Category: Education

Alabama House Votes To Lower The Mandatory School Start Date

Today, the Alabama House voted to pass Rep. John Merrill’s HB6 to lower the mandatory state date for school from 7 to 6 years of age.  Eagle Forum strongly opposes this legislation because we believe parents should retain the right to decide when their child is ready to start school.  Unfortunately, the legislation passed by a vote of 58-30.  We appreciate those legislators who stood up for the rights of Alabama parents and argued against this bill.  To find out how your legislator voted, click here and search for your legislator by name, address, or district.

The bill will now move to the Senate Education Committee.

Legislative Week In Review

Things are moving right along in Montgomery.  Last Tuesday, the Alabama House passed the Education Budget (HB123)–that’s the earliest a budget’s been passed in a very long time.  The Senate passed bills:

  • prohibiting gassing as a method of euthanasia for cats and dogs (SB172),
  • allowing for election expense reimbursement from the state (SB139),
  • creating a crime of threatening harm or violence against a judicial system officer or employee (SB146), and
  • creating the crime of filing a false lien against a public officer or employee (SB197),

Wednesday was a busy day in committee.  Several good pieces of legislation passed out including:

  • HB25 Rep. Paul DeMarco’s Fiscal Transparency Act which will improve the state’s Open Alabama website by requiring the Finance Department to post monthly financial reports.
  • HB427 Rep. Paul DeMarco’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights which will enhance the protections taxpayers have against tax assessments handed down by the state.
  • SB196 Sen. Paul Bussman’s Alabama Children and Families Act which will change the presumption in child custody cases where two fit parents are involved to a 50/50 split.

Also on Wednesday, there was a very contentious public hearing on Sen. Trip Pittman’s proposed Teacher Tenure Reform (SB310).

Yesterday, the House passed the controversial Forever Wild reauthorization (HB126).  They also debated HB6 which is Rep. John Merrill’s bill to lower the mandatory school age from 7 to 6 years of age.  Due to some Republican dissent, Rep. Merrill carried his bill over and a vote wasn’t taken.  Eagle Forum is strongly opposed to this legislation because we believe parents should retain the right to decide if their 6-year-old son or daughter is ready for first grade.  The House also passed HB230 which creates income tax credits for employers who create jobs.

The Alabama Senate spent most of Thursday working on Sunset Laws.

Coming Up This Week In The Alabama Legislature

On the Senate side…

In Committee:

SB196–Sen. Paul Bussman’s Shared Parenting bill:  Changes the custodial presumption in child custody cases from 80%/20% to 50%/50%

HB58–Rep. Mike Ball’s Ethics Disclosure Requirements:  Requires public officials/candidates and spouses of public officials/candidates to disclose if they are employed by the state or federal government or have a contract with the state or federal government.

HB64–Rep. Kurt Wallace’s Secret Ballot Protection Act:  Constitutional amendment protecting the right to a secret ballot in employee representation.

SB46–Sen. Cam Ward’s Health Care Rights of Conscience Act:  This legislation will provide a conscience exception for health care providers and pharmacists who believe in the sanctity of life and choose not to perform procedures or provide medication that do not comply with that belief.

SB310–Sen. Trip Pittman’s Teacher Tenure Law and Fair Dismissal Act:  Reforms the state’s tenure system for teachers in order to improve the quality of education in Alabama.

On the floor:

SB301–Rep. Phil Williams’ pro-life legislation:  Redefines person to include all humans from the moment of fertilization.

SB172–Sen. Del Marsh’s legislation to prohibit the use of gas chambers when euthanizing cats or dogs.

SB112–Sen. Arthur Orr’s legislation to remove racist language from the Alabama Constitution of 1901.

SB256–Sen. Scott Beason’s Immigration Reform Legislation–reforming the state immigration laws to provide for enforcement of federal immigration laws.

On the House side…

In Committee:

HB98–Rep. Kerry Rich and Rep. Wayne Johnson’s legislation to impose term limits on legislators in Alabama:  Limits to three consecutive full terms in the House and/or Senate.

HB206–Rep. Jack Williams’ legislation to increase the distance campaign materials and candidates can be to a polling location to 300 ft.

HB427–Rep. Paul DeMarco’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights:  This legislation will, among other things, amend the Alabama Taxpayer Bill of Rights to conform to the federal Taxpayer Bill of Rights including certain aspects like an “innocent spouse” defense.  It will also increase the time period in which a taxpayer has to file an appeal of a preliminary or final assessment.

HB193–Rep. Mike Jones’ legislation to prohibit lawsuits against restaurants for obesity or weight gain.

On the floor:

HB123–Rep. Jay Love: Education Budget for fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2012

Legislative Week in Review

The Alabama Legislature had another busy week.  The Alabama House passed several sunset bills along with the following:

Rep. Paul DeMarco’s HB25 Fiscal Transparency Legislation requiring the State Finance Department to produce monthly financial reports for the General Fund and the Education Trust Fund, and to publish them in a prominent place on the department’s website. This increased transparency will allow government agencies and the public to monitor the condition of the state’s budgets, making it easier to prepare for budget cuts, should they become necessary.

Rep. Wes Long’s HB8 which amends the definition of “child” to include the unborn.  It also creates a rebuttable presumption of exposing a child in utero to a controlled substance if both the mother and the child test positive for the same controlled substance not prescribed by a physician.

Rep. Jim McClendon’s HB102 ban on texting while driving.

Next week, the House will consider teacher tenure and the education budget.

The Alabama Senate saw a lot of action this week as well.  They had a few lively committee hearings on legislation:

SB140 Sen. Scott Beason’s reauthorization of the Forever Wild program

SB256 Sen. Scott Beason’s immigration reform legislation

SB236 Sen. Arthur Orr’s legislation to authorize furloughs for state employees

Next week, the Senate Health Committee will meet to consider several pieces of pro-life legislation.

Heritage on National Standards: Big Expense; Very Little Value

Heritage’s Lindsey Burke has written a web memo on national standards which is up today. She makes the case that the implementation of national standards comes at a great expense and results in very little value.  She has a good guide to spending on standards and assessment systems by states:

The budgetary impact of jettisoning state accountability structures and replacing existing standards and testing could be significant—likely much more than RTTT funding provides.

Over the past decade, taxpayers have spent considerable sums to develop existing state accountability systems:

  • California. California’s Standardized Testing and Reporting Program, which began in 1998, tests students in grades 2–11 in English, math, science, social science, and history. Estimates suggest that it would cost California taxpayers $1.6 billion to replace the existing state standards with the Common Core standards.[4] Yet California has agreed to overhaul its existing system with the new national standards and assessments.
  • Florida. The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test measures student achievement in grades 3–11 in reading, math, and science. Since 1996, Florida has spent more than $404 million to develop and maintain the system.[5] Taxpayer investment in the existing high-quality assessments has been substantial, and overhauling the system for unproven national assessments, which Florida has agreed to adopt, could produce significant new implementation costs to taxpayers.
  • Texas. Texas has resisted the push for national standards. The Lone Star State estimates that the adoption of new standards and tests would cost taxpayers upwards of $3 billion. “Adopting national standards and tests would also require the purchase of new textbooks, assessments, and professional development tools, costing Texas taxpayers an estimated $3 billion, on top of the billions of dollars Texas has already invested in developing our strong standards,” stated Governor Rick Perry (R) in a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in opposition to national standards and tests.[6]
  • Virginia. The Virginia Board of Education unanimously rejected adoption of the        proposed Common Core State Standards and tests. One of the board’s chief arguments against adopting national standards was fiscal, with members noting that “Virginia’s investment in the Standards of Learning [SOL] since 1995 far exceeds the $250 million Virginia potentially could have received by abandoning the SOL and competing in phase two of Race to the Top.”[7] Indeed, since 1996, Virginia taxpayers have paid more than $379 million to develop and implement the state SOLs. The costs for developing the SOLs include expenditures for the initial development and subsequent revisions of the curriculum frameworks and assessments, as well as the development of new supporting materials and professional development related to using the new testing system.

She also gives a recommended solution for high-quality standards and assessments:

Instead of throwing out existing assessments developed at great taxpayer expense for unproven national standards and tests, state policymakers should:

  • Strengthen existing state-based accountability systems. State leaders should follow the example of states like Florida, Massachusetts, and Virginia and create strong state standards and tests. State leaders should work to continually raise standards by raising achievement levels, ensuring appropriate learning sequencing, and requiring teachers to demonstrate subject-matter mastery.
  • Provide information to parents and taxpayers about school performance. To make assessments meaningful, information about school performance should be publicized and easily accessible to parents and taxpayers. Standards, cut scores, school performance, and definitions of proficiency should all be readily available.
  • Empower parents to act. Once parents are equipped with information about school and student performance based on solid state standards and assessments, they should be empowered to use that information to choose a school that best meets their children’s needs.

Federal policymakers should likewise resist further federal involvement in education and should:

  • Empower states with funding flexibility in exchange for transparency. Instead of providing more federal funding with strings attached—such as national education standards and tests—policymakers in Washington should pursue avenues to maximize transparency of state assessment systems. Federal policymakers should free states from the bureaucratic red tape handed down from Washington and permit state leaders to use federal education funding in a manner that best meets local needs.

I hope state policy makers are listening…

Alabama State Board of Education Votes For Common Core Standards Despite Opposition

On November 18, 2010, the Alabama State Board of Education voted to adopt the Common Core State Standards (CCSSI).  These standards are purported to be necessary to provide conformity among states in the curricula for English and math studies.  As discussed in the last EF newsletter, these ‘standards’, which will be enforced by assessments funded by the federal government through consortia are in reality federal standards—regardless of their origins.  What the federal government funds, it controls.  Assessments drive curriculum.

Eagle Forum of Alabama helped coordinate the effort to defeat adoption of these standards. At the hearing prior to the vote, opponents included lawyers, teachers, preachers, businessmen, activists who expressed themselves knowledgeably. Supporters, who were outnumbered, were on education or corporate payrolls.  David Byers amended the adoption resolution to say that any pressure from the federal government concerning academic standards must be reported to the Board. On the 7-2 adoption, voting for were Ella Bell, David Byers, Mary Jane Caylor, Ethel Hall, Randy McKinney, Gov. Riley, and Gary Warren.  Against were Stephanie Bell and Betty Peters.

Stephanie Bell tried twice to delay the vote until next February when Governor-elect Bentley and some new board members take office.  Betty Peters supported her.

Bell read a long list of opponent organizations with Alabama ties including Alabama Policy Institute, Heritage Foundation, Concerned Women for America, etc.

Prior to the vote, Sen. Scott Beason stated his opposition and read a statement from Governor-elect Bentley asking for postponement and stating: “If you do vote and pass these standards I go on record as opposing this action.  It is a state function and the standards to educate our children should be based on state and local standards that are set by Alabama and local school boards and parents and not by the federal government or a consortium of states.”

In her two minute testimony,  Eagle Forum of Alabama President Eunie Smith predicted that with adoption, parents and the public would see their ability to influence education policy virtually disappear. She said there is no evidence that the simple act of uniform standards across states will increase student learning; that nations with national standards have neither improved education nor economic competitiveness; and that CC has never even been piloted and is a massive experiment.  She provided documentation for her statements.

“Indisputably,” Smith said, “the federal government has pushed these standards—by threats, pressure and funding assessments.”  “The question,” she said, “is who decides.  The people entrusted you, not some group outside Alabama, with curriculum decisions.”

After the vote, Smith said that we must ask the new Congress to stop federal funds for CCSSI and any mandate to adopt CCSSI in the Elementary and Secondary Act next year including Alabama Congressmen and Congressman John Kline (R-MN) who will chair the House Education Committee.

Eagle Forum will continue to fight this increased federal control by broadening our Coalition for Local Control of Schools to include key contacts in each Board of Education District to education them for future challenges.  The path to sound education is parental/local, not national/federal control.

TAKE ACTION

1. Write Congressman John Kline (R-MN), who will chair the House Education

Committee, and ask him not to appropriate any money for CCSSI implementation

and not to allow any mandate for adoption in the ESEA or any other

legislation.

2. Write your Alabama Congressmen and Senators and ask them to do the same

and to advise you of any attempts to promote CCSSI at the federal level.

State School Board To Vote On Common Core Standards Tomorrow

It’s the last chance for anyone who opposes turning control of Alabama’s curriculum over to the feds to have their say.  Tomorrow morning, the Alabama State Board of Education will vote on whether to adopt the Common Core Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics.  While the National Governors Association supports the proposed initiative, problems with the Common Core have been cited by several leading Republican governors, most notably, Texas Governor Rick Perry.  Common Core is also opposed by the following organizations:

Alabama Federation of Republican Women

Alabama Policy Institute

Allied Women of Alabama

CATO Institute

Christian Educators International

Common Sense Patriots

Concerned Women for America of Alabama

Eagle Forum of Alabama

Family Research Council

Focus on the Family

Heartland Institute

Heritage Foundation

Home School Legal Defense Fund

Lexington Institute

National Association of Scholars

National Conference of State Legislators

Pacific Research Foundation

Pioneer Institute

Reason Foundation

Smart Girl Politics of Alabama

Tea Party Patriots of Alabama

U.S. Coalition for World Class Math

Wetumpka Tea Party

Concerned Women For America Oppose Common Core Standards

Today, Concerned Women for America (CWA) released a statement in opposition to the adoption of the Common Core Standards Initiative by the Alabama State Board of Education.

Here’s an excerpt:

Concerned Women for America of Alabama stands in opposition to the state‟s adoption of the Common Core State Standards.

The battle being waged in Alabama is not a new one. For decades the struggle in public education has been over one very basic principle – who will control what is being taught to our children. Education policy coming out of Washington, D.C. for years (regardless of which party controls the government) has lessened the role of parents in our schools and increased the authority of the federal government.

Not only has authority shifted more and more to the federal government, but along with that more authority is being taken by the state from the local school boards. Years ago when literacy rates and graduation rates were high and discipline problems in the schools were low, local school boards set the standards for academic achievement and school governance. They were then able to tailor the curriculum to meet the needs of their students in achieving those standards. Much of this authority has been given over to the state board of education. And now the push is on to nationalize these “state-led” standards by rewarding or punishing states for their participation in the Common Core State Standards.

API’s Gary Palmer Speaks Out Against Common Core Standards

Alabama Policy Institute president Gary Palmer recently wrote on the problems with common core standards.

The federal government now controls two major car companies, has wasted over $860 billion on a failed economic stimulus plan, taken over our health care system, put the nation’s banks and financial systems under its enormous thumb and attempted to restructure our entire economy with cap-and-trade legislation. Now, with the cooperation of governors and state school boards, they are striding toward taking control of our public schools.

This latest federal power grab is called “Common Core Standards.” Common Core will establish one national standard for curriculum and testing in an effort to raise the performance of American public school students.

Supporters of Common Core point to international tests and the poor performance of U.S. students, compared to nations that have national standards. They contend that for American students to compete, we need to standardize curriculum and testing. But opponents argue that this approach will simply standardize mediocrity.

Nations whose students are performing better than American students have nationalized curriculum and testing standards, but so do most of the nations whose students perform below our students. This indicates that the failure to achieve high academic outcomes is related to something besides the lack of a nationalized curriculum and testing.

Eagle Forum has been working hard to stop this power grab by the federal government.  To find out how you can help, click here.

We Must Stop the Federal Takeover of Education

Eagle Forum has worked hard to stop the federal takeover of education in this country–most recently by fighting the adoption of common core standards.  Some people argue that common standards are not a bad thing.  We frequently hear people say, “when a student moves from one state to another state, common standards ensure the student will not be off track with students in his new state.”

However, that’s not 100% accurate.  The only way to ensure students are all learning the same thing at the same time and that schools are interchangeable is to adopt a uniform national curriculum similar to what China has enacted.  This is dangerous for many reasons, but first and foremost because it allows the federal government to control what citizens know and learn.  Consider that the U.S. Constitution purposefully omitted public education, leaving that responsibility to the states or the people.  The Founding Fathers were aware of the dangers of centralization and did not trust the federal government with the supervision of education, believing local people knew their community and their children best.  That still holds true today.

Another area of concern with common core standards is the content.  Eagle Forum has fought for years in Alabama to ensure students had a solid, fact-based curriculum.  In the most recent round of Course of Study writing for Social Studies, Eagle Forum identified the following as missing from the standards:

  • Deletion of the Gregorian Calendar (B.C. and A. D.)
  • Leaves out Julius Caesar, the fall of the Roman empire, Plato, Socrates and Aristotle
  • De-emphasis on the history of Western Civilization that is essential to an appreciation of founding principles in the United States
  • Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment, Scientific Revolution, Age of Exploration are all lumped into one standard in 8th grade.
  • Deletion of the Glorious Revolution in England
  • De-emphasis of the Greek and Roman civilizations – political, judicial, cultural
  • Deletion of Napoleon and the Napoleonic Wars

Fortunately, we were successful in addressing some of these issues before the State Board voted to adopt the course of study.  With the adoption of common core standards, these issues would all have to be fought at the federal level.  As anyone who has attempted to influence federal regulatory policy knows, it’s next to impossible to make a change.

For these reasons and more, Eagle Forum is opposing the adoption of the Common Core Standards Initiative.  If you want to help us stop the federal takeover of education, act now.