. The dynamic duo knew they wanted the place to be as much about family as it is about beer.

Siluria Brewing is named after the town of Siluria from the 1890s. It remains a neighborhood in Alabaster, but was absorbed into the larger Shelby County city in the 1970s.

Danny said he felt the city needed something like Siluria Brewing that it could embrace and enjoy.

The Samples have succeeded in bringing old and new together, drawing on history while offering a new place to gather after work or for live music on the weekends.

A variety of nine beers aims to have something for all beer lovers. For those not into beer, the Samples are expanding into wine.

Through it all, Danny said the goal is to keep the focus where it is.

“We’re not going to try to compete statewide or nationwide,” he said. “We just truly want to stay local and be a true small, local business.”


Siluria Brewing Company

The product: Craft beer with special seasonal offerings.

Take home: A growler of Cock-On-A-Rock ESB.

Siluria Brewing Company can be found online, on Facebook and on Twitter.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 hours ago

University of Alabama’s Million Dollar Band to perform in 2020 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Alabama Million Dollar Band has been selected to perform in the 2020 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade®, representing the state of Alabama.

This will mark the first appearance by the band in the Parade. The Million Dollar Band will join the Parade to the call of “Let’s Have a Parade,” the iconic phrase that has signaled the start of every Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade since 1924.

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“It’s fitting that the UA Million Dollar Band, one of the most respected university marching bands in the country, will be performing in one of the largest parades in the world,” said UA President Stuart R. Bell. “What Alabama fans have been able to enjoy on Saturdays will now be shared with more than 50 million people live on the streets of New York and watching on television. We’re honored by the invitation, and I couldn’t be more pleased by the work of these talented student musicians.”

“The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is one of America’s iconic holiday traditions,” said Dr. Ken Ozzello, UA professor of music and director of bands. “Having the opportunity to participate will be thrilling for the members of the Million Dollar Band and provide them with life-long memories.”

Each year, the Macy’s Parade Band Committee looks for bands that have the stage presence and the musical and marching abilities to captivate more than 3.5 million live spectators and more than 50 million viewers. The Million Dollar Band was selected from more than 100 applicants as one of nine bands to march in the 94th edition of the annual holiday spectacle.

The band will join the revelry along with other iconic Macy’s staples: floats, giant character balloons, clowns and superstar performers galore on Thanksgiving Day 2020, helping create an unforgettable experience for millions.

“When most Americans think of The University of Alabama, they may think about football, however, it is the exciting showmanship, entertaining performances and incredible music at halftime that captures our attention,” said Wesley Whatley, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade creative producer. “The Macy’s Band Selection Committee is proud to welcome the sights and sounds of The Million Dollar Band to the streets of New York City for their inaugural appearance in the 2020 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade!”

The Million Dollar Band will spend the next 14 months planning for their Parade appearance.

“In preparation, the band will work on its marching technique, as well as the standstill portion of the Parade which is televised by NBC,” Ozzello said. “It will be a challenge to stage 400 musicians and performers in front of Macy’s, but the staff is eagerly looking forward to taking on that challenge.”

Performing for millions of fans each year, the Million Dollar Band has been a Crimson Tide tradition for more than 100 years, and it has become one of the most respected university marching bands in the country. The band, which is made up of more than 400 students from almost every major and department on campus, is UA’s largest student organization.

For more than 90 years, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has given thanks to what Macy’s values most – its loyal fans. More than 5,000 Macy’s employees and dedicated volunteers work tirelessly to create a spectacular event that entertains the cheerful crowds and provides joy to millions at home watching on Thanksgiving Day. Stretching down a more than two-mile-long route in New York City, the spectacle is alive with gleaming color, music and smiles.

Shane Dorrill is the Assistant Director of Communications, Broadcast Media and Safety at the University of Alabama

4 hours ago

Thousands of Alabama 8th graders attend mega career fair

More than 7,900 eighth graders from across southwest Alabama visited the Mobile Civic Center Wednesday and Thursday for the 10th annual Worlds of Opportunity hands-on career exploration event.

New this year was WOO Varsity, an event where high school students could learn about competitive, high-wage career opportunities and meet with potential employers. Students had the opportunity to talk with industry professionals about high-demand jobs, apprenticeships and enter for a $1,000 technical program scholarship drawing.

“We’ve got to grow our own talent,” Duplantis said. “We hope to create a spark and we could not do it without our sponsors like Alabama Power, BASF and ST Engineering — they’re all doing a wonderful job of giving these kids something that’s very hands-on. Our companies understand the need to start early in pipeline development.”

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Alabama Power sponsors and participates in the program.

Duplantis said this event is just another example of the positive energy surrounding workforce development and economic development efforts in Alabama.

“If we’re going to meet our demands, we’ve got to have an additional 500,000 workers with a degree or credential by 2025,” Duplantis said. “This is part of meeting that goal.”

To learn more about Worlds of Opportunity or career training opportunities in southwest Alabama, visit sawdcalabamaworks.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

Celebrate the Seventh Amendment Monday at Jefferson County Courthouse

The Alabama Association of Justice and their members invite all courthouse employees and judicial staff to celebrate 230 years of the Seventh Amendment guaranteeing the right to a civil jury trial.  Join the fun: Monday, September 23, 10:00 am to 10:30 am at the Jefferson County Courthouse, 716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. N #251, Birmingham, AL.  For more information contact jsmith@alabamajustice.org.

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