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4 years ago

Should Alabama continue pushing school choice, allow charter schools?

(Photo: Uncommon Schools)
(Photo: Uncommon Schools)

This week is National Charter Schools Week, shining a giant spotlight on the fact that Alabama is one of only eight states in the country that does not currently allow public charter schools.

State laws vary widely with regard to how many charter schools are permitted, who can grant them permission to operate, and other variables, but forty-two states and Washington, D.C., currently have laws on the books allowing some form of charter schools.

(Map: Blue states allow charter schools, grey states do not)

(Photo: National Alliance for Public Charter Schools)
(Photo: National Alliance for Public Charter Schools)

So what exactly are public charters?

They are publicly funded schools that are operated by independent, non-government groups. They are open to all children, do not charge tuition and do not have special requirements for admission.

What they do have, however, is the freedom to get out from under burdensome government regulations and the bureaucracy to which many public schools are beholden. They have more flexibility when it comes to curriculum and the hours they meet, and are not bound by teachers’ union contracts. That gives them more leeway with regard to what teachers they hire and fire.

But in exchange for that flexibility, the schools must meet tough accountability standards. If a school does not meet the standards, it is closed, which has happened in roughly 15 percent of charters around the country.

They are called “charter schools” because they enter into a “charter” with the state that details the general terms outlined above.

For instance, if there is an area of the state that has a booming high-tech sector, a school could enter into a charter with the state and be given the freedom to gear it’s curriculum toward technology. If manufacturing is booming in another part of the state, a charter school could be opened to cater to that area’s residents. In return for that level of freedom in crafting their curriculum, those schools would have to meet rigorous standards or lose their charter.


CondiWe need to give parents greater choice -– particularly poor parents, whose kids — most often minorities — are trapped in failing neighborhood schools. This is the civil rights struggle of our day.

If we do anything less, we will condemn generations to joblessness, hopelessness and dependence on the government dole. To do anything less is to endanger our global economic competitiveness. To do anything less is to tear apart the fabric of who we are and cement a turn toward grievance and entitlement. — Condoleezza Rice


So what’s the draw back?

Some charter school opponents — mainly the teachers’ unions — argue that the accountability standards are not rigorous enough. They also deride the fact that some charters are operated for profit. But the most common argument is that charters take money away from traditional public schools. We’ve heard this recently in Alabama with the passage of the Accountability Act, which gave students the ability to transfer out of habitually failing schools and into a non-failing schools.

Education money follows the student. So if a student were to transfer out of a traditional public school and into a public charter, the money allocated by the state to educate that student would go with them.

Many conservatives see that as the free market at work. Schools have an increased incentive to provide a high quality education, because if they don’t, their students — and subsequently their funding — will leave. But others say that it only further damages schools that are already struggling.

Charter schools are not a panacea for all of Alabama’s education woes. Just like traditional public schools, some are effective, others are not. It takes great teachers, great leadership and motivate students to make any school succeed.

But with National Charter Schools Week cranking up around the country, it’s a good opportunity to reflect on the progress Alabama has made, and consider the possibilities going forward.

So what do you think? Would you like to see Alabama pass a law allowing charter schools? Let us know in the comment section below or tweet us @YHPolitics.


Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

West AlabamaWorks! is bridging the gap between workforce And industry

The workforce in West Alabama is changing with the help of West AlabamaWorks! They want to let people in the workforce know that being in healthcare does not strictly mean you are just a doctor or a nurse. There are hundreds of other job opportunities out there in hospitals, doctors offices, and insurance. Peggy Sease is Vice President of Human Resources and shares how her experience has led her to the position to work between the workforce and employers. The same goes for Lori Royer, HR Director, as she tells us what the industry is searching for in future candidates: attendance, diligent in all your duties, and have critical thinking skills. Our state has so many talented people, and Lori and Peggy are shrinking the gap between workforce and the industry with West AlabamaWorks!

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1 hour ago

Decatur High School teacher accused of having sex with students resigns

An Alabama high school teacher who was paid nearly $130,000 while on leave fighting charges that she had sex with students has resigned.

The Decatur city school board accepted the resignation of Carrie Cabri Witt on Monday.

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Superintendent Michael Douglas tells the Decatur Daily that Witt quit the day before the board was scheduled to hold a hearing on her employment.

The 45-year-old Witt is charged with two counts of having sex with a student.

She’s been on paid leave since March 2016 while fighting the accusations.

Witt’s resignation letter says she “vehemently” denies committing any crime or having any inappropriate relationship with a student.

The school district has spent more than $128,000 on salary and benefits on Witt since placing her on leave.

She worked at Decatur High School.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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2 hours ago

How an incoming freshman overcame inner-city Chicago to get to Alabama State University – ‘This is the start of a new life’

Ivry Hall has a tale to tell – one that is too unbelievable and too tragic to be anything but real. But it is who life’s challenges have made him, and where Hall is going from here, that he wants to be his life’s story.

Chicago born-and-raised, Hall just turned 18 last month.

“I grew up on the South Side. Englewood, 64th and Laflin,”  he told WLS-TV. “My mom did a lot of moving, but that’s where I spent most of my childhood.”

His upbringing, like that of most in this infamous part of the Windy City, was filled with serious trouble.

“Gang banging,” Hall admitted. “I used to smoke when I was little.”

He also dropped out of school, saying that is what was expected of children like him in that urban neighborhood.

Hall said, “I did a lot of stuff. That’s just from the image I was seeing so I wanted to do it, too.”

And that was all before his mom, who was raising him as a single mother, got cancer when Hall was only 12.

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“When my mom passed away, I was so hurt,” he reflected. “And I just wanted to do better.”

This tragedy inspired Hall to go back to school, and after some time, attend Tilden High School.

While in a positive frame of mind again, his life did not necessarily get easier when he went back to get his education. Hall was living with a cousin who moved nearly two hours from where he went to class.

“I had to get on three buses and one train,” Hall explained.

However, through hard work and the right attitude, he always kept going.

“I don’t believe in giving up, and I think that failure is not an option,” said Hall.

Not only did his mom pass away when he was 12, but when he was a senior in high school, Hall’s dad died of lung failure.

“Of course, I lost my mom. I lost my dad,” he told WLS-TV in Chicago. “I wish they were still here to see what I’ve accomplished now, but they’re not. Everything is not going to come as you want it.”

Hall’s faith in Jesus Christ, sports and a local boxing gym got him through the hard times. He also had mentors at his church who never stopped encouraging him.

Hall said, “They are like, ‘Ivry, you’re going to be something. You’re so smart.’ And that stuff encouraged me to do good.”

“No pity party,” explained Father Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Church, where Hall attends. “No ‘poor me.’ He was just a young brother who wanted the best for himself and others.”

Hall set a goal for himself when his mother died, and he never took his eye off achieving it.

“I always wish that I could graduate valedictorian, and look, I did,” he recounted. “I was beyond happy.”

Now, Hall is beginning his freshman year at Alabama State University in Montgomery, a triumph made possible in part by a $10,000 scholarship from his church.

The teen from the South Side of Chicago is just getting started on writing his life’s story, but he has a good plan for what comes next.

“Major in business, so I can open up my own business,” Hall forecasted.

He added, “I’m not for sure what I want to open up, but I want to help people.”

Hall now has his sights set on a new goal, and he is determined to succeed.

“I’m going to go to college and graduate, so I’m going to find a way to study,” Hall said. “I’m going to find a way to do everything without giving up.”

“If I give up, I will be just like everybody that I know,” he continued.

The young man also shared his key to overcoming the challenges life has thrown at him again and again.

“You have to give 100 percent in everything you do,” Hall emphasized. “Once you give up, you’ll only be used to giving up. At least try. If you can’t do it, continue to try.”

He has been through a lot in his short time on earth, but to him, a blank canvas awaits.

“This is the start of a new life,” Hall concluded.

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

2 hours ago

Former Prattville police officer gets 10 years for fraud, theft

A former police officer in Alabama who pleaded guilty to insurance fraud and burglary has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The Montgomery Advertiser reports 51-year-old Leon Todd Townson was sentenced Monday.

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The former U.S. Marine is one of two former Prattville Police Department lieutenants charged with breaking into a home in 2015.

The other lieutenant, 48-year-old John Wayne McDaniel, is set to be sentenced Friday.

Townson also was charged in 2017 with defrauding an insurance agency by filing a claim containing false information.

The fraudulent claim prompted the agency to award Townson more than $190,000.

He resigned from the police department in 2005 before pleading guilty to trying to sell a modified rifle seized by the department’s drug unit.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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3 hours ago

GATR Technologies Inc. of Huntsville gets $522M Army contract for inflatable antennas

An Alabama company has a five-year, $522 million extension to an Army contract for inflatable satellite antenna systems.

GATR Technologies Inc. of Huntsville first won the contract in 2013.

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It said in early 2014 that the contract made the antennas more broadly available to the armed services, which already were using them in special operations units.

GATR’s ground-mounted antennas look like giant beach balls with tie-downs to point them in the right direction.

The antenna inside is reflective fabric.

Fans keep the air pressure in the top half slightly higher than in the bottom half, pushing the fabric down into the right shape.

The extension brings the contract’s total maximum value to more than $960 million.

It was announced Friday in the Pentagon’s daily list of military contracts.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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