1 month ago

Ivey: This is our time, Alabama

My fellow Alabamians:

In a few days, America will celebrate her 244th birthday.

Traditionally, many towns and cities around the country light up the night with fireworks and music festivals. In 1776, John Adams predicted that Independence Day would be “celebrated by succeeding generations” with “pomp and circumstance … bonfires and illuminations.”

However, largely because of COVID-19, this year’s observance of our country’s birth will likely be a bit more subdued than previous years. While unfortunate, this is certainly understandable.

Today – and very likely in the days that will follow – instead of talking about what unites us as one nation – other conversations will occur that are, quite frankly, a bit more difficult and challenging.

My personal hope – and prayer – for this year’s 4th of July is that the marvel of our great country – how we started, what we’ve had to overcome, what we’ve accomplished and where we are going – isn’t lost on any of us.

We are all searching for “a more perfect union” during these trying and demanding days.

Over the past several weeks, our nation has been having one of those painful, yet overdue, discussions about the subject of race.

The mere mention of race often makes some people uncomfortable, even though it is a topic that has been around since the beginning of time.

Nationally, a conversation about race brings with it the opportunity where even friends can disagree on solutions; it also can be a catalyst to help total strangers find common ground and see things eye-to-eye with someone they previously did not even know.

Here in Alabama, conversations about race are often set against a backdrop of our state’s long – and at times – ugly history on the subject.

No one can say that America’s history hasn’t had its own share of darkness, pain and suffering.

But with challenge always comes opportunity.

For instance, Montgomery is both the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement, as well as the cradle of the Confederacy. What a contrast for our Capital City.

The fact is our entire state has, in many ways, played a central role in the ever-evolving story of America and how our wonderful country has, itself, changed and progressed through the years.

Ever since the senseless death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, thousands of Alabamians – of all races, young and old – have taken to the streets of our largest cities and smallest towns in protest to demand change and to seek justice.

These frustrations are understandable.

Change often comes too slowly for some and too quickly for others. As only the second female to be elected governor of our state in more than 200 years, I can attest to this.

Most of us recognize that our views on issues such as race relations tend to grow out of our own background and experiences. But, fortunately, our views can change and broaden as we talk and learn from each other.

As a nation, we believe that all people are created equal in their own rights as citizens, but we also know that making this ideal a reality is still a challenge for us.

Even with the election of America’s first African-American president 12 years ago, racial, economic and social barriers continue to exist throughout our country. This just happens to be our time in history to ensure we are building on the progress of the past, as we take steps forward on what has proven to be a long, difficult journey.

Folks, the fact is we need to have real discussions – as an Alabama family. No one should be under the false illusion that simply renaming a building or pulling a monument down, in and of itself, will completely fix systemic discrimination.

Back in January, I invited a group of 65 prominent African-American leaders – from all throughout Alabama – to meet with me in Montgomery to begin having a dialogue on issues that truly matter to our African-American community in this state. This dedicated group – known as Alabama United – is helping to bring some very legitimate concerns and issues to the table for both conversation and action.

As an example, Alabama will continue to support law enforcement that is sensitive to the communities in which they serve. We have thousands of dedicated men and women who put their lives on the line to protect our state every single day. But we can – and must – make certain that our state’s policies and procedures reflect the legitimate concerns that many citizens have about these important issues.

I am confident all these conversations – and hopefully many more – will lead to a host of inspirational ideas that will lead to a more informed debate and enactment of sound public policy.

We must develop ways to advance all communities that lack access to good schools, jobs, and other opportunities. As governor, I will continue to make education and achieving a good job a priority – it distresses me that some of our rural areas and inner cities face some of the greatest challenges in education.

There are other critical issues that must be addressed, and I will continue to look for solutions along with you.

Everyone knows government cannot solve these problems alone. Some of the greatest solutions will come from private citizens as well as businesses, higher education, churches and foundations. Together, we can all be a part of supporting and building more inclusive communities.

In other words, solving these problems comes from leaning on the principles that make us who we are – our faith – which is embodied in the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

My beliefs on how to treat people were shaped in Wilcox County and my faith was developed at the Camden Baptist Church.

The bible tells us over and over that our number one goal is to love God with all of one’s heart and then to love our neighbor as we love our self. That is what I strive to do every day.

When anyone feels forgotten and marginalized, compassion compels us to embrace, assist and share in their suffering. We must not let race divide us. We must grow and advance together.

Being informed by our past, let us now carefully examine our future and work towards positive change. Together, we can envision an Alabama where all her people truly live up to the greatness within our grasp. We cannot change the past or erase our history… But we can build a future that values the worth of each and every citizen.

So, in closing, my hope and prayer for our country as we pause to celebrate America’s 244th birthday, is that we make the most of this moment.

As for our state, let’s make this a time to heal, to commit ourselves to finding consensus, not conflict, and to show the rest of the nation how far we have come, even as we have further to go.

These first steps – just as we are beginning our third century as a state – may be our most important steps yet.

This is our time, Alabama. May God continue to bless each of you and the great state of Alabama.

Kay Ivey is the 54th governor of Alabama.

42 mins 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

1 hour 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

2 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

2 hours ago

This back-to-school season, families should decide

Parents and other observers have many understandable questions about how their local school districts are responding to the challenges presented by COVID-19.

At this juncture, I don’t think it’s helpful to lay much blame on anyone. There will be plenty of time for that in the future, and when the dust settles, we’re likely to find that there is real blame to go around from the state board of education all the way down to your kid’s geometry teacher. It is probably true that some number of educators and administrators did not make proper use of the time they had in late spring and early summer to adequately plan for the fall, but let’s remember two things.

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First, events are constantly changing. We’re all dealing with a virus that no doctor had encountered 12 months ago, and both the spread and the effects of the virus are novel. Volatile case numbers mean that some plans for schooling must be altered or scrapped altogether. Now is simply not the time for those discussions. The goal for everyone who works not only in education, but in state and local government at large, should be to get children back to school as safely as possible. Given the summer spike in Alabama’s COVID caseload, that goal is proving elusive.

Public education in Alabama is noted for its many different school districts – county and city, both large and small. Our state is varied in its approach and it’s reasonable that the state board did not attempt to mandate how each and every district conducts itself. Areas with a very low caseload are prepping for a return to class, while some districts with high rates are choosing to remain virtual.

State Superintendent Eric Mackey suggested as many as half of the state’s students could begin the year with virtual-only education. Some districts such as my own suburban district are offering both in-person and virtual instruction; parents make the choice that’s best for their family and commit to it for the duration of the fall semester. The degree of variation and experimentation is confusing at first, but there is some hope that these varied approaches will produce helpful innovations in the way we educate our state’s children.

There is just one problem. Families are still bound to the decisions made by their local district. My own district is offering both in-person and virtual instruction, but parents had just six days to make an important decision that will stand for the entire fall semester. My family made a decision that works for us, and we hope circumstances uphold our judgment. What about families that simply cannot work within the parameters provided by their local district? If a family cannot meet these expectations without compromising either the education of their children or the financial stability of their family – then what?

We are likely to find that creative parents and concerned community members come up with various means of supplementing their children’s education if their district is all virtual, or if the pandemic shuts down in-person instruction. Anecdotal evidence from other parts of the country already suggests that parents are going to develop something that resembles the subject-based co-ops already utilized by many homeschooled children. It’s not hard to imagine something similar happening in Alabama if school-based instruction begins to falter, even if through no fault of the school district.

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed many things about our world, one of which is that we cannot ask our public institutions to do everything, because those institutions have their own limitations.

The ultimate decisions about a child’s education must be made within the family, by parents and other caregivers. When the local school falters, even through no fault of its own, we cannot deny parents the ability to make the best decisions on behalf of their children. In the midst of this pandemic, that may look like many things; it may be a move towards other home-based resources besides that which are provided by public schools. It may mean a move towards voluntary pods or co-ops with other families, and yes, it could mean a move towards a private school that, due to its flexibility as a smaller institution, is able to continue to meet in person.

Alabamians generally value and appreciate the public schools that serve as meaningful institutions in their communities. I mean instead to protect the freedom of families to make their own decisions. The state can best do that by allowing some of their children’s education funding to follow them in the form of education savings accounts. ESAs allow some funding to be reserved for specified education expenses, which alleviates some of the financial burdens that come with choosing to educate outside the bounds of the traditional public systems. Parents must not be constrained by finances into a bad situation; the goal of state policy should instead be to liberate parents to make the choices they deem best.

The end result of those choices may look different, but we will find in time that parents begin to create new forms of civil society that strengthen their children, their communities, and their state.

Matthew Stokes, a widely published opinion writer and instructor in the core texts program at Samford University, is a Resident Fellow of the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit educational organization based in Birmingham; learn more at alabamapolicy.org.

Register Now! A free virtual conference for Alabama’s business community

Alabama businesses of all sizes will have the opportunity to connect and learn from industry experts on a wide array of topics from economic development to marketing your business in a post-COVID world. The Business Council of Alabama is excited to present Engage Alabama: A Virtual Business Summit on August 26-27, 2020.

The two-day virtual summit is open to all Alabamians and will provide tangible takeaways and practical advice on doing business in the current climate.

Speakers include Governor Kay Ivey and the state’s leading subject matter experts on topics such as diversity in the workplace, employee resources, small business development and optimizing Alabama’s transportation and broadband infrastructure.

Register Now for Engage Alabama as we continue to make Alabama a sweet home for business.

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