5 days ago

Ivey, legislative leaders start bipartisan push for state school board referendum — ‘It’s time to take the lead, Alabama’

BIRMINGHAM — Governor Kay Ivey on Monday announced her “Take the Lead, Alabama” initiative, an effort to raise awareness over K-12 education issues in the state and rally support for an important referendum on the state’s March 2020 primary election ballot.

Legislative leaders from both parties joined Ivey for a press conference at the McWane Science Center to express their steadfast, bipartisan commitment to education reform in the state of Alabama, calling on the people to approve SB 397 in the upcoming referendum.

This constitutional amendment, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston), represents a historic overhaul of the state school board. The proposal would change Alabama’s current, elected State Board of Education to a governor-appointed Alabama Commission on Elementary and Secondary Education.

SB 397 received overwhelming support in the Alabama legislature during the 2019 regular session. The Senate passed the legislation unanimously and the House vote was 78-21.

The constitutional amendment would also establish the Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education, appointed by the commission, to replace the current state superintendent position. The governor’s appointments and the secretary must be confirmed by the Senate and will be required to have the geographical, gender and racial diversity that reflects the state public-school population.

Alabama is one of only six states with an elected school board appointing a chief state school officer. All of Alabama’s neighboring states have governor-appointed school boards.

Additionally, the Yellowhammer State’s public education system was ranked number 50 in the United States in a report published last month and has consistently been stagnant (at best) near the bottom of other national K-12 educational rankings for years.

Speaking to attendees at the Monday press conference, Ivey emphasized this effort is a continuation of the core promise she made to the people of Alabama when she assumed office in 2017: Alabama’s education system has been broken for years, starting with its system of governance at the top, and Ivey is dedicated to righting the ship.

“Since taking office, I’ve made improving education a top priority. As a former teacher, I recognize that strong leadership and a strong plan are necessary components to improving our education system,” Ivey said. “Through my ‘Take the Lead, Alabama’ initiative, we will shake up how we do things in our state to improve educational outcomes for students in every region. I encourage every Alabamian to join me in supporting this constitutional amendment, so that Alabama can take the lead!”

Marsh, after spearheading the legislative side of the proposal, is continuing to be an integral advocate ahead of the referendum.

“Our current system is broken,” Marsh has said previously. “We need systemic changes to our education system and it starts at the top.”

At the press conference, he thanked Ivey for her support and dedication to improving education in the state

“No issue is more important in Alabama than education,” Marsh stressed. “Next March, the voters will have the chance to send a strong message that we want a school board that is capable of making decisions in the best interests of our schools, teachers and students.”

The top states in The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) —Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Virginia, Florida, Indiana, Vermont, South Dakota, Iowa — have governor-appointed boards. Studies have shown that states where governors appoint state education chiefs perform better than states where chiefs gain their posts by other means.

Marsh added, “I believe students learn best when innovation is allowed to take place in the classroom. If we have a school board that is made up of qualified individuals who are held accountable, we can increase local control, reduce the amount of time the Legislature spends on education reform and put the power back where it belongs, in the hands of educators.”

This constitutional amendment would also establish the commission’s functions, as provided by general law, and would also specifically include emphasis on implementing a consistent course of study standards; comprehensive teacher certification and professional development programs; and an accountability and assessment program.

This explicitly includes that SB 397 would mandate that the newly formed commission replace Common Core in Alabama.

Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) has previously said, “This is a solid reform — I appreciate Senator Marsh for moving this bill forward, Governor Kay Ivey for supporting it, and I urge the voters of Alabama to approve its passage in March.”

House Ways and Means Education Chairman Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa) carried the bill in the House.

Additional legislative headliners like House Majority Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville), House Majority Whip Danny Garrett (R-Trussville), State Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur), State Rep. Allen Baker (R-Brewton), State Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster), State Rep. Pebblin Warren (D-Tuskegee) and State Rep. Barbara Boyd (D-Anniston) were on hand Monday to show their support, saying educating Alabama’s students transcends politics.

At the end of the press conference, Ivey also signed SB 398, a Marsh-sponsored bill passed as a companion to SB 397 that would ensure the governor would consult with members of the minority caucuses in the legislature when appointing minority members to the Alabama Commission on Elementary and Secondary Education, if the referendum is successful.

“I applaud the Legislature for giving final passage to a law that will guarantee the Legislature’s minority party a strong voice during the appointment process. Bipartisanship has and will continue to be a major focus of my administration,” Ivey remarked.

She added, “This legislation reaffirms that in order for us to make substantial and positive changes to our state’s education system, we must all work together. By doing so, we will undoubtedly create a better future for our students… It’s time to take the lead, Alabama!”

For more information on the dire statistics related to Alabama’s education rankings and outcomes, along with more information on the “Take the Lead, Alabama” campaign, click here.

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

11 hours ago

Birmingham students awarded scholarships to fuel their studies in technical fields

The Birmingham chapter of the American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE) recently awarded five students sholarships to further their studies.

The mission of the organization is to provide energy professionals, executives, entrepreneurs and students a pathway to learn more about the energy industry through education, mentoring, community service and business networking.

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Phillip Coffey, Marketing specialist for Alabama Power, helped organize the annual scholarship luncheon. He says the organization gives greater exposure and representation of the energy industry to students and professionals.

The chapter awarded $10,000 in scholarship funds – Iva B. Williams Endowment Scholarships – to five students:

  • Grant Sims.
  • Alexander Washington.
  • Adetola Koiki.
  • Micah Pruitt.
  • Amira Gilford.

The Birmingham chapter of AABE is made up of employees from Alabama Power, Southern PowerSouthern Nuclear Company and Southern Company Services.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

13 hours ago

Tuberville’s warning on immigration: ‘We have more Middle Easterners coming across that border at times than we do people from Latin America’

As was the case with several of the past elections, immigration will be a significant issue in the 2020 campaign cycle, especially with President Donald Trump at the top of the ticket.

The 2020 U.S. Senate GOP primary in Alabama will not be an exception, especially as many Republican base voters are growing restless with congressional Democrats stalling Trump’s effort to secure the U.S.-Mexico border.

During an interview with Mobile radio’s FM Talk 106.5, former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville, a candidate for the Republican nomination for the 2020 U.S. Senate race, decried the lax border security and added that in some cases Middle Easterners were exceeding the number of those from Latin America coming across the border.

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“The problem that we’re having, and people don’t understand this, is we do need workers,” he said. “We need people over here to work. I’m big on immigration, but we got to get them in there the right way. And we’ve got to know who is here. We have more Middle Easterners coming across that border at times than we do people from Latin America. We do not have a clue who is coming across, and a lot of these people aren’t coming over here to help this country out. They’re coming over here to tear this country down. They are not for the Constitution. They are not for our laws. They are not for the people in this country. They want to tear it down, and we’re not going to let that happen.”

“That’s the reason I’m running because I want the people in this country to have safe neighborhoods, safe streets,” Tuberville continued. “It sounds like a politician, but all you got to do is open up your eyes and look. That’s one of my mottos in this campaign: Open your eyes and look at what’s going on, and let’s get these people out of Washington that won’t do anything and put people up there that will make a decision and don’t care if they go back and get reelected.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

15 hours ago

Roby: Honoring our symbol of freedom

On June 14th, 1777, our country’s flag was officially adopted by a resolution of the Second Continental Congress. Many years later, in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation that established June 14th as Flag Day, and on August 3, 1949, this day of observance was officially established by an Act of Congress.

Now, every year on June 14th, our country has a special opportunity to celebrate our flag and reflect upon what it symbolizes. The American flag displays 13 horizontal stripes alternating red and white with a blue rectangle, specifically referred to as the “union,” that bears 50 small, white, five-pointed stars arranged in nine horizontal rows. As you may know, the 50 stars on the American flag represent our 50 states. The 13 stripes represent the 13 original colonies that declared independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain and became the first states in the United States.

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While the design of the American flag has been officially modified 26 times since its initial adoption in 1777, the symbolic meaning has remained the same. Whether flown on front lawns across Alabama, in front of schools, universities and businesses of all sizes, or proudly displayed at military installations across this great country, for centuries the American flag has been an inspiring emblem of pride, hope, and freedom for countless people throughout the world.

Whenever I see our flag, I am especially reminded of the hundreds of thousands of men and women who have fought to defend it and all it represents. This year, Flag Day comes during an especially important time, as I recently was proud to announce my 2019 appointees to our United States service academies.

Each year, it is my distinct privilege and honor as a member of Congress to nominate students from the Second District to be considered for appointment to the United States Air Force, Naval, Military and Merchant Marine Academies.

This year, I am very pleased to announce that I nominated the following students who received official appointments to the service academies:

  • Daniel Brayden Banner is the son of Dan and Amanda Banner. He is a graduate of Providence Christian School in Dothan, and he received an offer of appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point.Theodore Maxwell Dowd is the son of John and Donna Dowd. He is a graduate of Northview High School in Dothan, and he received an offer of appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point.
  • Amore Jacarra Hardy is the daughter of Regina Hardy. She is a graduate of Booker T. Washington Magnet High School in Montgomery, and she received an offer of appointment to the United States Air Force Academy.
  • Timothy Jurard McClendon is the son of Emma Lee McClendon. He is a graduate of Carroll High School in Ozark, and he received an offer of appointment to the United States Air Force Academy.
  • Johnny M. Montgomery, III, is the son of Johnny Montgomery. He is a graduate of Stanhope Elmore High School in Millbrook, and he received an offer of appointment to the United States Air Force Academy.
  • Jackson Scott Parker is the son of Scott and Hannah Parker. He is a graduate of Abbeville High School, and he received an offer of appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point.
  • Isaac Taylor Sherman is the son of Jeremy and Morgan Sherman. He is a graduate of Prattville High School, and he received an offer of appointment to the United States Air Force Academy.
  • Seth Cameron White is the son of Steve and Terri White. He is a graduate of Wicksburg High School, and he received an offer of appointment to the United States Naval Academy.

In the spirit of Flag Day, I believe these students from our communities are to be commended not only for their academic excellence, but more importantly, for their eagerness to serve our great country. I am incredibly proud to join their families, friends, teachers and hometowns in offering my sincerest congratulations and thanks. Our flag will continue to shine as a symbol of freedom because of young leaders like these men and women.

Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband Riley and their two children.

17 hours ago

SEC Baseball Tournament at Hoover Met sees record crowds

Record crowds of more than 160,000 people attended the 2019 SEC Baseball Tournament.

The tournament, held annually at the Hoover Met Complex, had an estimated $15 million economic impact on the area.

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said the conference three years ago looked for a host site that would enhance the tournament experience for fans. “After reviewing numerous proposals and visiting a number of potential sites, it turned out that Hoover, our longtime home, could provide everything necessary to make it the right venue for SEC Baseball,” Sankey said.

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He said the city of Hoover stepped things up with the Finley Center to house the SEC Fan Fest, the construction of on-site practice fields and, this year, the addition of a new video board.

“We feel those changes in particular have been game-changers in providing the SEC with a ‘baseball campus’ that is unique to college post-season tournaments,” Sankey said.

From May 21-26, 12 teams competed in the double elimination tournament, which was won by Vanderbilt.

Throughout the week, 162,699 people attended the various baseball games and 32,000 of those attendees came through the SEC Fan Fest. The area included access to inflatables, arcade games, a zip line, climbing, miniature golf course, live entertainment, food and beverage options and more. Fans were able to watch the game from a giant flat-screen TV and couches in the large, air-conditioned facility.

“The 2019 SEC Baseball Tournament was a tremendous success at the Hoover Metropolitan Complex,” said Hoover Mayor Frank V. Brocato. “The city of Hoover was able to welcome a record-setting number of baseball fans throughout the week and attendees had many options for activities around the baseball tournament once they arrived at the complex. … It is certainly our privilege to have hosted this tournament for the past 22 years. We look forward to seeing everyone back in 2020.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

18 hours ago

State Sen. Cam Ward: ‘I don’t think you bring back a lottery’ in proposed prison special session

The Alabama legislature was not able to come to an agreement on a lottery this past general session, meaning the body will likely address it in the future.

Could that come as soon as later this year, when Gov. Kay Ivey will reportedly call a special session to address Alabama’s prison system? Given the state’s prisons are under the threat of a federal government takeover, some have suggested that a lottery could be used as a funding mechanism to fix the state’s ailing prisons.

During an appearance on WVNN’s “The Jeff Poor Show,” Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster), who has been out in front of the prison issue, downplayed the chances of lawmakers addressing the lottery as part of any prison solution.

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“I just don’t see what has changed since the regular session until now that would make a lottery even feasible to bring up in a special session,” Ward said. “I mean, you look at our state. We’re one of four states that have two budgets. And the bulk of our money goes to the education budget, which has a $400 million growth fund this time, and that’s good. But at the same time, we had a lottery that we passed out of the Senate that money went to the general fund, which is constantly struggling with issues like prisons, Medicaid, and mental health. And it failed in the House because most people want to see it all go to education. I just can’t imagine why a lottery bill would come back during a special session because I’m not sure what has changed since it failed in the House this last time. I mean, unless something has changed that I’m not aware of, I don’t think you bring back a lottery in this special session.”

Ward said he did not see the need for increased revenue to solve the prison problem, noting the significant increase in funding for the Department of Corrections already.

“I think the money is already here,” Ward replied. “I really do. I don’t think you need any kind of increase in revenue. I mean, good gracious we gone from a $380 million budget for prisons just a few years ago. Today we’re at $560 million-$580 million. I don’t think you need to do any more revenue. I think it’s how you handle policy within the prison and how you handle the policy with sentencing.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.