Who Is After Del Marsh?

Like you, I get tons of email (and I send tons as well).  I try my best to “screen” it.  Like the notes from a foreign country saying their great-grandfather was the prime minister of such and such and if I respond I will be fabulously wealthy.  Those get deleted quickly.

There are some that catch us by surprise.  And leave us scratching our head.

Like this one that showed up earlier tonight.

Entitled “Del’s Secret Survey,” it purports to reveal an effort by senate majority leader Del.Marsh to pressure senators to commit (secretly) to support him on various education issues, such as: reforming tenure, expanding school choice, reorganizing the state department of education, a teacher pay raise and increasing the use of technology.

Does March really have a “secret survey?”  While I don’t know for sure, very reliable sources say he does.

But what is most interesting is that someone went to the effort to put this info together.  Someone who is obviously not a fan of Marsh’s past efforts at reforming education with the Alabama Accountability Act, charter schools, Amendment One, etc.

Last year Marsh got a 30-0 vote on Amendment One in the senate.  This number included 25 Republicans and five Democrats.  As we know, on March 3rd Amendment One went up in flames.  Like in the towering inferno.  Which means that 29 senators followed Del March right off the cliff.  And now their names are forever listed as senators who voted to take the vote away from Alabama citizens.

This may well be the first rather open signal that Marsh’s hold on the senate is coming undone.

 

 

Thoughts On Amendment One Battle

While I was hopeful that Amendment One would fail, never did I imagine that it’s defeat would be so overwhelming.  A 10 point defeat of 55-45 is considered decisive. But a 50 point shellacking of 75-25 like the voters gave to Amendment One is virtually unheard of.

This measure was defeated in all 67 counties.  Twenty-two counties had a NO vote of 80 percent or more.  In Lamar and Marion counties, the margin was 90-10.  The “best” counties for a YES vote were Madison (68 percent NO), Autauga (67 percent NO) and Montgomery (66 percent NO).  Senate majority leader Del Marsh was sponsor of the bill.  He is from Calhoun County.  The vote there was 75 percent NO and 25 percent YES.

This legislation was passed by the senate 30-0.  Twenty-five Republicans and five Democrats voted for it.  There is little doubt that future opponents of these senators will remind voters of this vote.

Politicians don’t like rejection.  The vote on Amendment One was not just rejection, it was humiliation.  And you have to wonder how quickly these same senators will sign on to Del Marsh’s next education bill.

One of the most baffling things of this whole episode was the news release below put out by the Alabama Association of School Boards on the day Marsh introduced his Amendment One legislation in 2019.

“FOR RELEASE: May 10, 2019
The AASB Board of Directors voted to endorse Gov. Ivey’s proposed constitutional amendment regarding K-12 educational governance after thoughtful consideration of the bold initiative. Fundamentally, we believe it is important the people of Alabama have an opportunity to vote on this dramatic change and that such change is needed to drive significant, sustained improvement in our schools across the state.
There are great things happening in Alabama schools every day. We want to make sure these great things are reaching every student and every corner of the state. Episodic success will not help Alabama compete with other states. Our support for this proposal is not a personal attack or driven by a particular issue. It is based in a profound desire to increase the rigor and results for our students.
AASB has no illusion that a change in governance will be a panacea for the challenges facing Alabama public schools. We do believe a governance change could be the pivotal turning point and create the momentum for increasing education funding and addressing other issues impacting school performance such as poverty, declining populations in rural communities and equitable access.
School boards believe Alabama is ready for change.”

Given the dismal track record of the Republican supermajority since 2010 in passing education bills that have clearly been aimed at harming public education, how in the world does a group that is supposed to “represent” education endorse a measure that would give the state senate the final say in who is on an appointed school board and who is hired to be state superintendent?

For certain, if I were still a member of the Montgomery County school board, I would be asking some questions.

Amendment One Crashes And Burns

As I write this late on Tuesday night, March 3rd, Amendment One is losing by a margin of 76 percent to 24 percent.

That is not just a defeat, it is having your heart jerked out and stomped flat.

From one end of the state to the other, folks said emphatically that they don’t want to give up their vote and they have no confidence at all in the legislature to be in charge of public schools.  Baldwin County is as Republican as you can get.  Yet 79 percent of voters there rejected this amendment.  At the other end of the state in Madison County, where former state school board member Mary Scott Hunter was promoting a YES vote, 68 percent of voters said NO.

From the Black Belt (Dallas 75 percent no) to the Piedmont (Randolph with 87 percent no) to Sand Mountain (Marshall with 74 percent no), voters were adamantly opposed to this amendment.

And all of this happened in the face of a campaign by special interests that raised $471,000 to pass the amendment.

It was truly a grass roots effort fueled by passionate educators who ran ads in weekly newspapers, took to social media and talked  to friends and neighbors.  And while both the House and Senate are controlled by Republicans, the amendment ran into significant opposition from Republican stalwarts.

In my mind, the big loser is all of this is the legislature.  Last July 19 I asked the question “Did the legislature paint themselves into a corner?”  I think they absolutely did.  When this legislation came out of the 2019 regular session, of 129 votes, only 21 were opposed to it.

I doubt many thought how a rejection of this magnitude would reflect upon them.  But it did indeed.  This is backed by the three surveys we did on this issue, each time asking respondents to give the legislature a letter grade.  In the last one done in January, 66 percent gave the legislature either a D or an F.

Rumor is that senate majority leader Del Marsh will soon come with a package of bills dealing with education.  If so, it is time for sane minds to prevail and think long and hard before they follow the good senator over another cliff like they did with Amendment One.

The Dishonesty Of NAEP Scores

Alabama voters have been bombarded incessantly for weeks by politicians screaming about our low test scores and how the sky is falling.

HOWEVER,  not one of these lawmakers who are so quick to throw stones at school teachers and administrators have been honest enough to provide the context of the scores they cite and admit that they are misusing the data they use.

The scores are those from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), given every two years to a small, random sample of 4th and 8th graders.  How small is the sample?  It amounts to six-tenths of one percent of all our students in public schools.

Students being tested are told that test results have no bearing on their grades.  The test is not aligned with standards being taught in Alabama schools.  Educators pay no attention to NAEP scores because they know they are meaningless.

The sole purpose of this nationwide testing is to get trend lines as to how the country is doing.  Isolating the results of a single test in a single test is NOT the intent of NAPE.

My friend, Dr. Diane Ravitch in NYC, was on the NAPE governing board.  So I told her what politicians here are doing with the tests results.  She was appalled and quickly told me that what is occurring is a travesty and is dishonest at best.

How dishonest?  Let me use a personal example.

From March 1, 2019 to Feb. 29, 2020 this blog had 166,409 visitors.  This was an average of 455 per day (and I did figure the extra day in February due to Leap Year.)

Now six-tenths of one percent of a year is two days.  So I could pick any two days and that would be equivalent to doing what NAEP does with all the students in the state.

Perhaps because of the interest in Amendment One, March 1-2 were tremendous days for blog visits.  There were 7,050 visits on March 1 and 8,669 on March 2.  That is an average of 7,859 for those two days alone.

So instead of saying that I average 455 visits a day, I could claim that I average 7,859.

Would I be lying?  No.  I have the figures to support my contention.  But would I be dishonest?  Without a doubt.

Which is exactly what every politician who has hollered about NAEP scores recently has been.

 

Don’t Be Fooled

The March 3rd vote on Amendment One, that will switch Alabama to an appointed state school board if approved, is not about education. It is about control. The old-fashioned kind that is fueled by lots and lots of money.

How else do you explain that special interests, which have shown little interest in public education, have raised $446,000 to support a “yes” vote?

If approved, Amendment One will take away the right of the people of the state to elect their state school board and instead, allow the state senate to have the final say in who sits on the board and who is hired as state school superintendent.

Proponents of this amendment never mention that it will disenfranchise voters. Instead, they say that Alabama will join a list of states with an appointed board. But again, they don’t tell the whole truth which is that Amendment One would make Alabama the ONLY state in the U.S. to allow legislators to have the final say in who controls our public schools.

We have had an elected board since voters approved an amendment in 1969 to go from an appointed to an elected board. Now some of the major special interest groups in the state want to go back to a system once considered a failure.

Folks like the Alabama Farmers Federation. which is coordinating the campaign, and Great Southern Wood have contributed $100,000 each. Manufacture Alabama and the Alabama Association of Realtors gave $50,000. Blue Cross/Blue Shield, the Alabama Forestry Association and the plaintiffs law firm of Cunningham Bounds LLC added $25,000 each. Millennium Health Services, NHS Management LLC, Northport Health Services, Northport Holding LLC and Senior Care Pharmacy gave $10,000.

However, the education community is staunchly opposed to Amendment One.

Why?

Because since the Republican supermajority took control of the legislature in 2010, public education has been under attack.

Just look at the record.

Begin with the A-F school report card bill passed in 2012. If this bill serves a useful purpose, I have yet to find a decent educator who knows what it is. It has put emphasis on devoting too much attention to what is being tested, rather than what a child may need to truly be educated.

In 2013 we passed the tax break bill dubiously called the Alabama Accountability Act that has now diverted $155 million from the Education Trust Fund to give a few thousand students scholarships to private schools and done precious little to help our most challenged students.

And in 2015 we passed a charter school law that has ignored accountability, winked at provisions of the law itself and created an on-going disaster in Washington County.

If Alabama education has had a jewel in its crown, it is the Alabama Reading Imitative started 20 years ago. Its success attracted attention throughout the country. Even Massachusetts, considered by most to be among the very best school systems in the nation, came to Alabama to check out ARI.

The 2009 Education Trust Fund had $64 million designated for ARI. But by 2018 it was $41 million–a cut of 35 percent.

And while we hear a lot of talk about teacher shortages, what did the supermajority do? They cut benefits for new teachers.

Now special interests with deep pockets want us to ignore all of this. They want us to give up our right to vote while they try to get the best school board money can buy.

Alabama should vote NO on Amendment One. Tell the special interests our kids are not for sale.

Coffee County School Board Passes Resolution Opposing Amendment One

Editor’s note: Earlier this week the Coffee County school board passed the followwing resolution:

Resolution Recommending “No” Vote On Amendment One

Whereas, Alabama voters will be asked to approve or disapprove Amendment One during the Presidential primary of March 3, 2020, and

Whereas, a Yes vote will take away the right of Alabama citizens to vote for members of the state board of education and allow the Governor and members of the state senate to hand-pick board members, and

Whereas, this board would also select a “Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education,” and

Whereas, the citizens of Alabama approved a constitutional amendment in 1969 to eliminate an appointed state school board after extensive study showed that such a board had serious limitations, and

Whereas, an appointed board would not answer to citizens, local school boards or local education administrators, but instead, to their appointing authority, and

Whereas, the approval of Amendment One would deny the right to vote to elect the state board of education to all citizens of the state:

Now, therefore, be it resolved, that the Coffee County Board of Education strongly urges all citizens of our county to vote against Amendment One and reject this attempt to deny our citizens the right to elect their representatives on the state board of education.