8 months ago

Marsh’s historic education proposal passes Alabama legislature, Common Core repeal heads to vote of the people

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama House of Representatives on Friday resoundingly passed SB 397, a constitutional amendment sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) that would be a historic overhaul of the state school board.

The proposal was first reported on by Yellowhammer News three weeks ago. SB 397 passed the Senate unanimously this month and now heads to a referendum of the people on the state’s March 2020 primary election date.

Alabama’s public education system was ranked number 50 in the United States in a report published this month.

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

State Rep. Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa), the chairman of the House Ways and Means Education Committee, carried the bill in the House and handled the legislation during an Education Policy Committee meeting last week and on the floor Friday.

Poole spoke in adamant support of the legislation, as did State Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur), the Education Policy Committee chair, in the committee meeting.

SB 397 would replace the current elected State Board of Education with the Alabama Commission on Elementary and Secondary Education, members of which will be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the State Senate.

The legislation would also abolish the state superintendent position and replace it with a secretary of elementary and secondary education, appointed by the commission and subject to confirmation by the Senate.

Marsh advised, “Currently, one of the reasons that education is consistently the most pressing issue for most Alabamians is because our state school board is completely dysfunctional. We have had five State Superintendents in three years. Our teachers and students are the ones who suffer from this the most.”

Additionally, SB 397 would mandate that the newly formed commission replace Common Core in Alabama.

This comes in the wake of Marsh introducing a bill this session to replace Common Core in the state of Alabama. That bill stalled in the House Education Policy Committee after passing the Senate. Marsh also cited the state’s poor educational outcomes and ranking in bringing that Common Core repeal.

SB 398, a bill which ensures the legislative minority caucus would have input in the governor’s appointments to the new commission, also passed the House as amended on Friday. As a regular bill, SB 398 will head to the governor’s desk after the Senate concurs with the House amendment. Marsh said this is an integral part of his overall proposal, along with the constitutional amendment.

Governor Kay Ivey has come out in adamant support of the proposal.

Poole called this one of the most “significant” pieces of legislation he has ever supported. He echoed Marsh’s previous comments about poor educational outcomes and rankings in Alabama, with Poole saying the state needs to look itself in the mirror and ask, “Why are we ranked next to last in everything?”

He said the state is one of only six to elect its state school board, and Alabama’s results show this little-used system is not working. Thus, Poole said, this is not “a radical proposal.”

Marsh has explained, “We started looking at the states who have the highest ranked education systems and all of them have an appointed school board.”

“The taxpayers want more accountability, stability and improved schools across our state and this is the best way to achieve that goal,” he added.

On the floor, Poole said this is not a partisan endeavor and that he would be carrying the bill even if the governor was a Democrat.

Both Marsh and Poole have stressed that the proposal is “nothing personal” against any of the current elected state school board members, who would all be eligible to be appointed by the governor back to the newly created commission if the people of Alabama approve the constitutional amendment in March 2020.

The House’s SB 397 vote on Friday was 78-21. The chamber’s vote on SB 398 as amended was unanimous.

‘Time for Alabama to take the lead in education’

Upon passage of SB 397, Ivey released a statement commending the legislature and reaffirming her support for the proposal.

“Today, because of strong, bipartisan efforts, the future for Alabama’s education system is extremely promising,” she said. “Every Alabama voter will now have a chance to drastically change the structure for education governance in our state. It is time that bureaucracy no longer stands in the way of our educators, and most importantly, our students.”

Ivey outlined, “When our voters have the opportunity to support this constitutional amendment on their March 2020 ballots, they will be setting a positive tone for education in Alabama. Our current system is simply not working. Statistics prove that. However, through this bold change, I am confident that Alabama will have a system that will work more effectively for our students and educators.”

The governor thanked Marsh specifically for bringing the legislation.

“I commend Sen. Del Marsh for his leadership and dedication to finding solutions for Alabama’s education system,” Ivey emphasized. “Additionally, I applaud Speaker McCutcheon and the Alabama Legislature for supporting this piece of legislation and showing their willingness to make real, impactful changes.”

“It’s time for Alabama to take the lead in education. I look forward to finding more ways to improve our education system in Alabama,” the governor concluded.

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

11 hours ago

Jones ‘really troubled’ that Trump’s legal team ‘treating this like defending a criminal case’

Following the first day of President Donald Trump’s legal team making their case to the Senate in the president’s impeachment trial, Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) on Saturday afternoon released yet another video update.

The latest video came after Jones on the day previous called the evidence presented by the Democratic House impeachment managers “compelling.”

Jones’  Saturday video specified that he found Democratic arguments about both impeachment articles as “compelling.”

“Number one, I still think the House [impeachment managers] made a compelling argument on both Article One and Article Two last night,” Jones outlined. “You probably already read all the news, I thought they did a pretty good job of pulling all the evidence together that points to their burden of proof in Article One and Article Two.”

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“Today, I was hoping to hear a lot of facts from the [president’s legal team], and we did hear some facts from the president’s counsel,” he continued. “Some facts that didn’t bring out — there was nothing really new for me because I spent a lot of time going through the transcripts and the evidence. And so there were not a whole lot of surprises to me.”

Jones then said, “There were a couple of things, though, that really troubled me a lot. Number one: I do not appreciate the fact that the president’s counsel immediately started out talking not about House managers and their case but about House Democrats, playing to the partisan nature of the entire country. [From] the very beginning of this, I asked people to go out of their partisan corners. I thought that the House managers did a pretty good job of that. But immediately the president’s folks, playing I assume to the president and his base, immediately started talking — and they did it repeatedly — talked about House Democrats.”

“I am not a Senate Democrat in this instance, I am a United States Senator charged with a responsibility of trying to do impartial justice,” Jones added. “So I don’t care to hear the partisan rhetoric. That’s number one.”

“Number two: the president’s counsel seems to be treating this like defending a criminal case,” Alabama’s junior senator further explained. “That’s how I take this. Even though this is not a trial in that sense, it’s certainly not a criminal case.”

Jones subsequently opined that during the Senate impeachment trial, the burden of proof does not completely fall on the House impeachment managers, unlike how it would on the prosecution in a criminal trial.

Jones later claimed that having witnesses testify during the Senate impeachment trial would actually “speed up” the process rather than delay it.

He then remarked, “I go back to the abuse of power. And I go back to foreign, national security that we have here. That’s where these witnesses are so, so important. Because as you will hear over the next day or so, so much of what the president’s lawyers said is pretty disingenuous about withholding aid…”

Jones said, “With all due respect, the [president’s] phone call on July 25 was not perfect.”

He raised the “serious issue” of what Rudy Giuliani and Lev Parnas were doing in Ukraine ahead of July 25.

“So, with all of that, I’m still waiting for facts that contradict — that completely dispute some of the House managers,” Jones commented in his conclusion. “And those witnesses may exist. They may exist. It may exist in the form of John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney and Mr. Duffey and others; let’s hear them.”

Watch:

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

14 hours ago

Roby: We must stand for life

Every year, thousands of Americans gather in our nation’s capital to participate in the March for Life. This annual event is an opportunity for pro-life advocates from across the country to join together and demonstrate their concern for protecting all life.

With a single ruling, the Supreme Court deemed abortion legal throughout the United States. We are now 47 years removed from the infamous Roe v. Wade decision, and the advocates for life around the country are stronger than ever.

Many traveled far and wide to be in Washington for this year’s March, which occurred this past week. I know that some pro-life supporters traveled from Alabama’s Second District – almost 900 miles – to defend the unborn.

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It’s no secret that I am unapologetically pro-life. That is a belief I have always held close to my heart, and I have made it known since my first day in Congress.

I believe that human life begins at conception, and our laws and policies should reflect a commitment to protecting life at every stage. I feel a strong responsibility to do everything in my power to fight for the unborn.

This platform I have been given is a special opportunity to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.

I have repeatedly spoken out in the House of Representatives regarding my strong opposition to abortion, and I have proudly cosponsored several pro-life bills in Congress. I have always been and will always remain a strong advocate against American taxpayer dollars being used to fund abortions and aiding in the destruction of human life.

As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I have helped craft legislation that directs federal funding away from organizations like Planned Parenthood and instead toward community health and women’s organizations that provide family planning care in place of abortions.

While not everyone here in Congress may share my convictions about life or certain policies surrounding the rights of unborn children, our pro-life momentum is still powerful. We now live in a society where abortion activists are celebrating victories for so-called “women’s health” when it comes to this issue, though we have recently seen several pro-life victories across the nation.

Governor Kay Ivey signed the Alabama Human Life Protection Act into law in May 2019 banning abortion in the state of Alabama at any stage of pregnancy. This piece of legislation was a significant step taken to advance the pro-life agenda in the state. Additionally, a 2014 Louisiana abortion law will come before the Supreme Court this spring, and it could be a potential vehicle for the Supreme Court to revisit Roe v. Wade.

I admire all federal and state leaders who stand firm in their beliefs to defend America’s unborn children. I recently spoke on the House Floor regarding my strong opinion on this subject. I would like to say “thank you” to each and every American who continues to speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves.

America was founded on the principle that every human being has rights, dignity, and value. Although we continue to fight the good fight here in Washington and back home in Alabama, our work is far from complete. I promise to not stop fighting until our laws protect life at every stage, and I hope you won’t stop either.

Every life deserves a voice, and I will not back down until we accomplish our goal.

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

16 hours ago

Three Alabama lakes get spruced up with ‘The Preserves’ recreation sites

Three new public recreation sites have been added at Lake HarrisLay Lake and Lake Martin as part of Alabama Power’s “The Preserves.”

These areas consist of trails, gazebos, benches, interpretive signs and pollinator plots. From hiking, and biking to bird-watching, The Preserves are core to the Alabama Power ideal of merging nature with crafting special places.

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“These lands allow people to explore, learn and grow a deeper appreciation of our state’s ecology and natural beauty. They allow our citizens to access and enjoy our lakes. They are inclusive and open to all,” said Ed Windsor, recreation development assistant with Alabama Power.

“The Preserves project is unique in that it gives us a chance to take existing areas around lakes and create a space for residents to not only learn about and enjoy nature but also make memories and see the importance of protecting our environment.”

Lake Harris now has The Preserves at Little Fox Creek, located off Alabama Highway 48 between Lineville and Wedowee. This site, already home to a public use boat ramp and Piedmont Plateau Birding Trail, will now feature an enhanced trail system totaling 5 miles. The site is managed in partnership with the Lake Wedowee Property Owners Association.

Additionally, the area will have two pollinator plots, interpretive signs, benches, a boardwalk and two gazebos for the public to enjoy.

The existing recreation area on Lay Lake, named Beeswax Creek Park, is located off Alabama Highway 145 in Columbiana on Beeswax Creek Park Road. Recent upgrades include a 2.75-mile trail system complete with a pollinator plot, an additional launching pier, interpretive signs, gazebos and benches. This site is managed in partnership with Shelby County Parks and Recreation Board.

Lake Martin’s new recreation area, Nature’s Way, is located on the southeastern corner of the reservoir, at the end of Old Tree Road in Dadeville. This area will feature a trail system totaling 4 miles with gazebos, interpretive signs, a boardwalk and benches.

These trails are open for hiking, running, bird-watching and biking. All these public recreation areas allow pets on leashes.

These sites come after the successful launch of three other new and upgraded sites last year.

Upgrades at Lake Logan MartinWeiss Lake and Neely Henry Lake have had a tremendously positive response from users.

“Continuing to provide these improvements in our communities is Alabama Power’s way of enhancing our state’s natural resources to give back in hopes that families will enjoy them more,” said Stephen Posey, recreation development assistant for Alabama Power.

The upgrades have been made possible through the help of businesses and contractors, like Foothills Contracting of Uniontown.

Alabama Power’s recreation team is working with Foothills Contracting to build the gazebos and kiosks for these public use areas.

“While traditionally used for fencing, this wood will provide a long-lasting structure with an incredible color and grain that will set it apart from anything else we have found in the state,” said Sage Coley, vice president of Foothills Contracting.

Foothills Contracting constructed the gazebos and kiosks with a unique and long-lasting type of wood known as Osage Orange.

“This was our first time building for a customer like Alabama Power, but it has been great seeing a company invest time and money to give back to the community and the kids. These playgrounds, trails and gazebos will be a great addition to the state’s lakes,” said Glynward Coley, owner of Foothills Contracting.

Alabama Power will continue to build The Preserves brand and make improvements to recreation sites on Alabama Power reservoirs. The Preserves project will focus on upgrades at more lakes in 2020, starting at Lake Jordan.

This story originally appeared in Shorelines magazine.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

18 hours ago

Watch: Jalen Hurts gives back to community, feels the love in return to Alabama

MOBILE — Former University of Alabama star quarterback Jalen Hurts played last season for the Oklahoma Sooners. But he is still the same player — and more importantly, the same person — that Crimson Tide fans have grown to love.

Back in the state of Alabama for Saturday’s Senior Bowl at Mobile’s Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Hurts has spent the week discussing the return and even got to reunite with his former head coach Nick Saban.

However, the best moments for the 2019 Heisman Trophy runner-up may have come in lesser publicized moments, when Hurts got the opportunity to interact with every day fans young and old at select times during the week.

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Take, for example, the adorable moment from Thursday, when Hurts was swarmed by a group of local schoolchildren while departing the University of South Alabama’s football complex after a closed indoors practice session (practices for the Senior Bowl are normally open to the public and at Ladd-Peebles, but Thursday’s weather forced a change).

“This is my dream, Jalen,” one wide-eyed student excitedly told Hurts, as captured in a video by Tyler Dragon.

Hurts, with a smile stretching ear-to-ear, seemed to be soaking in the moment as he stopped to talk with the kids.

He later shared the video with a short but sweet caption.

This scene was followed Friday morning by Hurts visiting young patients at the University of South Alabama Children’s & Women’s Hospital. Hurts was joined by other Senior Bowl players, as well as mascots like Bama’s Big Al.

You can view pictures from that visit here and here.

Friday continued to be a day of fan interaction for Hurts, starting with the Senior Bowl Experience presented by Alabama Power Company and its Meet the Players event presented by Coca-Cola.

As captured by Yellowhammer News, fans were stretched from wall-to-wall in the exhibit hall of Mobile’s Arthur R. Outlaw Convention Center as they stood in line to get a picture and/or autograph from Hurts. Hurts’ line far surpassed the Auburn and Crimson Tide team lines.

Unfortunately for many fans waiting in the huge line, Hurts had to leave Meet the Players before the event ended to get ready for the evening’s Senior Bowl Street Party and inaugural Mardi Gras Player Parade, presented by Wind Creek Casino and Austal USA. He left the exhibit hall to a horde of screaming fans.

One couple, a wife sporting a Bama t-shirt and her husband in Auburn Tigers attire, told Yellowhammer News that they had been waiting in line for two hours just to see Hurts. They, to say the least, were disappointed that their wait was in vain. However, it goes to show that Hurts’ popularity in the Yellowhammer State has somehow managed to cross the Iron Bowl battle lines, with even Auburn fanatics respecting — and at times adoring — the former Tide star.

Saturday’s Senior Bowl game will kickoff shortly after 1:30 p.m. CT on Saturday. The game will be televised on NFL Network.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

20 hours ago

The future is coming: What do you want it to look like?

The future is on its way to Alabama. That is inevitable.

What the future will bring is not.

But there is a potential future that many people want to bring to Alabama. Though it is sold as a future of freedom and equality, it is not a future in which people flourish.

Call it the Future of Conformity.

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You have likely seen images of this future on television and the Internet. Perhaps you found those images baffling: Biological men demand to be referred to as women. Children are assigned birth certificates listing two mothers and no fathers, or two fathers and no mothers. Polyamorous throuples seek public approval of their relationships.

The Future of Conformity promises diversity, but it delivers uniformity and centralized control.

Everyone must approve of all lifestyle choices and family structures, by coercion if necessary. Central governments promise to solve problems that central governments helped to create, such as unresponsive and failing schools, transportation infrastructure that fails to meet local needs, housing shortages caused by land-use regulations and rising health care costs.

Worst of all, the Future of Conformity is ideological.

Students who are privileged enough to enroll in the most prestigious colleges and universities in the world object to hearing ideas that they find uncomfortable. Young people speak well of socialist ideals. Some even wear totalitarian symbols, such as images of Che Guevara (think of Berkeley) or variations on Nationalist Socialist symbols (think of Charlottesville).

We are told that the Future of Conformity is inevitable, and that those who resist it will end up on the wrong side of history.

And indeed, many of the cultural trends making their way toward Alabama are logically entailed in a certain conception of human freedom, a freedom to be affirmed in one’s identity and to satisfy one’s desires, whatever they happen to be. The Supreme Court of the United States expressed this concept of freedom in its 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, where the Court’s opinion asserted, “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”

Someone must pay the cost for such a radically unconstrained freedom.

Most often, the bill passes to children.

The cost is paid not only by the unborn, who exit abortion clinics by the back door in refuse containers, but also by children deprived of legal and personal connections to one natural parent (usually their father), and all those growing citizens who will someday inherit our debts and obligations.

People of faith and good conscience also pay a price.

The Future of Conformity has no tolerance for those who perceive the inherent value of natural marriage and the unique dignity of man and woman. It has little use for religious schools and tax-exempt religious assemblies. It demands freedom to expose young people to drugs and obscenity that corrupt.

Communities would also suffer.

All of the various and plural domains of civil society that have supplied the vitality of American exceptionalism from the beginning are likely to be supplanted by government in the Future of Conformity.

Alabamians and other Americans have always done their best work in small businesses and innovative startups, charities and aid groups and education societies, private and parochial schools, service clubs and volunteer organizations, and the other groups and associations that stand between the individual and the state, and which generate knowledge and new goods. The Future of Conformity has no place for them, except perhaps as useful vehicles for dispensing acceptable dogmas.

Anyone who has lived in the elite corridors of cultural power on America’s coasts has already experienced the Future of Conformity. If they are not indoctrinated in its ideologies, they will tell you that the Future of Conformity is stifling, not liberating.

It is a future in which people refrain from speaking obvious truths for fear of losing their jobs and reputations. It is a future without manners. It lacks understanding, yet, accuses the faithful and the knowledgeable of bigotry.

Here is the good news: The Future of Conformity is not inevitable.

We get to choose.

But we must choose something else. It is not enough to reject the Future of Conformity. We must offer our young people a different, brighter future.

A more attractive future would embrace the best aspects of our traditions while also advancing the genuine improvements we have made in achieving knowledge and justice. It starts with the primacy of religious faith, human reason, and natural rights. It would affirm our founding principles and celebrate those moments when we vindicated them, yet it would also candidly acknowledge that we have not always lived up to them and call us to do better.

Call it the Future of Ordered Liberty.

In the Future of Ordered Liberty, knowledge is passed on to the next generation; ignorance is vanquished. Schools and universities resist ideologies and reject calls for censorship even as they teach time-tested ideas and human achievements. Not all opinions are equally valid. The objective is knowledge of truth. Educators should pursue truth and should recognize the difference between truth and their own dogmas.

The Future of Ordered Liberty is a future in which genuine and justified civil liberties are secured and celebrated.

Intentional racial and ethnic discrimination is remedied and sanctioned, and people have freedom to speak important truths and to obey their conscience. The government secures property rights instead of threatening them and allows the plural groups and associations of civil society to flourish and to do their good work. Religious groups enjoy liberty as a matter of right, not as a concession of privilege from government.

The future is coming to Alabama. That much is certain.

What will the future look like?

That is up to us.

Adam J. MacLeod is Professorial Fellow of the Alabama Policy Institute and Professor of Law at Faulkner University, Jones School of Law. He is a prolific writer and his latest book, The Age of Selfies: Reasoning About Rights When the Stakes Are Personal, is available on Amazon.