Category: Featured

Comprehensive Analysis of the Consolidated ESSA State Plan and Recommendations for Alabama

August 17, 2017

Eagle Forum of Alabama has conducted an extensive review on ESSA and the Consolidated State ESSA Plan (“The Plan”) for Alabama. Eagle Forum of Alabama has reviewed committee reports from the strategic planning committees formed by Superintendent Sentance and the Alabama Ascending Plan and has studied the ESSA Implementation documents and report in addition to the Consolidated State ESSA Plan because all are attached or were referenced as sources for the consolidated draft plan from Superintendent Sentance. Eagle Forum of Alabama diligently monitored, researched and served on implementation committees, sub-committees and attended the parental engagement tours held throughout Alabama. Eagle Forum of Alabama recorded, photographed, and collected official handouts as well as documents from every implementation committee event or meeting held in the state.

As stated by Superintendent Sentance at the State Board of Education meeting on July 11, 2017 when referring to the Consolidated State ESSA Plan for Alabama, “this is a legally binding document for the state of Alabama.” Eagle Forum of Alabama therefore recommends that Alabama utilize the greatest amount of flexibility authorized under the ESSA and revise The Plan as stated below.

  • Inaccurate history of ESSA Implementation Committee and lack of student and parental involvement in ESSA implementation process

The Plan incorrectly states that all stakeholders were involved in The Plan’s development. Eagle Forum of Alabama found that parents were not properly valued or included in the process, and that it was extremely difficult for Alabama’s citizens, parents, and students to engage in the ESSA implementation process. In contrast, this process made it easy for state employees, paid lobbyists, agency heads, and state paid administrators to participate. There was also concern about possible violations of the Alabama Sunshine Law in relation to the date and time of announcements for ESSA committee meetings. Page 8 of The Plan claims that “ESSA Implementation committees worked in conjunction with Strategic Planning Committees.” This is also incorrect. There was no meeting or correspondence between these committees or bodies unless it was conducted unofficially without the consent of the general ESSA implementation committee.

The development of The Plan described on page 7 is inaccurate as well, as parents were not involved in the implementation committee or its sub-committees in a meaningful way. Neither were parents involved with the strategic planning committees in a meaningful way. The Plan therefore needs to reflect an accurate record of their lack of involvement or access.  Page 14 describes an “expansive process,” in which “Alabama has been diligently engaging stakeholders”. Detailed communications were made by a committee member to the Chair Jeana Ross about the serious problems with the online survey by ESSA committee members. The questionnaire was difficult for parents to find, difficult to access from the website, and the instructions and submitting process was not working properly. While the committee member was told these problems would be addressed, this same problem for parental or public input remained during the implementation process.

 

  • Utilize ESSA’s Opportunity for Flexibility and Local Control

The Plan should take advantage of the flexibility authorized under ESSA and adjust certain provisions accordingly.

  • Both the ESSA and the General Education Provisions Act (GEPA) explicitly restrict the role of the federal government in education. While GEPA puts the SEA’s in an oversight role for federal grants and asks them to encourage participation in their programs, for example, Section 438 states that none of its provisions authorize the federal government to exercise any “direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system.” Thus, the law clarifies that states should not allow undue influence by the federal government on its curriculum or published documents.
  • In the present version of The Plan eight different oversight programs will be over the LEAs in Alabama. Each of these federal programs require oversight and are overly broad. (page 50-52)
  • Florida’s ESSA plan requests waiver from the 95 percent testing mandate cited under ESSA section 1111(c)(4)(E) which is referenced on page 28 of the consolidated plan. Eagle Forum of Alabama recommends Alabama pursue the same waiver request from this mandate, as the federal government has no legal authority for this mandate.
  • In addition, ESSA provides some prohibitions on testing mandates from the USDOE and the Secretary of USDOE. Moving control of testing and assessments back to the states is a step towards real education reform and local control. Lastly, the Superintendent and Alabama State Board of Education members have been successful in obtaining more flexibility from the current Secretary of Education by ending the Act Aspire contract.
  • As State Board of Education member Jackie Ziegler pointed out during discussion of The Plan at SBOE meeting; Page 14 contains an error that needs to be changed. ACT Aspire will not be Alabama’s interim accountability system. Eagle Forum of Alabama’s research shows that Global Scantron is a Common Core aligned system as well.
  • The term “Students” needs to be clearly described as public school students.

Page 9 uses the term “all students,” which is then used throughout the ESSA plan. Given that this document is purportedly “legally binding on the states” as stated by Superintendent Sentance, The Plan needs to avoid overly broad language and, therefore, clarify that the word “student” is in reference to public school students only.

  • Inaccurate Description of American government promoted

The United States government has a Representative Republic form of government, not a “democracy”. “Democracy,” however, is what describes our government on page 9 of The Plan. It is of pivotal importance that students understand basic civics starting with a proper understanding of the American system of government as outlined in the United States Constitution. In order for students to understand and exercise their rights as citizens, they must have an accurate and basic knowledge of our government structure, and this error needs to be addressed.

  • State Revision Procedure of Academic Standards and Assessment Section

Eagle Forum of Alabama agrees with the implementation committee recommendation that Alabama’s revision process for its academic standards should provide greater feedback to parents and the public who have concerns about the standards review process.  The course of study statute addresses the process for changing course of studies. Section 16-35-1 states, “Composition; appointment, qualifications and terms of members. The State Board of Education shall appoint a courses of study committee as set forth below for the purposes and functions as hereinafter provided.” Since new data has emerged following the implementation of Common Core in Alabama, the Plan faces possible compliance issues as Common Core does not provide challenging academic standards. Eagle Forum of Alabama encourages moving Alabama forward with standards that hold a proven academic track record of growth and success.

  • NAEP historical revisionism needs to be addressed

There is no acknowledgement of the correlation between Common Core implementation and failing test scores.  Before Common Core implementation Alabama’s academic achievements in reading due to the Alabama Reading Initiative were acclaimed nationwide. (https://www.alsde.edu/sec/ari/History/ARI%20History.pdf)  At this time, Alabama had risen from near last to 25th in overall grades and scores according to Education Week. But that was before Common Core implementation in 2012 in Math and 2013 in English.

According to 2015 NAEP tests, Alabama’s average math score in both 4th and 8th grade was the lowest of any state. Some Common Core promoters continue to blame Alabama’s poverty rate as the cause of its failing scores, but in doing so, they ignore Alabama’s previous successes under its earlier standards despite these demographics. Indeed, according to PARCA Perspective published in October of 2015, “Between 2013 and 2015, Alabama’s average score declined in both grades. …While Alabama’s higher poverty rate puts it at something of a competitive disadvantage in national comparisons, a deeper look shows it’s not Alabama demographics skewing the results. Name the group-black, white, Hispanic, poverty and non-poverty-all perform worse than their peers in all other states.” The Plan needs to adequately reflect Alabama’s NAEP history.

 

  • Common Core reinforcement and promotional rhetoric

Eagle Forum of Alabama encourages Alabama to seek greater flexibility and independence from the federally controlled Common Core system, which promotes academically inferior standards.  Common Core was not created by educators or leaders in Alabama.  Therefore, it should not be represented as Alabama led or created. Alabama’s education system must move towards local and state control. Most importantly, Eagle Forum of Alabama wants academically superior standards to replace the failing Common Core standards.  On page 16 of the Plan it falsely describes Common Core as “rigorous”. “Access for ELLs [English Language Learners] recently went through a standards setting study in 2016 in order to meet the rigorous language demands of College and Career Readiness Standards.” (pg. 16) As the Superintendent Sentance has stated Common Core standards are not “internationally benchmarked” nor “rigorous” standards.  We recommend promoting greater flexibility for local educators and more independence from the USDOE in The Plan. The Plan should therefore remove its “College and Career ready” indicator for accountability, as tying Alabama to this indicator with 10 percent ensures the continued promotion of Common Core which has failed Alabama’s students. (pg. 21-24) The Alabama Ascending Plan also reinforces Common Core on page 6 and the Strategic Planning Committees promote Common Core throughout.  Common Core is referenced in the documents as “College and Career Readiness Standards.” (pg. 16 of The Plan) In order to achieve the long term goal outlined in the Plan to “reduce the number of students not proficient in 2030 by 50%” Common Core must be replaced with superior standards.

Conflicts with data-work group recommendations and privacy concerns

The data collection sub-groups official recommendations that were unanimously supported were that no data would be collected beyond what was required by the federal government pursuant to ESSA. That means anything collected indirectly or directly for the Federal Government beyond what ESSA requires is in violation of the data sub-groups official recommendations. Eagle Forum of Alabama supports the data-sub groups unanimous recommendations to protect children from invasive data collection practices that violate student and family privacy.

  • N score

The Superintendent Association, along with the data work group, recommended only providing what was legally required and nothing further. The number used for the N score is much lower than the number the state should utilize to exercise flexibility. This not only conflicts with suggestions from Alabama’s educational leaders, but it endangers student privacy and Alabama’s sovereignty. De-identified data or aggregated data can be re-identified to contain personally identifiable data. https://techscience.org/a/2015092903/  The Plan proposes a number of 20 as referenced page 13, but ESSA does not require 20 for the N score. Therefore, Eagle Forum of Alabama recommends the number of thirty or higher for the N score.

  • Subjective factors that require inaccurate surveys or Personally Identifiable Data (PII) data collection

Data from areas of “student engagement,” “educator engagement,” “school climate and safety,” or any data that could lead to increased psychological profiling in the accountability scheme should not be used or listed in The Plan. Eagle Forum of Alabama recommends ALSDE use academic factors instead.

  • Graduation Tracking System

 

The state sets out as its goal to identify students starting in 3rd grade as at risk of dropping out by using a strategy of the Graduation Tracking System (pg. 33-34).  Clarification of this system is needed, as is clarification of its purposes, including its purpose: to “increase grade promotion rates leading to students graduating on time.” This language is unduly vague and without clarification, leaves room for ineffective instruction and undue grade promotion. Significantly tracking systems usually hold high dangers for student privacy and Alabama currently has no comprehensive student privacy protections. Labeling students at an early age can be very detrimental in tracking systems. Lastly, this tracking system contains an inherent flaw by allowing the criteria to be constantly shifted. (pg. 34) Eagle Forum of Alabama advises not including any tracking systems in The Plan.

  • Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) Privacy Concerns

 

School-based counseling and mental health programs should not be expanded at this time, as there is no way to protect this data.  FERPA has been critically weakened by USDOE and is outdated as it was passed in 1974. The law is antiquated in addressing the technological changes in society. In Alabama, the Comprehensive Student Privacy Protection Act has not yet been passed. There is no privacy protection for Alabama’s students; therefore, students will be harmed by PBIS. It should not be included in The Plan.

  • Diagnostic testing for 5k and mandatory four-year plan

The diagnostic testing requirements listed in the Alabama Ascending Plan for entering kindergarten have not been fully defined, and not enough information has been provided. Any such pre-assessments should only serve to improve the teachers’ approach and shouldn’t be tied to any state or local assessment. In regards to The Plan we recommend that any reference to an assessment aligned to the diagnostic testing be dropped.

The four-year plan in 8th grade described in Alabama Ascending is a continuation of an earlier model from Plan 2020.  Mandatory plans of this nature are not voluntary and should be under the control of the parent and, student not included in federal agreements.  In addition, states that have moved forward with mandatory four-year plans or mandatory career plans violate parental and students rights. http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/08/us/chicago-high-school-graduation-requirement/index.html Mandatory plans of this nature may face constitutional litigation from families or students as public schools are not constitutional free zones. It is best for the students and families to make these decisions. The school does not need to approve of plans or require one from the student.

  • Social and Emotional Learning
  • Superintendent Sentance agreed with concerned leaders and parents that social emotional learning is not the role of public educators, but the role of parents. In addition, schools are not properly equipped or trained for this area. Social and emotional learning, however, is still included in The Plan (page 34) as well as the Alabama Ascending Plan. It is the continued position of Eagle Forum of Alabama that it is not the role of ALSDE to analyze or control a child’s development in these areas, and it is not the role of the federal government to force a state to enact such provisions. https://thenationalpulse.com/commentary/attention-parents-social-emotional-learning-state-education-plans/ Removing social emotional learning from the Alabama Ascending plan as well as from The Plan and other attached documents will ensure teachers are not threatened with lawsuits and are not distracted from attending to critical areas of learning and student academic growth. Eagle Forum of Alabama therefore recommends that all references to social and emotional learning or associated programs be removed from both the Alabama Ascending Plan and The Plan. (pg. 18 of AL Ascending)
  • In addition, the terms “suicide prevention,” “bullying and harassment,” “crisis prevention and conflict resolution,” “human trafficking,” “child abuse awareness and prevention,” “safety and violence prevention,” and “trauma informed classroom management” used in The Plan are outside of the realm of academic teaching and should be removed. Alabama law already requires educators and administrators in public education to report suspected child abuse and training already is provided in many of these areas. While these are important issues, it is not the role of the public educator to address them. Some of these areas of involvement infringe on the role of the parents in society and involve subjective value judgement of students and could lead to possible discrimination as these terms or programs are defined.  The primary role of the educator should be providing quality educational instruction to their public-school students, not addressing social or societal problems.
  • Office of School Improvement and Turnaround (OSIT): Eagle Forum of Alabama finds that the creation of a new state agency (OSIT) is promoting the wrong approach to helping schools needing improvement and is a counterproductive use of federal or state funds. On page 24 it describes using staff to intervene by using “Climate, culture, and mental health specialists.” These staff members will be promoting social and emotional health, which co-opts parental rights and will not improve student academic performance. Schools will be provided different levels of “support” from the office depending on how they perform on Alabama’s six selected indicators, including the college and career ready rate for that school. This is an overly broad practice of intervention in schools and promotes the top down approach that has not been effective in the past. OSIT has no record of success and should not be institutionalized by the ESSA plan.

 

  • PBIS Social and Emotional Concerns: The promise to improve “school conditions” for Title 1 schools is listed on page 32-33 of The Plan this includes social and emotional learning agendas. For example, it includes references to “restorative justice practices for school discipline” and training LEAs for positive behavior supports (PBIS) philosophy.  This portion of the Plan is somewhat unclear and unduly broad.  Given a number of schools receiving Title 1 funds also serve high-achieving populations as well as high-risk populations, it seems The Plan is establishing a state-wide discipline approach that will not fit needs of every school system. Alabama should therefore leave room for local agencies to be trained in the philosophy that best works for its students’ successes.
  • While Eagle Forum of Alabama believes strongly in helping children with special needs, PBIS is being used to improperly label children with disabilities or the wrong disabilities. Parental consent should be required for mental health screenings and to avoid any constitutional violations. The data file produced from PBIS is also suspect for its authenticity, educational effectiveness, and collection method. PBIS should not be included in The Plan.
  • Student Support and Academic Enrichment GrantsBecause these programs violate constitutionally protected parental rights and promote invasive psychological practices, Eagle Forum of Alabama objects and recommends their removal. Section 4108 of ESSA describes programs that utilize a broad range of factors that will likely result in subjective or invasive programs: “Early identification of mental health symptoms, drug use, and violence, and appropriate referrals.” Medical treatment and referrals should require parental consent, but there is no legal requirement for consent in this section. Teachers are not trained as medical or psychological professionals to diagnose children or to conduct screenings. This will lead to a host of problems for Alabama’s students in regards to academic development.
  • 21st Century Community Learning Centers: Eagle Forum of Alabama’s research and study finds that 21st Century Community Learning Centers have not been an effective use of educational resources. Public education is a part of the community but it is not the community alone. These community learning centers will be primarily used for non-academic purposes and will not be dedicated to Alabama k-12 system. We recommend not including any agreement involving community learning centers.
  • Invasive Programs that need to be removed or addressed in Alabama’s ESSA Consolidated Plan

 

  • “Engaged Families and Communities”

 

Eagle Forum of Alabama, like other leaders in education policy, wants parents and students engaged in their education at every step.  However, the “Engaged Families and Communities” programs listed in ESSA and cited on page 21 of the Plan do not promote family engagement. Instead this aspect of ESSA promotes monitoring and collecting personal data on families-especially their interpersonal communications and their communications with the public education system. Data collection on families does not improve parental engagement in the public education system.  It should be removed or altered appropriately.

 

  • Reach

 

Eagle Forum of Alabama recommends removal of all aspects of the Reach initiative and Reach Advisory Program from The Plan. The student advisory program listed on page 34-35 of the consolidated plan raise problems for parental and student rights. “It is not everyone’s responsibility”; it is students and parents responsibility to direct and control their education. This is a philosophical perspective of education that violates parental rights and promotes collectivism in Alabama’s public education system. More information would need to be provided to parents before this program should be supported.

  • Improper Instructions on ESSA Intervention Programs for At-Risk Youth and Homeless Assistance

(722(g)(1)(B) is a non-regulatory guidance section from the USDOE. (pg. 54-59 of The Plan) Eagle Forum of Alabama finds the invasive factors to be used to identify homeless children as concerning. The list cited on pg. 54 includes a broad sweeping list of factors that may indicate homelessness gives broad authority to school based personnel and representatives from other service agencies this list to identify homelessness. This includes many factors such as looking at grooming practices and living at a temporary residence. (pg. 54) “The McKinney Vento Act is designed to address the challenges that homeless children and youths have faced in enrolling, attending, and succeeding in school.” https://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/essa/160240ehcyguidance072716.pdf

  • “What if the LEA determines that it is not in the child’s or youth’s best interest to attend the school of origin or school requested by the parent, guardian, or unaccompanied youth?” The section of instructions in this non-regulatory guidance are concerning in relation to parental rights and other legal rights of families and students. While aspects of homelessness student data collection is required by ESSA, Eagle Forum of Alabama suggests removing the identification factors from the plan listed on page 54. We did not find that these exact factors were required. Additionally, the non-regulatory federal guidance from (722(g)(1)(B) engages broad sweeping assumptions about homeless children and their families. Eagle Forum of Alabama encourages a re-examination of the enforcement of this ESSA section to ensure the best treatment of homeless children and their families especially in regards to their legal rights pages 54-59.
  • Strategic Planning Committees Bureaucratic Approach to Education
  • The Plan on page 8 and as well as the Alabama Ascending Plan include the strategic planning committee reports and the Alabama Ascending Plan which were composed in major sections by these planning committee’s recommendations. Eagle Forum of Alabama finds that the science, math, and reading committees reports will, if implemented, increase bureaucracy by creating new agencies and increase federal control of Alabama education’s system. Most importantly, they fail to address deep problems with Alabama’s current Common Core standards.
  • Eagle Forum of Alabama sees that it is not teacher preparation or experience that is the greatest barrier for students but instead the failing system of Common Core especially its impact on testing, professional development, and curriculum. Common Core’s emphasis on informational texts replacing classic literature is not addressed by reading committee. Alabama’s teachers and students can compete with any state but face bureaucratic barriers to focusing on academic achievement. The reading committee supports keeping the “College and Career Readiness Standards” but fails to address Common Core’s impact on teachers and students shown by NAEP scores. (pg. 5 of reading) “The council will develop a statewide literacy plan in collaboration with MS, SC, and TN with support from the Regional Education Lab (REL).” (page 14 of reading) Eagle Forum of Alabama finds this announcement deeply concerning as Alabama needs to control its own teacher preparation not outside organizations or regional councils.
  • The science committee report primarily focuses on tools, funding, and a three-dimensional approach to science education. While Eagle Forum of Alabama also supports a hands-on approach to science education in part, teacher’s knowledge in their subject area remains critical. Instead of swinging the pendulum solely towards a three-dimensional approach reducing emphasis on knowledge for students and educators a more balanced approach would be more productive for science education in Alabama. If tools and funding are issues at this time CPLE would not be a productive use of state educational resources. There are already many SEA agencies that are responsible for improving science and math education as well as instruction in Alabama. Including AMSTEC, AMSTI, STEM, and ASIM referenced in the report already acting. (pg. 5-9 of science) Additional agencies and initiatives would be wasteful and increase state bureaucracy in science education. We also already have existing Colleges of Education which teach courses on science education and require teacher preparation that cover these areas of education. These college education departments should not be supplanted by new state agencies.
  • Math educators should not be focused on “advocacy” or “empowerment”. (pg. 2 of math) Community development and workforce development should not be the primary focus or main goal of math educators in Alabama. However, an entire subcommittee was set up to focus on these areas. (pg. 2 of math) The main goal of math educators in Alabama should be to provide excellent and high quality math instruction to public school students. The sub-committee “Teacher Education Programs in Higher Education” was almost primarily composed of individuals from higher education instead of current k-12 instructors in Alabama’s public schools.
  • Math education summary shows a derogatory perspective on Alabamians and especially parents. “The committee urges the public to help make these recommendations a reality by realizing mathematics cannot be a dinner joke about not mattering in our lives.” (pg. 41 of math) This derogatory approach to parents and students is harmful to engaging parents in education reformIt should not be supported. It is not funny that in its forty-six-page report and 55 recommendations not one includes addressing failed Common Core math standards. Alabama’s parents care deeply for their child’s education especially in math and that is why they support reforms to current standards.
  • In addition, the strategic planning committees did not include parents or students in their process. While their report describes their extensive work they only met three times. (pg. 2 of math) Eagle Forum of Alabama recommends reworking the Alabama Ascending Plan and removing input from the strategic planning committee as they worked outside of the ESSA implementation process. In addition, their suggestions were not shared or discussed by the ESSA implementation committee members. Some of the committees suggestions, if implemented, would violate federal law. “This will be accomplished through a nationally aligned rigorous curriculum….”. (pg. 5 of reading) Since a national curriculum has been prohibited by Congress, the promotion of such a system conflicts with ESSA. Eagle Forum of Alabama strongly advises removing any references or recommendations from these three committees or suggestions from any of the planning committees in any attached plans or included documents with The Plan.

 

Conclusion:

Ultimately ESSA is a policy paradox for Alabama as there is some opportunity for flexibility and movement away from the failed federal initiatives. However, there remains extensive and coercive federal overreach under ESSA. Eagle Forum of Alabama supports the ALSDE in movements towards greater flexibility and independence from the federal government.  This approach will yield greater positive results for student achievement, involved parents, and inspired educators. The ALSDE has been promoting ESSA on its website and representing it in an improper light. ESSA represents federal overreach into state education systems and should not be promoted to the public by the department. http://www.alsde.edu/dept/essa/Pages/home.aspx

While the department will need to share the applicable laws on its state website, promoting ESSA or legislation that gives the Secretary at the Federal level authority over Alabama’s education system is not the proper role of ALSDE. The ALSDE was not tasked to defend or promote the federal education legislation through parental engagement tours or its ESSA meetings.  Instead the requirement of public input meant reaching out for meaningful feedback on ESSA.

Eagle Forum of Alabama supports Superintendent Sentance, Governor Ivey and the State Board of Education in taking the best advantage of ESSA that is possible under the law. Unless the items or areas allowing for flexibility under ESSA are utilized, no greater flexibility will be achieved for Alabama in education. We recommend that the State Board of Education vote down The Plan in its current form until these recommendations have been made since The Plan will be a legally binding document with the federal government. There is no guarantee the USDOE will approve amendments or changes at a later time for Alabama.

 Respectfully submitted by Eagle Forum of Alabama and

 Alabama ESSA Implementation Committee Members:

Deborah Love, J.D., Executive Director Eagle Forum of Alabama, ESSA Implementation Committee Member, Data Collection and Reporting-Sub Group Committee Member, and Early Learning Sub-Group Committee Member,

Krissie Allen, J.D., M.A.Ed., ESSA Implementation Committee Member, Standards, Assessment and English Learners Sub-Group Committee Member

Margaret Clark, J.D., M.A. Biblical Studies: ESSA Implementation Committee Member, Accountability Sub-Group Committee Member, Titles Programs, Grants and Requirements Sub-Group Committee Member

Shag LaPrade, M.S. Health and PE., Ret. Marine Gunnery Sergeant, School Board Member for Coffee County 2010-2016, ESSA Implementation Committee Member, Data Collection and Reporting-Sub Group Committee Member

Collectivism in Alabama Politics

By Deborah Love

This week has been “Alabama Week” on The Daily Show, a week devoted to the mocking of Alabama and especially its recent political scandals. I suspect many Alabamians have laughed along with Trevor Noah, half from nervous embarrassment and half from frustration. The hostile spotlight on Alabama brings my thoughts back to one memory from a time when I interned with Senator Jeff Sessions as an eager college student, excited to make a positive difference. One of the first phone calls I received was from an angry man who asked me where I was from, to which I quickly replied with a proud and positive voice, “I am from Alabama.” The man responded “You’re a barefoot, inbred, pregnant woman.” The man continued to yell before eventually hanging up. When I looked up his area code I realized he was not from Alabama. So I wondered why he thought such horrible things about a person he had never met. I thought it was strange that he hated the politics of my state so much he would insult a stranger.

I realized later on that this man’s prejudice and hatred of me was based solely on a sort of collectivist logic. By using that term, I don’t mean merely leftward progressivism – collectivism is the idea that people can be reduced to, and explained according to group interests. It is an idea which promotes stereotypes, prejudice, and hatred. We can all think of examples that permeate the current political and cultural dialogue which are based in this fallacy. If you look on social media you will see political or cultural discussions quickly escalate to these broad stereotypical conclusions that judge an individual or entire group from a collectivist lens. Following are some examples that I have recently seen online. Rebekah Caldwell Mason is like many other women in Montgomery politics. Republicans are all corrupt. Black men are all thugs. Millennials are lazy and want everything for free. Democrats hate America. Libertarians are pot heads. Conservatives are extremists. The media is all liberal and biased. These statements are the result of acceptance of the idea of collectivism; they are not based in reason. We all know that there are caring, loving, smart and well-intentioned people in each of these categories. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

The acceptance of this tribalist sort of collectivism has led to a negative perception of Alabama. The people of Alabama are not synonymous with the state government. Mike Hubbard nor Robert Bentley upheld their duty to the people of Alabama, and they both misled the public; but Alabama is much more than its government. The entire state should not be judged by a few very powerful people. As an Alabamian, I am proud to be from Alabama. I am proud of what private individuals in Alabama are doing right this moment. Our religious institutions, private philanthropic organizations, schools, neighborhoods, and families are all made up of individuals. We are the full sum of each and every man, women, and child, divisible, unique, of value and merit, but with mistakes included .

Progress more often comes in form like a general current, as each individual Alabamian every day makes decision after decision, and act after act. Sometimes these decisions and acts are not the best, but if, as I believe, most days good people do good things, the general tide of progress will rise ever higher and higher. This is thanks to the merits of individual people, each making innumerable positive decisions each and every day. Alabama’s identity does not reside within the Governor’s mansion, but with each and every individual Alabamian. It is because I reject collectivism and collective guilt this week I can still say that I am glad to be an Alabamian. It may be trite to reference the band Lynryd Skynryd, but the outsiders from Florida had a great point – the actions of “the Governor”, or indeed any politician, cannot be held to condemn an entire people.

Deborah Love is Executive Director of Eagle Forum of Alabama, a Conservative grass-roots public policy organization dedicated to sound public policy solutions in Alabama and Washington DC.

Imperative immediate call to Gov. Ivey

Please contact Governor Ivey ASAP and ask her to protect the freedom of religion in Alabama, her churches and their members. Ask her to sign The Child Placing Agency Inclusion Act (HB24/SB145) without any executive amendment and without delay!  To contact the Governor’s office, call: 1-334-242-7100 AND email by going to: governor.Alabama.gov/contact.

This act protects church and religious operated state-licensed adoption agencies from being required to make same sex adoption placements in violation of their religious beliefs based on scriptural marriage. With the 2015 Obergefell SCOTUS opinion legalizing same sex marriage, regulations are expected requiring same sex marriage placements. Already in Massachusetts, Illinois, Washington, DC and San Francisco, Christian adoption agencies have closed.

Adoption is an important alternative to abortion. We cannot afford the closing down of 30% of Alabama adoptions done by the affected agencies.

The Human Rights campaign, a heavily financed LGBTQ lobbying organization, abortion interests and others have opposed these bills, but they passed both houses with large margins. Now, we are told that Google, AT&T and Apple are pressuring Governor Ivey to add the amendment.  Please let our new Governor know that we need her to stand with the Alabama Christian Community and sign the act.

This issue is about more than protecting innocent life; it is about the very essence of religious freedom. In committee, Christians were said to be intolerant and discriminatory. Our religious beliefs were expected to be secondary to the desires of homosexuals.

This is our first confrontation in Alabama with the gay rights agenda. If we do not stand firm now, we will face increased opposition.  Those organizations that oppose us because of what we believe, will coalesce; and we will find we have little or no voice in protecting our values. Large corporations, gay rights advocates, abortion interests, gambling interests, and you name it, will be telling us how to live. Our sincerely held religious beliefs dictate against what they want.  We must act now to protect our rights for ourselves and our posterity.  We must not allow those who advocate unhealthy lifestyles to discriminate against us and against Christian ministries, nor advance their agenda at the expense of vulnerable youth and the whole of society.

We are indebted to Eric Johnston of Southeast Law Institute for much of the foregoing explanation.
 

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All Pro-life Bills Pass Senate

Wonderful news!  All three pro-life bills that we have supported this legislative session passed the Senate today.  They now head to the Governor’s desk for signature.

1.  The Healthcare Rights of Conscience bill (religious freedom for healthcare providers who object to abortion, cloning, stem-cell research) by Rep. Arnold Mooney/Sen. Paul Sanford

2.  Ban on Assisted Suicide bill by Representative Mack Butler/Senator Phil Williams

3.  Right to Life Constitutional Amendment (a constitutional amendment to go on the ballot declaring that abortion is not a protected right in Alabama)  by Rep. Matt Fridy/Sen. Phil

Williams

Thank you to everyone who turned out to lobby for life, and especially those legislators that voted to protect it!

 

Stop Trojan Horse SJR 87

Urgent:  Please ask your Senator and House member to stop SJR87.

RE: SJR 87 asking for term limits via Constitutional Convention

In recognition of the fact that an Article V Convention is not a solution, but rather a Trojan Horse, both Maryland and New Mexico rescinded all previous calls for a Con Con during the first week of April, 2017.

Many well-intentioned conservatives cling to a Convention as a solution to problems our country faces.  However, numerous extremely radical, progressive and socialist organizations are also fighting for an Article V Convention with George Soros’ money and massive media outreach.  Constitutional scholars* (see below) and political experience confirm that a Constitutional Convention once convened would be a law unto itself.  Therefore, it could well put at risk some of our most cherished freedoms and even our entire Constitution.

  • COS advocates cover the full spectrum of ideologies and include hundreds of organizations in the Move to Amend coalition like Peace groups (Watch out Second Amendment.), communist fronts, Sierra Club, Code Pink, Occupy groups, and Wolf-PAC, which wants to publicly finance elections. Some toy with ideas like direct democracy and the popular vote, while others never publicly state what they would seek from a convention.  All that these groups have been able to agree upon so far is the desire to hold a COS.
  • A COS cannot be limited, since there is nothing in the U.S. Constitution and no law to restrict its purpose, procedures, agenda, duration or election of delegates.
  • There is no way to assure that COS delegates would obey any restrictions placed on them by the states. They may not have to run for re-election and thus would be free from accountability to the public.
  • Term limits in states such as Missouri have given unelected bureaucrats the upper hand with procedural and institutional knowledge.  In Alabama, state employees lobbying the Alabama legislature already seem disproportionate to the private sector.  How much worse will it be to give the lifetime bureaucrats in DC even more power and control over a frequently changing Congress?
  • There is no stopgap for preventing ill-conceived constitutional changes from being ratified by 38 or more states. Modern communications capability gives moneyed special interests the ability to whip the populace up with emotional rhetoric to get them to vote for ideas that test well in focus groups rather than those that have survived the test of time.
  • We have for so long neglected to truly educate our children on the Foundational events and documents that created the United States of America that many now believe the Constitution and Bill of Rights, rather than being documents based on the careful study of thousands of years of human behavior, are outdated and irrelevant. It would be easy to stir up those so uneducated into a popular frenzy of support for any number of amendments that would fundamentally change our country.

Let’s limit terms as needed at the ballot box and strive harder to observe the Constitution that we have.   PLEASE OPPOSE SJR87.

Following are links for sound arguments against the various forms of legislation related to a Constitutional Convention.  They are short and logical.  Hope you find them helpful in speaking with your state legislators.

Links for arguments COS against, CFA WP, Term Limits, and general talking points.

Blessings,

Eunie Smith

*At a minimum…the Federal Judiciary, including The Supreme Court, will have to resolve the inevitable disputes over which branch and level of government may be entrusted to decide each of the many questions left open by Article V.”
— Laurence H. Tribe, Professor of Constitutional Law, Harvard Law School  (affirmed by email 4/7/2017)

“…there is no effective way to limit or muzzle the actions of a Constitutional Convention.  The Convention could make its own rules and set its own agenda.  Congress might try to limit the Convention to one amendment or one issue, but there is no way to assure that the Convention would obey.  After a Convention is convened, it will be too late to stop the Convention if we don’t like its agenda.  The meeting in 1787 ignored the limit placed by the Confederation Congress ‘for the sole and express purpose’.”  Chief Justice Warren Burger in letter to Phyllis Schlafly.

Get the Facts on HB277

Get the facts on HB277!  It is important for Alabamians to learn more about the significant role of religious and private child care providers in Alabama. A large portion of Alabama’s families rely on these providers to care for their children on a daily basis.  These are predominately church operated ministries to church members and outreaches to the community. A smaller number are affiliated with religious schools. Many prefer private facilities which are licensed exempt over state controlled facilities. In October 2016, there were 998 licensed and 943 license exempt child care centers in Alabama, according to Alabama DHR. The number of licensed exempt child care centers in Alabama is increasing because many families our choosing licensed exempt centers.

Families already have a choice between licensed exempt and licensed by the state child care providers. Yet many decide to not attend licensed child care providers and purposely go to licensed exempt child care options. Even the grandchild of the sponsor of HB277 attends a license exempt child care provider in Alabama.  Opposition to HB277 is about protecting children by protecting some of the best, safe, and positive child care options for children in Alabama. If hard working Alabamians no longer have high quality and low cost options, it harms children.  Many families will no longer have the opportunities and options they rely on for their families.

No one is exempt from child safety laws or regulations 

  • Licensed exempt day care providers are not exempt from child safety laws and regulations. All child care providers in Alabama are either licensed exempt or licensed. To become licensed exempt the provider must file appropriate paperwork with DHR including immunization records.
  • Criminal behavior is already outlawed in the state of Alabama regardless of where the crime occurs whether in a private or public setting. There are many state laws which directly address child abuse and neglect. The appropriate state agencies already possess the authority to investigate and punish criminals
  • Just as public school employees those at licensed exempt child care facilities already must pass full criminal background checks. (AL Code 38-13-3)
  • In addition, the State of Alabama already places an affirmative duty on child care employees in private and public settings with the responsibility to report suspected child abuse.
  • Child care providers are regulated for health and safety standards by multiple state agencies already. License exemption for child care providers in Alabama does not mean they are exempt from child safety laws and regulations.

What is currently required of licensed exempt facilities?

 DHR provides a list of requirements that involves their agency here http://dhr.alabama.gov/services/Child_Care_Services/license%20Exempt%20Centers.aspx

  • Notice that the child care program is an integral part of a local church
  • Notice that intent to operate a child care program has been given to the appropriate health departments so that facilities will be inspected to meet standards
  • Inspection by fire department at least once a year
  • Inspection by the Alabama Department of Public Health at least twice a year
  • Notice to the department certifying health inspection reports, immunizations, and medical forms for all staff and children.
  • Notice to parents of staff qualifications, pupil-student ratio, discipline policies, type of curriculum, religious teachings, and type of lunch program.
  • Parents required to sign affidavits about licensed-exempt status
  • Church/facility must submit affidavits of notification to DHR
  • Must follow all state and federal laws

What are the thirteen agencies who currently regulate license-exempt providers in Alabama?

  • Alabama Department of Human Resources
  • Alabama and Local Health Department
  • State Fire Marshall
  • State Building Commission
  • Alabama Department of Revenue
  • Alabama Department of Labor
  • Alabama Law Enforcement Agency
  • Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration
  • Federal Transportation Administration
  • Local Codes (zoning, safety requirements)
  • Safe States (enforce asbestos laws)
  • County District Attorney
  • The Alabama Code governing numerous aspects of caring for children

Licensed care does not ensure safety

DHR and other state agencies have failed on many occasions to follow through on inspections to facilities. In 2014 changes to block grants from the Federal Government required DHR to inspect facilities receiving grants whether or not they are license exempt.  Those inspections were not always completed.  Regulations and license requirements have failed on many occasions to protect children.

  • There is no evidence that licensed day care facilities are safer than license exempt facilities. We can all cherry pick examples in either public or private settings, but there is no factual evidence that licensed facilities are safer than non-licensed facilities.

Misleading examples of child endangerment as pretext for state action

As a matter of fact, every claim of injury to children upon which HB277 proponents rely are as a result of the violation of health standards already required of licensed exempt facilities.  If DHR and the responsible health departments had done their jobs, those events would not have happened. But more to the point, DHR regulation would not have prevented them. However, it certainly makes for good, if not misleading, selling points to uninformed observers.

Sunny Side Day Care– Sunny Side Day Care was highlighted as a key example of a licensed exempt center for a staph infection outbreak that happened at that location. Sunny Side Day Care receives funding from the Federal Government. That means state agencies already have more ability and responsibility to regulate that facility. However, on many occasions DHR has failed to inspect some facilities as they did in regards to Sunny Side. In regards to food safety all child care facilities must meet be food safety, standards already. All the reasonable measure are already in place to address this problem.  There was no clear testimony provided that regulations or licenses would have prevented the staph incident. This memorandum from the Office of Inspector General about license exempt facilities examines the legal authority. https://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-07-10-00231.pdf

  • There is no guarantee that regulations or licenses will prevent all health incidents but one thing is clear: Alabama DHR had the ability to inspect Sunny Side Day Care facility prior to the staph incident. Licenses and regulations do not ensure a child’s safety.

HB277 exempts certain child- care facilities but targets religious facilities

Do supporters of HB277 think that licenses and the regulations associated with this bill protect children?  Why then are shopping center day cares exempt on page 6 of HB277 Why would public controlled facilities be exempt from this regulation? The potential for safety concerns for children is the same in these locations as others.

Follow the money

The free market allows parents to decide for themselves in what type of educational environment or child care facility they would like to place their child. Most parents like options because it produces the best choices for their children. However some groups and individuals are resorting to scare tactics to push economic protectionism against religious affiliated facilities. In the last several years more families have been moving away from licensed facilities and towards licensed-exempt facilities. That concerns some who benefit economically from licensed centers.

  • In addition to the economic protectionism aspects of HB277, the Federal involvement and out of state donations to lobbying organizations have thrown big money to groups and agencies to push for licensure mandates. As the fiscal note for the HB277 shows the financial support for this regulation comes from the Federal government http://alisondb.legislature.state.al.us/ALISON/SearchableInstruments/2017RS/FiscalNotes/FN-36426.htm. Another source of funding for this lobbying push comes from Kellogg Foundation a national out of state organization.

Public policy should be based on facts not stereotypes

Religious and secular child care providers both care about protecting children and helping families. That is why they do what they do.  There have been many innuendos and false claims made about religious institutions in Alabama.

  • The vast majority of Alabama’s religious institutions and religiously affiliated providers do wonderful work for Alabama’s families. Just as we do not judge every public school teacher by the actions of a small percentage of teachers we should apply that same respect for private and religious institutions.
  • We punish the individual not an entire religious community or group. We do not judge every private child care institution by select bad actors. That promotes fear and prejudice between Alabama’s religious populations, the general public and state agencies. Solid public policy proposals will not result from fear tactics and prejudice.

Religious Liberty Violations

“A child care facility that is an integral part of a church or nonprofit religious school shall be licensed…” (pg. 27 of HB277)  HB277 removes important religious liberty protections that ensure Alabama’s diverse religious population has freedom to exercise their religious beliefs in regards to early childhood development without government intrusion and control. “Also under existing law, child care facilities that are part of a church or nonprofit religious school are exempt from licensing by the Department of Human Resources.” (pg. 1 of HB277) Alabama’s diverse religious communities have for generations worked to protect children, start hospitals, adoption agencies, founded schools, and ministries for the poor.

Separation of church and state means that the state does not control the church or any religious institutions. If the church must receive a license from the state in order to operate a ministry that violates the religious liberty protections Alabamians have been provided in the state and Federal Constitution.  Protecting children and religious freedom are not mutually exclusive. As a matter of fact parents and the Alabama Constitution expect them to be mutually inclusive. The Alabama Religious Freedom Amendment provides for what is called the “compelling interest test.” Government may not burden or restrict a religious activity or belief without first having a compelling interest to do so in the least burdensome or restrictive way. HB277 is unconstitutional and will likely face class action suit by Alabama religious institutions. It will very likely be struck down.

  • First Amendment United States Constitution applicable to Alabama

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

  • Alabama Religious Freedom Amendment 622, section V

Section V. (a) Government shall not burden a person’s freedom of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, except as provided in subsection (b).

(b) Government may burden a person’s freedom of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person:

(1) Is in furtherance of a compelling government interest; and

(2) Is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling government interest.

(c) A person whose religious freedom has been burdened in violation of this section may assert that violation as a claim or defense in a judicial, administrative, or other proceeding and obtain appropriate relief against a government.

Government overreach

Hundreds of licensed exempt facilities will close due to HB277 unnecessary regulatory overreach. HB277 oversteps and violates what the proper role of government is in Alabama.  The government has an interest in protecting safety of all Alabamians but that does not mean the government should control private religious institutions. Reasonable regulations and criminal laws already punish bad actors. State agencies already retain the ability to regulate and inspect in needed situations.  Demanding licenses and the regulatory power that comes with licenses will not improve children’s safety. Instead, a license requirement will mean more state control over private and religious institutions. If the church was must come to the state to request to operate then the church is not free from state intrusion. In addition to day cares HB277 will regulate mother’s day out, volunteers, day nurseries, and play groups.

Removes Parental Authority and choice

Currently there are more positive child care options and choices in early childhood service providers in the state of Alabama. Once HB277 passes that will no longer be the case. If you dislike one provider, you have options outside of state regulated facilities or facilities who accept grants. Families who rely on grants also have options currently. However, HB277 will remove this option for parents.  It will require every child care provider to follow the same regimen, and it will give state agencies control of these institutions.

Truth about minimum standards

Many private and religious child care providers in Alabama already go above and beyond minimum standards by DHR.  HB277 would require every day care facility to follow the list of regulations called minimum standards. Child neglect, abuse, health, and safety regulations and law exist and are already in place outside of minimum standards. Many religious institutions or private facilities reject DHR minimum standards.  These regulations have many aspects that are not directly related to child’s safety but they are instead more focused toward the facility.

DHR would have the full authority to deny licensing, employment, and ability to volunteer based on individual receiving speeding tickets, or criminal charges even when found innocent.

DHR would have the authority to consider a center’s beliefs unsuitable for licensing, employment and the ability to volunteer.

DHR can immediately terminate license, employment and the ability to volunteer for being viewed as unsuitable with no proof of wrongdoing. It gives them unintended control due to the subjectivity of determining who or what is “unsuitable”.

DHR can close a center for what they “think” is a lack of business funds.

DHR holds the approval to whether or not a Center Director can be hired.

DHR requirements for certain number of staff per child.

Real Solutions

Rather than address the issue of a few “for profit” daycares masquerading as churches, proponents of HB277 want to remove the protection of all churches. The good faith offer of actual redress of the real problem has been disingenuously and deceitfully rejected by supporters of HB277 in favor of unconstitutional church regulation. Using child protection as an excuse, their real goal is church regulation of this very important church ministry, the choice of parents to raise up their children in the way they should go. 

Dr. Allen Mendenhall, Executive Director, The Blackstone & Burke Center for Law & Liberty

Joe Godfrey, Executive Director, Alabama Citizen’s Action Program

Alabama Citizen’s Action Program

Robin Mears, Executive Director, Alabama Christian Education Association

Eunie Smith, President, Eagle Forum of Alabama

Deborah Love, Executive Director, Eagle Forum of Alabama

Eric Johnston, President of The Southeast Law Institute

Jeff Smith, Administrator of Trinity Christian Academy and Preschool, Oxford, Alabama

Danny J. Hubbard, Publisher and Author, Reveal Publishing

Scott Elliot, Director of Youth Ministries at Christ the King Lutheran Church

Dr. Tom Ford, Pastor, Grace Baptist Church and Ezekiel Academy Board Member

Col. Charles Orr, Christian Citizen Task Force, Whitesburg Baptist Church

Samuel J. McLure, The Adoption Law Firm

James McCaney, Jr. Senior Pastor, Victory Christian Fellowship Church

Maurice McCaney, Chancellor, Victory Christian Academy

Wanda McCaney, Director, Victory Christian Academy

Lorraine McCaney, Head Administrator, Victory Christian Academy

Mike Parsons, Director of Save Alabama’s Values and Education

Rev., Dr. John Killian, Pastor and Past President Alabama Baptist State Convention

McCaney Law Group, LLC

Denise Driskell, Senior Administrator of Pathways Academy

Robert M. Driskell, High School Administrator of Pathways Academy

Rev. Jerry Johnston, Associate Pastor, Trinity Baptist Oxford, Alabama

Michael Rippy, Lead Pastor, Evangel Church, Evangel Christian Preschool

 

 

 

 

 

Eagle Forum Of Alabama Strongly Supports Bill To Ban Assisted Suicide In Alabama

Contact your State Senator and State Representative now.  Tell them you support the Assisted Suicide Ban Act HB96 (Rep. Mack Butler) and its companion bill SB198 (Sen. Phil Williams).  House Information: (334) 242-7600  –  Senate Information: (334) 242-7800, to voice your concerns with your legislators NOW!

Ask them to pass this legislation to insure that Alabama protects life until natural death.  Alabama must not join the five states plus the District of Columbia who have already legalized assisted suicide and the other 21 states that are currently considering legislation to legalize “assisted suicide” which redefines the concept of medical good as never before.  Our state has long supported its commitment to protect and preserve all human life at every stage. As this legislation states, the state has an interest in protecting vulnerable groups, such as the impoverished, the elderly, and disabled persons from abuse, neglect, and mistakes.  The state also has an interest in protecting the integrity and ethics of the medical profession.

Assisted suicide laws clearly violate fundamental medical ethics. Without protections from assisted suicide in Alabama, the elderly, individuals with special needs, and the mentally ill will become targeted for assisted suicide as they have in other states.  Alabama is one of the few states that currently has no statute directly addressing assisted suicide.  The U. S. Supreme Court has upheld state bans on assisted suicide, and it is time for the Alabama Legislature to take action by passing the Assisted Suicide Ban Act.

In states that have legalized physician assisted suicide (PAS) there are few protections for those with mental health problems.  Even in Oregon and California, where the law calls for counseling where the physician thinks the patient may have psychiatric or psychological disorder or depression, less than 4% of those who received a prescription were referred to counseling.  Inadequate pain control was identified as a concern in only 1/4 to1/3 of the cases.  If the reason for the decision is not physical, it is safe to assume that more patients should have received professional counseling other than from their physician.  With such laws, there is nobody to hold the physician accountable.  The laws allow too much latitude for physicians to rely on their own opinions in their practices.  PHYSICIANS NEED TO HELP SUCH DISTURBED PATIENTS, NOT KILL THEM.

In a recent U. S. Senate hearing, Dr. G. Kevin Donovan, professor of pediatrics and director of clinical bioethics at Georgetown University, stated: “In medicine we know that what is permissible becomes habitual, and what is habitual becomes standard care, and what is [the] standard of care becomes obligatory.”  We must protect life at all stages and remember the oath doctors take to “first do no harm.”

Conservatives Rally Against Data Collection Bills from the Alabama Political Reporter

By Brandon Moseley

The legislature has returned for another session and some GOP legislators are once again pushing a longitudinal data collection scheme. Once again the primary opponents of this grand scheme are fellow Republicans. On Thursday, February 23 Alabama Eagle Forum led a conservative rally in opposition to the longitudinal data bills, House Bill 97 and Senate Bill 153.

State Auditor Jim Zeigler (R) read a statement from his wife, state school board member Jackie Zeigler (R) vowing to oppose the data collection.

A statement was read from Representative Barry Moore (R from Enterprise). Moore said that only communist countries think they can direct children into career paths from early childhood. Moore questioned education rankings where countries that have invented nothing and innovated nothing are ranked higher than the U.S.

Rep. Arnold Mooney (R from Indian Springs) said that liberty loving people must be most on guard when the government acts with good intentions.

Rep. Ed Henry (R from Hartselle) said, “Does government need all of this information to better serve the public?”

Henry said that when he was campaigning, “Nobody ever said I wished the government would collect more data on me.” Henry said, “There really are not evil people down here we are just differing on which side we need to be on this.” Henry warned that we will end up losing our nation as we know it.” This would put us on a dangerous path and I don’t have any desire to be part of it.”

Senator Rusty Glover (R from Mobile) said, “We didn’t come to Montgomery to grow the size of government and this is growing the size of government. Sen. Glover said, “I have received dozens and dozens of phone calls from constituents asking,” for this to be stopped. I have not had the first parent or student asking that this be done.”

Glover has recently announced his 2018 candidacy for Lieutenant Governor. Current Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey is term limited from running again.

State School Board member Stephanie Bell (R) warned of a potential for government tyranny with this. At this point the best place for HB97 and SB153 is the trash can. Bell said that the federal government has demonstrated in the last year how vulnerable their data bases are to hacking. They can not secure the data. “This is about growing bureaucracy.” This will become one of the biggest budget items in state government in future.

Joe Godfrey ALCAP quoted GK Chesterton: “It is only in believing in God that we can ever criticize government, because without God they will worship government as God.” Godfrey warned of the dangers of giving the state of Alabama that much power. We need to encourage our legislators to stand strong in opposition to this.

Rep. Allen Farley (R from McCalla) said, “I am a Christian conservative member of the Republican Party in that order.” Farley said, “The poor schools are in the poor communities.  Most of the prison population comes from the poor communities.” “As a Republican we believe in smaller government but a big and great God. Farley warned about the danger of data collection.

State School Board member Betty Peters (R) said, “I have no faith that no harm will be done.” “We have new things coming at our children every day that invade our children’s privacy.” “We must assure that no harm is done,” to the children of the state. This database is being run by a board with very few elected people on it. At the state Board of Education we asked questions. Then Governor ordered the board set up through an executive order with all of these appointed people, many of them appointed by him. I do not like appointed boards where everybody is appointed. I am elected if you don’t like what I am doing you can vote me out. Appointed people only answer to the person who appointed them.

Eagle Forum of Alabama Executive Director Deborah Love, who emceed the event, thanked all the legislators who attended and said, “We can count on their vote as a no vote and a yes vote for liberty.”

Rep. Mike Holmes (R from Wetumpka) said that the HIPAA data was also supposed to be secure. The dirty little secret is those HIPAA laws are not being enforced. There are 1300 complaints against the people running the database and the same people who maintain that data base are the people who is running this data base. Data mining of the database has become big business. if they can do that with the medical database they can do that with this.

Conservatives Rally Against Data Collection Bills

Alabama Workforce-Data Bills Threaten Student, Family Privacy

What with manipulation of currency and theft of jobs, China is held in fairly low repute, especially down South. But some Alabama legislators seem enamored of at least one part of the Chinese system – the one that compiles enormous amounts of data on citizens, beginning when they’re toddlers and continuing through their careers, and swaps this data back and forth among various government agencies for government purposes. One might expect this kind of dangerous nonsense from, say, California, but . . . Alabama?

Parents and citizens are alarmed at two companion bills (SB 153 and HB  97) currently moving through the legislature to create a massive centralized warehouse of education and workforce data. This system would be called ANSWERS, or the Alabama Network of Statewide Workforce and Education-Related Statistics, which would be administered by a new Department of Labor bureaucracy called the Office of Education and Workforce Statistics (the “Office”).

The reach of ANSWERS would be sweeping. Operated by the Office, the system would combine education data (beginning in pre-K) and workforce data to provide information on the effectiveness of educational and workforce-training programs, and to assess “the availability of a skilled workforce to address current and future demands of business and industry.” (The bills don’t explain how the government can predict the “future demands of business and industry”; the Soviet Union tried it, but without much success.) The data could then be analyzed for whatever purposes the bureaucrats come up with, and used for “research” which, if history is any guide, will be ignored if it doesn’t support what the bureaucrats want to do.

How would this work? An Advisory Board would be established to identify the types of data that certain listed governmental entities would have to dump into the centralized warehouse. The statutory (and non-exclusive) list of such data sources includes all education agencies in the state, from pre-school through four-year universities – plus the Departments of Labor, Commerce, and Veterans’ Affairs. So these billions of data points on practically all Alabama citizens would be centralized into one repository to be sifted and shifted by central planners.

But surely the Advisory Board will be constructed so as to protect the interests of children and their parents. Not exactly. Of the 24 members, 22 must be either politicians, bureaucrats, or representatives of specific entities such as higher-education systems. One must represent private industry and know something about data-security (the bills’ only nod to security concerns), and the last shall be a lonely “representative of the public” (not necessarily a parent). The fix, ladies and gentlemen, is in.

The privacy concerns with ANSWERS are staggering. For one thing, although certain proponents have suggested the data would all be de-identified, the bills clearly contemplate the presence of personally identifiable data (by requiring “security clearance . . . for individuals with access to personally identifiable data”). Indeed, the bills specify that the Office would be considered an “authorized representative” under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and the only point of such a designation is to be entitled to receive students’ personally identifiable without parental consent or even notification.

Even if all data were to be de-identified, data can be frequently re-identified – especially when there are hundreds of data points on each individual to enable data-matching. And the bills even specify that the Office is to “link educational, workforce, and workforce training data from multiple sources through quality matching.” In such a vast repository, anonymization will be difficult if not impossible.

No more comforting is the bills’ requirement that the system comply with FERPA and other unspecified privacy laws. Five years ago the Obama administration gutted FERPA by regulation, thus enabling almost unlimited disclosure of personally identifiable student data as long as certain terms are used to justify the disclosure. Do the bills’ sponsors not know this? If not, what are they doing writing legislation that relies on FERPA “protections”?

The bills require no particular system of data-security, leaving that up to the Office. But the Office will have an unenviable task, given that this wealth of extremely sensitive information (including student education data, Social Security numbers from the Labor Department, family income information from student-loan programs, and on and on) will be conveniently assembled into one neat package and therefore made enormously attractive to hackers. One might as well assemble all the crown jewels of Europe into one room and hope jewel thieves don’t notice.

If enacted, ANSWERS would be among the most intrusive longitudinal data systems in the country – only 16 states and D.C. have such an Orwellian system. But most Alabama parents understand that the government has no right to collect highly personal data on their children, or on adults for that matter, and give it to other agencies to track their journey through the workforce and through life. It is none of the government’s business. One would have expected Alabama officials to understand this as well.

An equally fundamental, and troubling, aspect of this contemplated data repository is its adoption of the statist “socialization,” workforce-development philosophy of education. Traditional education in America has been designed to develop each individual to the full extent of his talents, to expose him to the best of human thought; statist education is designed to train him to be a cog in the economic machine. Only if the State adopts the latter philosophy does it need a data repository to track citizens and see how the training is working out.

Fortunately, Alabama State Superintendent Michael Sentance has a strong history in a true educational system rather than a workforce-training system. His experience as Secretary of Education in Massachusetts back when that state educated children better than any other state in the nation should prepare him to recognize the dangers of the ANSWERS network.

In public statements so far, Sentance has focused on the critical problems with data security. The parents of Alabama students are counting on him to go further – to reel in the dangerous inclination of the all-powerful State to collect data on free-born citizens and use it to analyze them as though rats in a laboratory. If Sentance comes out against ANSWERS, that ill-advised scheme will probably go down. Alabama is not China. Supt. Sentance can ensure that it doesn’t become so.

Eunie Smith is President of Eagle Forum of Alabama