One of mother’s favorite expressions was, “It just flew all over me.”  Interpretation–something got her attention and she was not happy about it.

And from time to time, I must admit that things “fly all over me” as well.  A great example being this recent article in Yellowhammer News by Ms. Taylor Dawson of the Alabama  Policy Institute.  Now I have seen enough stuff come out of API to know that they are usually long on fluff and short on facts.  In other words, don’t take them seriously,

But since this piece was going out of its way to bash education and make statements that were grossly inaccurate, I took pen in hand and sent an email to Dawson.

Here’s what I said:

Someone sent me your article, CALLING ALL ALABAMA CANDIDATES; LET’S TALK EDUCATION.  As someone who saw his first byline more than 50 years ago and today spends considerable time studying and writing about education issues, I wanted to weigh in.

This article contains so many misrepresentations and misinformation that it simply has no credibility.  Let’s look at my concerns:  (Bold sections are from the article.)

What are your thoughts on school choice?

Historically, Alabama has been slow to embrace school choice. The fight for Alabama’s very first piece of school choice legislation, the Alabama Accountability Act in 2013, was one for the ages. When charter schools were authorized within the first few weeks of the legislative session in 2015, I thought that Alabama was finally embracing school choice, until last session when changes to broaden the AAA suffered a massive defeat. If elected, would you support efforts to broaden school choice opportunities for Alabama families?

What is your definition of school choice?  Seems you think charter schools are what choice is about.

How long since you have actually been in a public school?  When did you last talk to a public school teacher, principal of superintendent?

http://www.mcpss.com/?Division ID=21834&DepartmentID=27436

Take a look at this info from the Mobile school system that specifically addresses choice and the many things they offer students.  Especially note the number of signature academies in this system.

Academy of Advanced Careers at Baker high; Academy of Pre-med, Medical and Health Careers at Blount high; Academy,of Coastal Studies at Bryant high; Academy of Manufacturing at Citronelle high; Academy of Engineering Pathways at Davidson high; Academy of Law, Arts and Health Service at Leflore high; Academy of Biomedical Sciences at Montgomery high; Academy of International Studies at Murphy high; Academy of Aviation and Aerospace at B. C. Rain high; Academy of Industry and Engineering at Theodore high; Academy of Advanced Information Technology at Vigor high and Academy of Maritime, Engineering and Entrepreneurship at Williamson high.

These are open to any student in the system and transportation is provided.

Why don’t you make a trip to Mobile and see for yourself.  Martha Peek is superintendent and I will be glad to work with her to arrange a visit for you.

If this ain’t choice, what is?

The Alabama Accountability Act was originally no more about school choice than I, an Auburn graduate, am about screaming “Roll Tide.”

It was sold to the public as being all about helping poor kids stuck in failing schools by their zip codes and giving them more opportunity. Then it was amended later to state that it’s intentions were about school choice.   In other words, the public was sold a bill of  goods originally.

I have studied AAA for five years and have written more than 50 articles about it.  You can find them on my blog (larryeducation.com).

To date, we have diverted $93 million from the Education Trust Fund that potentially would have gone to public schools.  We now have about 4,000 children on the scholarships that give tax breaks.  It is almost impossible to find a child who once went to a “failing school” who got a scholarship.  I know because I have tried.

At this point nearly 40 percent of all private schools signed up to participate in AAA are not accredited.  And this is good?

As to the effort to amend AAA in 2017.  It failed because there is no accountability in the accountability act and legislators can not get answers as to how many kids this was supposedly aimed at are being helped.  Plus, the amendment was specially written to help no more than 25 companies in Alabama qualify for tax breaks.

An Obama-era policy that’s been largely rejected in Alabama is common core standards. What is your opinion on common core? A policy that would allow the federal government to tell our teachers how and what they’re to teach our schoolchildren has been a hot issue in Alabama since it was introduced.

Give me a break.  Common Core?  This is old, old, old news.  I visit lots of schools.  If I have ever heard one teacher mention Common Core I don’t remember it.

The Alabama College and Career Ready standards DO NOT tell a teacher how to teach.  They tell her/him what their kids are expected to learn.  How they get there is their decision.

So you and I say we need to lose 20 pounds.  (Don’t know about you, but I do)  You decide to diet and I decide to increase my exercise program.  We both lose 20 pounds.  But we chose different ways to do it.

ACCR is a set of standards, not a curriculum.

One way to allow localities to take ownership of education is through charter schools, which have a proven record of success nationwide and help reduce barriers to school choice. What would you do to encourage local innovation in education and promote growth of charter schools in Alabama?

Show me that charter proven record of success.  The definitive study on charters was done at Stanford  by a group known as CREDO.  Basically they said charters are no different from traditional public schools.  Some are great, some are average, some are terrible.

A larger percentage of students attend charters in Washington DC than any other school system in the country.  And this is probably the poorest school system we have anywhere.  And we want to be like them?

Alabama’s most recent state superintendent held his office for less than a year before the education establishment forced him out. Under the previous superintendent’s administration, Alabama’s graduation rates were deemed inflated and misreported by federal officials.

Actually Mike Sentance was in office for one year and one day.  But then, why let the facts  get in the way?

And tell me about that graduation rate fiasco please?  The one where Sentance came to the state board weeping and wailing and telling us the sky was falling.  And curiously enough, when the dust settled and we got the corrected grad rates, they dropped one-tenth of one  percent.  And Sentance never said a word about them.

Why were they “inflated”?  Because then superintendent Tommy Bice said that special needs students who completed all that was required of them should be counted as graduates.

So obviously you think treating special needs children in such a manner is a bad thing?

Good reporting is hard work.  It is not half ass with a smattering of ideas not supported by anything being thrown against a wall.  i would hope you can do a much better job than this on future articles and certainly encourage you to try.

Editor’s note:  to her credit I did hear back from Taylor.  She asked me to meet her at her office in Birmingham and to give her a list of things I’ve done to help education in Alabama.

I sent her my list and said that I would be happy to meet her at Glen Iris elementary on the south side of Birmingham so she can visit with principal Michael Wilson and learn about his school.  As of this writing, have not heard back from her.

Let me encourage you to read the article by Ms. Dawson and give her your reaction.  communications@alabamapolicy.org

Mother will be proud of you.