Never Forget To Laugh

In this crazy, hyper active wired world of today, we encounter a tsunami of information each day, way too much of which reminds us of what a mess we deal with all the time.

A constant barrage of bad, depressing news.  (And I admit that I do my own share of passing along such info on these pages.)

It is way too easy to forget to smile and laugh and forget that none of us are getting out of here alive so we should enjoy the ride while it lasts.

Which brings me to the point of this little post.  Here is the audio of a cell phone call from a guy on his way to work who witnesses four older ladies in a fender bender and their response.

It is ABSOOLUTELY one of the funniest things I have ever heard.  If you don’t laugh along with me as you listen, check your pulse.

Stop The Presses. Two More Systems Pass Resolutions.

After posting last night about Bibb and Marion county school boards passing repeal accountability act resolutions, I learned this morning the Leeds city system also passed a resolution yesterday, while Houston County did on Monday.  That means 11 systems with a total of more than 170,000 students have stepped up and told the public that they are willing to fight for their children and stop diverting money from the Education Trust Fund for private school scholarships.

More local boards will be following suit in days to come.

I became involved in education ten years ago.  During that time three things stand out to me.  1) passage of the bill to create the worthless A-F school report cards in 2012., 2) passing the Alabama Accountability Act in 2013, and 3) hiring Mike Sentance to be state superintendent in 2016.

Think about it.  We wrestled for years trying to come up with a formula to give grades to schools.  One committee worked on this for two years before throwing up their hands and quitting.  And today we have schools that get a C on their report card, yet the accountability act says they are “failing.”

We have 722,000 students in public schools and only 3,668 on AAA scholarships.  Yet some want us to believe that it’s OK to divert money from 722,000 so 3,668 can have a scholarship.  How the heck can that be justified?

And Mike Sentance, a guy who was rejected by nine states when he applied to head their education system (and was also rejected by Alabama in 2011 without even getting an interview) and who was never a teacher or principal of local superintendent gets hired by our state school board.  This whole deal was so sordid that one former board members is facing legal action this summer because of actions she took.

Friends, that is a TRAIN WRECK.  Nothing less.

And what do each have in common with the others?  NO ONE LISTENED TO EDUCATORS.  The people who have worked in schools and classrooms all their lives were ignored.

This is why these resolutions are so personally gratifying.  Perhaps, just perhaps, educators across Alabama are finding their collective VOICE and saying ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

Educators, those people who work with our children every day to make their lives better, are realizing that when we leave things to those who are clueless about education, the results are seldom good.


Two More School Boards Pass Accountability Act Repeal Resolutions

Feb. 12 was a double-header for school boards passing resolutions calling for a repeal of the Alabama Accountability Act.  Bibb and Marion counties joined the previous seven systems to take such action.  Others are: Baldwin, Jefferson,.Mobile, Montgomery, Randolph, Tallapoosa and Russellville city.

For those keeping score, these systems have 162,185 students, which is 22.4 percent of all in Alabama.

Of even more interest is that the collective legislative delegation for these systems is 45 House members and 24 senators.  In other words, this many legislators represent school systems who are asking that the accountability act be repealed.  Given that all politics is local, this sends a strong message to House and Senate members.

Like the previous systems that have called for repeal, both the Bibb and Marion resolutions call attention to money diverted from the Education Trust Fund and the impact on their schools.  The total for Bibb is $637,000 and $641,000 for Marion.

Mike Oakley chairs the Bibb County board.  He summed up why this county passed the resolution this way, “When you are a small, rural system, like ours with 3,100 students, you have to scratch and claw for every penny.  It makes no sense for us to lose money just so someone in another county can have a scholarship to a private school.”

According to reports from scholarship granting organizations on file at the Revenue Department, they have collected $145 million in the last six years.  Yet there are people, like the Alabama Policy Institute and Senator Del Marsh, who want us to believe this amount of money is such a piddling sum that it should not be missed by public schools.

And these are folks who claim to be CONSERVATIVES?  Do they honestly believe $145 million is pocket change?  If they would visit places like Bibb and Marion counties, they would see the real world where people count every penny.

Homage To Alpha Lee’s Biscuits And Fig Preserves

Mama was Alpha Lee Stuart before she married and became Alpha Lee Stuart Lee from Rt. 2, Red Level, AL.

She was put on the earth to worry about things she could not do anything about–and cook.  I could not do anything when she said, “I’m worried about such and such,” except to remind her that she had no more control over some nutcase politician in Washington than she did the moon impacting the tide.  But I could sure eat her cooking.

It was southern to the core.  The kind of things that women in this part of the world fed to fields hands.  Greens, peas, fried chicken–and biscuits.

I once asked for her recipe for biscuits.  Might as well have asked for the formula for Coca Cola.  She tried her best to tell me how much a pinch of this was or just a dab of something else.  It was futile. Her biscuit making obviously was a part of her DNA.  Just something that happened automatically, like breathing.

Hers were not light and airy and crumbly like you see in advertisements.  She patted them out by hand and they had a sorta, kinda hard crust.  That meant they held together when you filled a plate with sugar cane syrup and butter and ran half of that biscuit from the east side of the plate to the west side.

Or when you put some fig preserves in them.

Which was when I was about as close to Heaven as I’ve ever been.

I’m talking about WHOLE fig preserves.  Where you put a pile of them in a pot with lots of sugar and boil away.  Now much later in life I have discovered that stores sell little jars of what they call fig preserves.  But they have been all smushed together and come out of the jar like a paste.  You know, like they do strawberry preserves.

But it just ain’t right.  Smearing a biscuit, especially one of those light and crumbly ones, with this concoction leaves a lot to be desired.

So this morning I went on Goggle to pick me some figs.  Whole figs.  Boiled down with sugar.  And found some way out in Texas.  Ordered two jars.  Shipping cost as much as one jar.

I will await them anxiously.  But unfortunately, there is no place to order some of Alpha Lee’s biscuits.  A damn shame.



Remembering Feb. 28, 2013 And The Politics Of Contempt

Feb. 28, 2013 was just another late winter’s day in Montgomery.  The temperature was in the 50’s, the legislature was in session and the State Board of Education was having a work session.

State Superintendent Tommy Bice was at the work session with no clue that Hell was about to break loose two blocks away at the statehouse.

This was the day Senate Majority Leader Del Marsh and Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard threw civility and partisanship to the wind and assumed the roles of Co-Dictators.  TheIr intent was to, come Hell or high water, force a bill through the House and Senate that would offer major corporate tax breaks, divert money from the Education Trust Fund that funds public schools and provide a windfall for private schools.

And they hid behind the ruse of “helping poor kids trapped in struggling schools by their zip code.”

Here is how it unfolded:  The House and Senate had both passed a bill dealing with school flexibility that the entire education community agreed to.  But because of differences in the House and Senate versions of the bill, it had to go to conference committee.  This was four Republicans and two Democrats.

The Republicans dismissed themselves from the meeting and after a period to time, came back with a different bill that set up Scholarship Granting Organizations and diverted money from public schools to private school scholarships.  The process made a mockery out of normal law making.

It is often said that there are two things no one wants to do, 1) watch sausage being made  or 2) watch legislation being passed.  Growing up on a farm, I have made sausage.  It was never as bloody as the spectacle that unfolded on Feb. 28, 2013.

Veteran Associated Press reporter Kim Chandler covered this story.  Here are portions of what she reported:.

“Republicans dropped a legislative bombshell tonight as they slammed through a dramatically revamped education bill that will give tax credits for families at “failing schools” to send their children to private school or another public school.

Republicans heralded it as a historic day for education and life-altering for children stuck in poorly performing schools. But tempers boiled over as Democrats called the maneuver “sleaziness” and a “bait and switch.”

“This is historic for the children of this state,” Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said over the shouts of angry Democrats.

“You went behind closed doors… This is not democracy. This is hypocrisy,” Sen. Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery, shouted at Marsh.

State Superintendent Tommy Bice withdrew his support from the legislation after the change.

NONE of the added language to the Flex Bill has been vetted with us at the State Department/State Board of Education. There are SIGNIFICANT negative financial implications for all of Alabama’s public schools. THIS IS NO LONGER THE BILL I GAVE MY SUPPORT TO!” said a statement by Bice that was distributed to lawmakers.”.

This statement was read on the floor of both the House and Senate.  It was ignored by leadership.

In fact, after the bill passed, Marsh said that educators were not asked for input because they would have opposed it.  Talk about a slap in the face to the state superintendent and all educators in Alabama.

The chairman of the Business Council of Alabama put out a statement calling the bill’s passage “a courageous move.”

A courageous move?  Are you kidding me?  It was deception and deceit.  It was Del Marsh sneaking up behind Tommy Bice with a baseball bat in his hand and knocking him senseless when he wasn’t looking.  This was cowardice–not courage..

A long time lobbyist called it “chaos” and one of the sorriest episodes ever seen at the statehouse.

Now, six years later we know AAA has diverted more than $100 million from the Education Trust Fund; that research by the University of Alabama shows no academic advantage for students who have gotten a private school scholarship; we know we are taking money from each of the 722,000 public school students in the state to provide scholarships for only 3,668 private school students; and that there are 2,000 less students on scholarships today than there were in 2014.

Yet there is not a shortage of sanctimonious people who forget how the accountability act came into being, who forget the deceit and deception of Feb. 28, 2013 and accuse those who have seen this charade for what it truly is as “turning” their back on needy children.  They want to re-write history and act like Feb. 28, 2012 never happened.

Funny I have never heard one of these people mention that there are 163,000 black students in public schools who can’t afford to buy lunch.  That we are taking resources away from these children to help a handful of others.  Where is the equity in this?

As interest in repealing AAA grows, it is important  we remember the circumstances that birthed this monster.  It was wrong.  It was underhanded.  It was devious.  And all the sanctimony one can muster will never mask this reality.

Feb. 28, 2013 was NEVER about “poor kids trapped in struggling schools by their zip code.”  It was about political power and greed and ignoring the Golden Rule.

More and more superintendents and school boards are remembering this and showing they are willing to fight for their students by taking a stand against the accountability act.