Republican Del Marsh singlehandedly passed the infamous Alabama Accountability Act in 2013 that has diverted $145 million from the state’s public schools and has done nothing to help struggling schools. Now he has launched another sneak attack on public schools by insisting the Alabama College and Career Ready standards (which he once supported wholeheartedly) do not work either and calling for the state to “eat” the millions of dollars spent on putting them in place.
But wait, he’s not through.
This time he is going after the football program at the University of Alabama. He wants wholesale changes and far more accountability than the program now has and is developing legislation that he says will result in the perfect football program and avoid the “embarrassment” of last Jan. 7 when the University lost the national championship game to Clemson, 44-12.
Marsh says he is sick and tired of seeing the highest paid football coach in the country (Nick Saban makes $8.3 million a year) get beat on national TV while Alabama becomes the laughing stock of the country..
When questioned by a reporter about his experience in coaching and running major football programs, Marsh pointed out that he knows as much about football as he does about education and believes experience is vastly over-rated in both coaching and running schools.
Marsh believes that a football program with endless resources like the one in Tuscaloosa should settle for nothing less than perfection. He points out that this fall Bama will pay10 football assistant coaches $7.5 million, an increase of $1.4 million from 2018. And this comes fresh on the heels of the school losing the biggest game it had ever played.
Nick Saban has coached in Tuscaloosa for 12 seasons. Yet, he has only had one undefeated season. Senator Marsh doesn’t think this is good enough. He points out that Coach Bear Bryant coached 25 years in Tuscaloosa and had three undefeated seasons. Bryant’s salary in his final year was only $450,000.
Marsh contends that we should roll back the clock with the university’s football program just as he is trying to do with Alabama schools. He intends to pass legislation that will do just this. For instance it may say that the team can only use the wishbone offense or can not throw more than ten passes in a game.
When reporters pressed Marsh to detail how much success the Alabama Accountability Act has brought to state schools, he chastised them for bringing up meaningless details.
Editor’s note: Hopefully readers will quickly see that this is satire. However, the point being made–that Senator Marsh has no better understanding of what challenges education faces than he does about Coach Saban’s football program–is no less valid.
President Trump had hardly taken the oath of office in January 2017 when his advisor, Kellyanne Conway, told us on Meet The Press about “alternative facts.” She was trying to defend press secretary Sean Spicer for disputing how many people attended the Trump inauguration.
Host Chuck Todd simply told her, “Look, alternative facts aee not facts. They’re falsehoods.”
That incident came immediately to mind when I read the latest attempt by Senate Majority Leader Del Marsh trying to once again defend the Alabama Accountability Act. You can see the article here.
The good senator begins with a statement we all agree with: “I firmly believe that every child in Alabama deserves access to a quality education that prepares them for a successful career and fulfilling life.”
So does everyone else. But Marsh ignores the fact that we have 722,212 students in Alabama public schools while the accountability act is only giving scholarships to 3,659 of them. Somehow 3,659 out of 722,212 does not add up to EVERY CHILD.
There have now been 20 local school board to pass resolutions calling for the repeal of the accountability act. Obviously Marsh is aware of what is going on across the state because he says, “Regrettably, several local school boards recently passed resolutions calling for an end to the Alabama Accountability Act. They claim that participating students are not making academic gains and that the program takes money away from public schools’ budgets.
“Neither of these are true.
A recent University of Alabama report showed that students on AAA scholarships did better academically overall than low-income students in public schools and took steps toward equaling the performance of all Alabama students regardless of their demographic.”
Actually what is not true is the Marsh statement.
Here is the conclusion of the most recent University of Alabama study comparing students on AAA scholarships to others.
The purpose of the evaluation is to assess how the scholarship program enacted through the AAA affects the academic achievement of students in the program. Throughout the report many concerns have been voiced about the reliability and validity of the findings due to unknown factors associated with missing achievement tests and due to issues related to subsamples included in specific comparisons, such as whether a subsample of students accurately represented the larger group of scholarship students. Within these limitations, the report made use of the available information to describe how well the scholarship recipients in the 2016-17 academic year performed. The evaluation addressed three objectives to reach this goal:
The first objective described the achievement test results of the scholarship recipients and revealed that generally these students DID NOT PERFORM (all caps added) as well as other students in the U.S. Other indicators, such as the NAEP assessments, are consistent with these results, finding that students in the state of Alabama do not perform as well as students elsewhere in the country.
When compared to Alabama public school students on ACT Aspire and ACT scores in Objective 2, there was no consistent pattern indicating that one group performed BETTER OR WORSE across grade levels. Only a small percentage of students took the ACT Aspire or the ACT, which hampers the ability of this report to draw definite conclusions.
Finally, the evaluation assessed if scholarship recipients’ achievement scores improved, declined or remained the same over time. Similar to their public-school counterparts, findings suggested that, on average, SCORES SHOWED LITTLE IMPROVEMENT OVER TIME.
Would someone please show me where this reports says AAA students “did belter academically overall?”
Just like Kellyanne Conway, Senator Marsh has “alternative facts.”
As to his second comment about AAA taking money from public schools, he doesn’t bother to defend this allegation. But then “alternative facts” can sometimes be worrisome that way.
As Senator Marsh knows, every dollar that goes to a scholarship for a student to attend a private school is diverted from the state’s Education Trust Fund through a tax credit to a donor. Since all income tax goes straight to the ETF, when money is switched from ETF to scholarships, that is money taken from public schools.
The state Revenue Department administers the accountability act. They have lots of info on a web site.
Alabama Accountability Act
Senator Marsh needs to look at it sometime. One thing he will find are reports from scholarships granting organizations that show that through the end of 2018, these groups have collected $145,003,640 from donors. That is $145 million that did not get to ETF. That is not an “alternative fact.”
Finally, Senator Marsh tells us: “The funding for AAA scholarships is less than half of 1 percent of the overall state education budget. I do not believe that this small amount is too much to pay so that children and their parents have the ability to choose the type of education that sets them up for future success.”
Wow, I now know that $145 million is a “small amount” in the grand scheme of things. And Senator Marsh is a deep-fried CONSERVATIVE?
As a former member of the Montgomery County school board, I will be happy to arrange for the senator to visit some of our schools and classrooms. He can visit BTW magnet where students are crammed on top of each other because their school burned to the ground last year. He can tell the students $145 million is nothing. Or visit any of the teachers who are constantly using DonorChoose to try and scratch up supplies for their children.
For sure he will come away with real facts, not ones pulled from thin air.
Roanoke City, Covington County and Blount County are the latest school boards to pass resolutions calling for the repeal of the Alabama Accountability Act. This brings the total to 20–with more on the way.
According to information from Scholarship Granting Organizations on file with the Alabama Department of Revenue, this legislation has now diverted $145 million from the Education Trust Fund.
Editor’s note: While SGOs show contributions of $145 million, they only show awarding $90 million in scholarships. Where is the other $55 million?.
The pro rata share of this $145 million for Roanoke City is $260,000; for Covington it is $586,000 and for Blount, $1,800,000,
There are 722,000 students in Alabama public schools. There are 194,000 (26.9 percent) in these 20 systems. And 52.6 percent of all students in these systems are on free-reduced lounges
Even more impressive is that the collective legislative delegation for all 20 systems is 52 Representatives and 26 Senators. For instance, Blount county has four Representatives (David Standridge, Randall Shedd, Corey Harbison and Wes Kitchens) and two Senators, Clay Scofield and Shay Shellnut)..
Since all politics is local, you can bet when a local school board calls for repeal of the accountability act, it gets the attention of local legislators. Resolutions direct the local superintendent to send a copy of the resolution to their legislative delegation.
Here are the other 17 school systems that have passed a resolution: Baldwin, Bibb, Butler, Geneva, Henry, Houston, Jefferson, Marion, Mobile, Montgomery, Randolph and Tallapoosa counties and Andalusia, Leeds, Opp, Russellville and Winfield city systems.
If your local school system is not on this list, ask them why.
We posted a few days ago about the fact that some of the private schools competing against public schools for basketball state titles have quite a number of Alabama Accountability Act scholarships. In fact, of the six schools vying to be state champs in divisions 1 A, 2 A and 3 A, four of them are private schools. Only one of the privates does not participate in the AAA scholarship program.
As you can imagine, anything pertaining to sports stirs up interest. This post certainly did, reaching thousands of people on Facebook. Emails came from all over, including one state representative who feels strongly that private schools and public schools should not compete against one another..
Thursday morning Decatur Heritage will play St. Luke’s in 1 A. Friday will be the finals in 2 A for Sacred Heart Cath9lic of Anniston vs. Coosa Central, as well as Plainview vs. Westminster Christian in 3 A.
Amazingly, Sacred Heart is going for their FIFTH state championship in a row. Their first came in 2015 in 1 A, as did the next three. This year they are competing in 2A.
Records showing how many scholarships individual schools have gotten are only publicly available back to the fall of 2015. In the fall of 2015 Sacred Heart had 60 scholarships; in 2016 they had 72; in 2017 the number was 60 and last fall they had 47. That’s a total of 239 scholarships.
St. Luke’s Episcopal is next with 160 during the same time frame. Decatur Heritage only has a total of three. Westminster Christian does not participate in the AAA program.
Conclusion? You can draw your own.
There is sadness in little Georgiana, AL tonight. Because this morning in Birmingham in the final four of the state high school basketball tournament, the team from this little hamlet lost 60-58 to a private school in north Alabama in the smallest division schools compete in.
I was in Georgiana last Thursday night at the Butler County school board meeting. A large crowd of locals, at least 75 people, were in the audience. At one point Georgiana High principal Curtis Moorer reminded the audience that the school was in the final four and that buses would be taking folks to Birmingham.
He promised that the school would win the state championship. The crowd agreed.
But now we know it will not be.
As I said in an earlier post, I was in my element that Thursday night. I don’t know who they were, but I am sure some in the crowd and I share some of the same ancestors. Lees have roamed that little speck of south Butler and north Covington counties for nearly 200 years.
They, like everyone else, waged a daily struggle to simply get by. They followed mules down sandy cotton rows, stacked peanuts in the fall, made sugar cane syrup to drag biscuits through at breakfast, killed hogs when the weather got cold in the fall, ran sewing machines making pants and blouses and under garments and worked one end of a crosscut saw until sweat sloshed in their brogans.
They were yeomen farmers and sharecroppers. Simple people who went to primitive Baptist churches and were baptized in a creek or pond. They fried chicken to take to dinner on the grounds. They helped their neighbors when help was called for. They buried their own in pine boxes and decorated graves with shells they found in a creek, and maybe even some colored glass.
The last census said Georgiana is now less than 1,800 souls. Like most of rural Alabama, the citizens are older and poorer than those in the cities where their young have fled to.
Because of such circumstances, the school is more than JUST a school. IT IS the community. It is where races mingle in a grandstand and cheer for their team. For their boys and girls. It is where hope springs from in a community that doesn’t have many chances to celebrate success or cling to hope.
They lost to a small private school in a town 250 miles away where the average student comes from a totally different environment.
I cast no rocks at the school that won. Any time you play a game, one side wins and one side loses. That’s the way it has always been and will always continue to be.
Still, my heart hurts for Georgiana
Because the DNA of its citizens is my DNA also.
High school basketball season for schools playing in a public league end this week with the state tournament in Birmingham. There are seven size classifications ranging from schools with less than 100 students to Hoover high with 2,177.
The smallest division goes to 159 students, 2A up to 223 and 3A up to 297. The final four teams in each of the seven divisions are now set.
Of the 12 final four teams in the three smallest divisions, five of them are private schools. (There are no private schools playing for a state title in 4A, 5A, 6A and 7A.)
It is an open secret that some private schools use AAA scholarships to improve their athletic programs. A closer look at the five private in the high school playoffs give credence to this assumption. Since scholarship athletes are not immediately eligible, we looked at numbers from the fall of 2017.
In all, these five schools had 110 scholarships. Here is how they break down: Decatur Heritage–2; St. Luke’s Episcopal–40; Westminister Christian–none; Sacred Heart of Anniston–60; and Prattville Christian–8.
Here’s the irony. As you know, all scholarships are paid for by money diverted from the Education Trust Fund used for public schools. Could it be that some private schools are using publicly-funded scholarships to compete with public schools in basketball?