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?
When I posted Thursday night about local school boards who have passed a resolution to repeal the accountability act, I was unaware that Opp city schools joined the parade at their Feb. 21 meeting. That makes 17 systems in all who have taken a public stance that they are fighting for their students, teachers and schools.
They have the courage and conviction to speak out against the diversion of $145 million from the Education Trust Fund.
They understand this effort is not just about repealing this terrible legislation, it is also about educators coming together across this state and speaking with one VOICE. Something we’ve been reluctant to do in recent years.
Each of these superintendents is due a word of thanks for leading the way. Here is the email address for each of them. Please take a moment and drop them a short note of appreciation. (And if your own superintendent is not on this list, let them know that you are watching and wondering why they have not stepped up.)
Baldwin County: Eddie Tyler firstname.lastname@example.org
Bibb County: Duane McGee email@example.com
Butler County: John Strycker firstname.lastname@example.org
Geneva County: Becky Birdsong email@example.com
Henry County: Chris Padget firstname.lastname@example.org
Houston County: David Sewell email@example.com
Jefferson County: Craig Pouncey firstname.lastname@example.org
Marion County: Ann West email@example.com
Mobile County: Chresal Threadgill firstname.lastname@example.org
Montgomery County: Ann Roy Moore email@example.com
Randolph County: John Jacobs firstname.lastname@example.org
Tallapoosa County: Joe Windle email@example.com
Andalusia City: Ted Watson firstname.lastname@example.org
Leeds City: John Moore email@example.com
Opp City: Michael Smithart firstname.lastname@example.org
Russellville City: Hearth Grimes email@example.com
Winfield City: Chris Cook firstname.lastname@example.org
Everyone likes a pat on the back. You can support this effort by emailing these good folks.
Add Geneva and Butler counties and Andalusia city to the growing list of school systems calling for the legislature to repeal the Alabama Accountability Act.
They join: Baldwin, Blbb, Henry, Houston, Jefferson, Marion, Mobile, Montgomery, Randolph and Tallapoosa counties, plus Leeds, Russellville and Winfield city systems.)
Interestingly enough, before passing the resolution, the Butler County board had a discussion about the need to make some substantial changes to their budget to adhere to state guidelines. Their pro-rated share of the $145 million AAA has diverted from the Education Trust Fund is $577,000. A board member pointed out that they could balance their budget with this amount of money.
According to information from the state department of education, there are 722,212 students in our public schools. These 16 systems represent 181,239 of them, which is 25 percent. Of all students in these systems, 42.4 percent are black and 52.4 percent are on free-reduced lunches.
Statewide, schools are 32.4 percent black and 41.6 percent free-reduced. The stated purpose of the accountability act when it was created in 2013 was to help “poor kids stuck in failing schools by their zip code.”
So why are the very school systems that AAA was supposed to help the ones calling for it’s repeal?
It’s just one more case where RHETORIC does not match REALITY.
Editor’s note: I attended the board meetings in Andalusia and in Butler County. I was in my element as my parents are from Covington County (Andalusia is county seat) and I spent four years running the Covington County Economic Development Commission years ago. Have know superintendent Ted Watson and several board members for many years.
The Butler County meeting was at the high school in Georgiana. Superintendent John Strycker asked me to comment on the accountability act. Before I did I told the crowd of 75-100 people that my Uncle Earl Bennett ran a grocery store just down the road in McKenzie, Also mentioned that one of my great, great, great grandfathers, William Greenberry Lee, is burne4d at South Butler cemetery in McKenzie.
Afterwards a young lady approached to tell me that she was also kin to Uncle Earl (he was her grandpa’s brother) and someone else told me he on the trustee board for the South Butler cemetery. And ran into Richie Hartley, son of Marion and Richard Hartley of Greenville, friends of many years.
Yep, I was in my element. Among people who are salt of the earth–and too often forgotten my politicians and bureaucrats in Montgomery.