10 months ago

Rachel Bryars: Four myths to dispel during Alabama School Choice Week

Gov. Kay Ivey recently proclaimed this “Alabama School Choice Week” and thousands of families will celebrate reforms created by the Alabama Accountability Act, including scholarships so low-income parents can transfer their children from under-performing schools.

Critics of the program, however, will likely respond by repeating some of the many myths about the law.

Here are four you’ll probably hear:

Myth #1: Scholarships steal money from public schools

The Alabama Accountability Act “has directly siphoned more than $140 million from Alabama’s cash-strapped K-12 classrooms,” wrote the Alabama Education Association in a September 2018 edition of the teacher’s union magazine.

But public school systems aren’t actually losing money.

They are now collecting more money to educate fewer students with the biggest budget in a decade. Overall, the state’s multi-billion dollar education trust fund has grown since the scholarships were first offered, even while enrollment has steadily decreased.

Last year alone, tax revenue that funds the education budget grew by nearly half a billion dollars – about three times as much as the scholarship program has spent in six years combined.

Also, it costs roughly $9,500 annually to educate a student in public school, according to budget data.

But it only costs about $6,500 to educate the same child in private school, which includes the costs of administering the scholarships, according to Warren Callaway, executive director of Scholarships For Kids, one of the largest scholarship granting organizations in the state, and a member of the recently formed Alabama Accountability Act Coalition.

“It’s a great deal for taxpayers,” Callaway said. “They’ve given us $146 million and we’ve provided $200 million in education. The cost of education is not fixed because [public schools] don’t have to educate the child we have taken off their hands.”

Myth #2: Even high performing schools that don’t have any students transferring out on scholarship still “lose money”

“The highest performing school districts lose revenue at the same rate as all other districts,” according to the teachers’ union article. “It does not matter if you have no failing schools in your district. It does not matter if you have no scholarship recipients in your district. All school systems are still penalized under the [program].”

Callaway says this is “bogus.”

“The AEA tells Mountain Brook City, arguably the best system in the state, that they’ve lost $834,956 due to the Accountability Act,” Callaway said. “That’s hogwash. They haven’t lost a dollar.”

Callaway examined state budget data showing Mountain Brook enrollment has largely been static, while state spending on students has gone up. In effect, they’ve received more money than years prior despite the AEA’s claims they’ve lost money.

Myth #3: A University of Alabama study proves school choice doesn’t work

A state-commissioned study conducted by the University of Alabama’s Institute for Social Science Research found that students using the scholarships performed about as well, on average, as their public school peers.

Critics believe this proves school choice doesn’t help students improve academically.

But advocates claim this indicates a huge achievement since research shows poverty strongly correlates with poor academic performance. The study showed low-income scholarship students often did better academically than their low-income public school counterparts.

“We’ve taken kids who you would predict would be on the bottom side of the bell curve of achievement and we’ve gotten them to the mean,” Callaway said. “I would put the headline of that study, instead of ‘They scored average, ho-hum,’ I would say ‘They scored average, exclamation point!’”

Myth #4: The program should be repealed because not all scholarship recipients are zoned for failing schools

Students zoned for failing schools are awarded the scholarships first, and any remaining funds are then given to other disadvantaged families in schools that are generally close to the bottom 6th percentile — the state’s definition of a failing school.

“Would you want to send your child to a 7th percentile school or an 8th percentile school?” Callaway asked. “The answer is no. Those are still low performing schools.”

Overall, there’s a lot about education besides school choice that Alabamians can celebrate this week.

Our recently released state report card revealed district and school improvement last year, with more As, Bs and Cs, and fewer Ds and Fs than the year before.

Our First Class Pre K program continues to succeed and draw national attention.

And Montgomery will open its first charter school this year.

None of these achievements, including school choice, would have happened without new ideas and reform.

“The Accountability Act wasn’t an initiative to take the place of public education, it was just intended to show there is an alternative way of doing things and to upset the status quo,” Callaway said.

No doubt the families celebrating their life-changing opportunity this week thank God that it did.

Rachel Blackmon Bryars is a senior fellow at the Alabama Policy Institute. Email her at Rachel@alabamapolicy.org or connect with her on Instagram @rbryars.

 

1 min ago

Bradley Byrne slams Democrats’ allegation of ‘bribery’ against President Trump

Republican Rep. Bradley Byrne (AL-01) gave a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives on Tuesday where he slammed Democrats’ latest allegation of “bribery” against President Donald Trump.

“Unfortunately, I must rise again because – like so many times before – the goalposts for impeaching President Trump have moved,” Byrne stated. “At this rate, Nancy Pelosi must be any field goal kicker’s worst nightmare.”

“Since day one – literally day one – it has been abundantly clear that the far-left members of the so-called ‘Squad’ have been moving this Democratic majority closer to impeaching the President,” Byrne continued. “They don’t care why or how. They don’t care what evidence, real or imagined, is used. They only care about the end result – impeaching President Trump so he will not win reelection.”

He added, “As this radical faction gains dominance in the Democrat party, Speaker Pelosi has tried every justification in the book to impeach this president.”

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Byrne then recalled the Democrats’ previous, failed attempts at destroying the Trump administration.

“We were told for years we’d get to impeachment from the Mueller report,” Byrne said. “They said, just wait, wait till the report! It’s going to show Russian Collusion! Well, two years and millions of dollars down the drain, Mueller showed no collusion. The Democrat narrative quickly turned towards ‘obstruction of justice,’ but that too fell flat.”

“But then, Mr. Speaker, the majority got a new gift – the whistleblower,” he continued. “Never mind he had no firsthand knowledge of what he blew the whistle on, never mind he’s a partisan Democrat, never mind he worked with Adam Schiff on his new allegations against President Trump.”

The rest of Byrne’s remarks are as follows:

It was campaign finance violations! Well, that didn’t work. So, then it was quid pro quo! For weeks, that’s all the majority has talked about. Not anymore. Apparently, Mr. Speaker, some highly-paid political consultants warned Speaker Pelosi that quid pro quo did not resonate with the American people. So now, it seems they’ve moved on to another version of impeachment that tested best in their focus groups – the nefarious-sounding ‘bribery.’ It’s bribery! That’s what we will impeach President Trump on!

Well, Mr. Speaker, I think my friends on the other side need to dust off their law books because, unfortunately for their latest impeachment fantasy, bribery isn’t just some word. It’s a real crime with a real definition. And it’s one that this majority cannot prove.

You see, bribery occurs when an individual ‘corruptly’ links receiving something of value in exchange for an official government action.

I say to the majority, show me how asking Ukraine to look into the 2016 election and into the sketchy dealings of Hunter Biden is acting corruptly! Because I’ll tell you what, I’ll show you evidence that Ukrainian officials were working to boost Secretary Clinton, and I’ll show you evidence that the Obama Administration was itself concerned about Hunter Biden’s deals. I think most Americans will say maybe the President of the United States should be looking into those things. I think they will say we want the President looking into possible corruption in our government and interference in our elections.

More importantly, I say to the majority, show me how President Trump linked aid to these investigations! Mr. Speaker, President Trump’s phone call with Ukraine President Zelensky, you know, the one that the whistleblower blew the whistle on, is on the internet! Everyone can read it. And I hope they will. Because nowhere in that call did President Trump ever link any aid to Ukraine in exchange for anything. The President did not one time, not one time, even mention any kind of hold on the aid. Not once!

This is not bribery. This is not impeachable conduct. Yet here we are, trying to remove the President of the United States, the leader of this country, the man chosen by the voters, over these newest allegations. Mr. Speaker, the American people see past this charade. They know this is a partisan political scheme. And at this point, I think most people who are paying attention – those who haven’t tuned out – know this is just the latest effort by Democrats to throw something at the wall and see if it sticks. President Trump has committed no ‘bribery, treason, or high crimes and misdemeanors’ – the only offenses that the Constitution says warrant impeachment.

I ask the majority – when do we stop and get back to the business of the American people? I yield back.

Kyle Morris also contributes daily to Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @RealKyleMorris.

1 hour ago

Alabama AG Steve Marshall leads national coalition defending Second Amendment to SCOTUS

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall continues to be a staunch defender of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In his latest stalwart act of advocacy for citizens’ right to keep and bear arms, Marshall on Monday filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the State of Alabama and 20 other states.

The brief calls on the Supreme Court to hear (in Malpasso v. Pallozzi) a challenge to a Maryland law that sharply limits the right of typical, law-abiding citizens to carry a handgun outside of the home.

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In a statement, Marshall commented, “The overwhelming majority of states recognize that the Second Amendment allows law-abiding citizens the right to bear arms outside their homes for self-defense.”

“However, a handful of states have decided that citizens’ rights to possess a handgun outside their residence should apply only to when they meet certain limited criteria,” he outlined. “In this case, a Maryland citizen was denied the fundamental right to self-defense because he failed to convince a bureaucrat that he faced some special danger to his safety.”

Marshall continued, “But the right to bear arms is not reserved for just a select few citizens. And there is no question that the Second Amendment right to ‘bear arms’ extends beyond the home. As Justice Clarence Thomas memorably put it: ‘I find it extremely improbable that the Framers understood the Second Amendment to protect little more than carrying a gun from the bedroom to the kitchen.’”

The States of Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and West Virginia joined on to Alabama’s amicus brief.

“A few states have passed laws similar to Maryland’s that severely limit Second Amendment rights, and those laws are rightfully being challenged in federal court as unconstitutional,” Marshall concluded. “Alabama and 20 other states call on the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case of Malpasso v. Pallozzi and decide whether laws that deny law-abiding citizens the right to bear arms infringe on Second Amendment rights.”

Alabama Solicitor General Edmund LaCour and Deputy Solicitor General Barrett Bowdre signed onto Marshall’s amicus brief. LaCour is listed as the counsel of record.

RELATED: Steve Marshall takes issue with multi-state lawsuit to keep 3D-printed gun plans off the internet

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

2 hours ago

Roby: Alabama bicentennial amplified by current ‘extreme economic development and job growth’

U.S. Rep. Martha Roby (AL-02) on Tuesday joined Alabama’s entire U.S. House delegation in honoring the Yellowhammer State’s upcoming bicentennial anniversary on the chamber floor.

In a speech, Roby introduced H. Res. 711, which recognizes the incorporation of Alabama as the 22nd state in the Union on December 14, 1819.

Reps. Bradley Byrne (AL-01), Mike Rogers (AL-03), Robert Aderholt (AL-04), Mo Brooks (AL-05), Gary Palmer (AL-06) and Terri Sewell (AL-07) joined Roby in commemorating the historic milestone.

Roby’s remarks not only mentioned the marker of Alabama’s statehood but lauded its current progress.

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“This is a monumental occasion in our state’s history, and we are looking forward to joining Alabamians in a year full of memorable celebration and commemoration of the bicentennial,” she said. “Alabama is currently experiencing extreme economic development and job growth across the state, which makes this special time even more exciting for us all.”

This comes after it was announced on Friday that Alabama’s unemployment rate dipped below 3% for the first time ever. The state has been breaking economic records consistently, with each month seemingly bringing even better news. The main focus now for the state’s economy is workforce development efforts to increase Alabama’s pool of skilled workers.

Roby, who is not seeking reelection to a sixth term, concluded, “I am grateful to have the opportunity to serve the people of Alabama as we celebrate the birthday and history of the beloved state we all call home.”

Watch:

You can learn more about Alabama’s bicentennial here, including special events across the state.

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

2 hours ago

Technology services veteran appointed to lead State of Alabama’s IT operations

Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday announced that Marty Redden will serve as the permanent Alabama Office of Information Technology (OIT) secretary effective immediately. Redden has been serving as the acting secretary since July.

In a statement, Ivey said, “Since Marty stepped in to OIT as the acting secretary, he has run the agency effectively and with great prudence, and the state will certainly benefit from his leadership in this position. I am confident Marty will continue refining the agency, to make it run successfully and be accountable to the people of Alabama.”

“His decades of experience in the technology field is already paying off for OIT and our other state agencies, which is why I am proud that he will continue serving in this capacity,” she advised.

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Redden has three decades of experience in the IT field, include 20 years in management.

He began his career in banking and finance technology. In 2007, he transitioned to a career in state service. Redden has since held high-level management positions in the Alabama Department of Corrections, the Alabama Medicaid Agency and the state Finance Department. While working with each of these agencies, Redden originated, led and implemented technology advancements and improvements, per a release from the governor’s office.

Redden remarked, “As secretary of OIT, my overriding mission is to provide Alabama’s state government with the best technology services at the smallest cost to the taxpayers we serve. Every service that the state provides to its citizens involve some form of technology, so if we do our job well, countless Alabamians will get the help they need more quickly, efficiently and effectively.”

“I appreciate the confidence Governor Ivey has placed in me and will work every day to prove it justified,” he concluded.

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

3 hours ago

Tua needs our support — Guess who else does

His five words hit home.

Five words that could have been uttered by a Tua Tagovailoa teammate, one of Tua’s parents, an Alabama football fan and, yes, you.

“I feel bad, I’m hurting.”

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Who doesn’t feel bad for one of the greatest quarterbacks not only in Alabama football history, but in college football history? Barring an unlikely return to the Capstone for his senior season, Tua is done in Tuscaloosa. The good news? While it will be a long road, team orthopedic surgeon Dr. Lyle Cain expects Tagovailoa to make a full recovery from the hip injury suffered only days ago. Yes, Tua’s NFL future is bright.

“I feel bad, I’m hurting.”

Those five words could have been uttered by anyone, but the man who said it? Head coach Nick Saban. Yes, the tough, demanding, intimidating coach who rarely reveals his most inner thoughts is hurting, and he shared his heart in Tuscaloosa at his weekly media gathering.

Over the last few days, Saban has been a punching bag for many critics and some fans — their take? The coach is to be blamed for Tua’s injury. After all, they say, it was Saban who had the final say in whether or not his quarterback, still sore from the LSU game and a player who 27 days earlier had ankle surgery, would start against Mississippi State. It was Saban who left Tua in the game despite a big Bama lead deep into the first half of the game. It was Saban who is ultimately responsible for the injury, they allege.

I say hogwash. I say that Nick Saban didn’t hurt Tua, football did.

The bottom line here is that Tua Tagovailoa could have suffered an injury getting off the bus. He could have been injured on his first snap, his final snap or anywhere in between. That’s the cruel sport of football, where injuries occur, even when they are not in the least connected to an earlier injury.

As Tua now begins rehab following Monday’s hip surgery, prayers and well wishes continue to come his way. But I’m here to tell you that Tua’s coach could use some support as well. On the exterior, Nick Saban is all business, the man in charge. He spends long hours at work between 7:30 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. doing what he does. But you can bet that when the coach makes his long, dark drive home late at night, when he tries to fall asleep and when he rises early in the morning, Tua Tagovailoa is on his mind. Is he second-guessing himself? If he is, he shouldn’t be. Do the critics bother him? Remember, even the toughest man on the block has feelings.

Only Nick Saban, Miss Terry and a handful of close friends know what the coach is feeling. As we see a coach who is all business, a coach who has a tough exterior and a no-nonsense flare, I have a strong feeling that Nick Saban is struggling a bit this week. My message? As we pray for Tua and wish him well, perhaps the Alabama football coach can also use our support.

“I feel bad, I’m hurting.”

With those five words, Nick Saban offered us a rare glimpse into his heart. May the Alabama family be reminded that the head of the family can use a few prayers as well.

Rick Karle is a 24-time Emmy winning broadcaster and a special sports contributor to Yellowhammer News. He is also the host of the Huts and Nuts podcast.