education

Owens Elementary to become virtual school headquarters

Nov 13, 2016

Sugar Creek Elementary School will absorb the elementary students of West Limestone High School and Owens Elementary School when it opens in August, but Owens is not going away.

Limestone County Schools Superintendent Tom Sisk says it will become the headquarters for the district's virtual school program as well as house some new and existing career tech programs.

The Athens News Courier reports another addition will be the introduction of a bluegrass academy, providing Limestone County students the opportunity to learn a bluegrass instrument.

Student test scores show improvement, continued struggles

Nov 10, 2016

Alabama students showed improvement on standardized test scores, but also show more than half aren't meeting reading standards.

The Alabama Department of Education on Thursday released scores from the ACT Aspire test taken last spring by public school students.

Thirty-seven percent of third-graders statewide scored ready or exceeding reading standards. Forty-five percent of eighth graders were at that level in reading.

Test scores also show a downward decline in math skills as students get older.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley is offering a blunt assessment of the state's education system: It "sucks."

Bentley's remarks came during an appearance in Montgomery before the Alabama Association of Regional Councils.

Video aired Wednesday by WSFA-TV shows Bentley saying: "Our education system in this state sucks." Some in the audience laugh; others applaud. Bentley calls the situation intolerable and vows to make improvements.

The Alabama Association of School Boards is seeking public input, including parents and employees, on what they want to see in the Huntsville City Schools district's next superintendent.

WAAY-TV reports the association has held at least two sessions to gather the information and planed Thursday to hold at least two more. The association also has opened an online survey that can be taken anonymously through Friday.

Board approves community college merger

Sep 14, 2016

The state’s community college system trustees approved a merger of three south Alabama colleges.

The Alabama Community College Board of Trustees unanimously approved the consolidation today.

Faulkner State Community College, Alabama Southern Community College and Jefferson Davis Community College will merge into a multi-campus institution known as Coastal Alabama Community College.

Board approves $198,000 contract for new superintendent

Sep 8, 2016

A divided Alabama Board of Education has approved a contract for the state's new school superintendent, who has drawn both criticism and praise for his outsider status.

The board voted 7-2 today to approve the contract for education consultant and former Massachusetts education secretary Michael Sentance.

After the vote, Sentance told board members that his goal is to raise the achievement of students in Alabama public schools.

Governor Robert Bentley is sending assistance to protect the U.S. Border. APR Student reporter Parker Branton reports…

Governor Robert Bentley approved a notion that will send Alabama National Guard helicopter and pilot to Marana, Arizona to assist with protecting the U.S. border with Mexico.

This is the second time this year that Alabama National Guard has sent assistance to the Southwest Border Team.

The Alabama Department of Education has restored funding to a reading program that educators feared was in danger at many public schools.

Earlier this week, superintendents were scrambling for funding to replace a $7.5 million cut to the Alabama Reading Initiative, which allows for reading coaches in public schools. The cuts were performance-based, and many schools with above-average reading scores were in danger of cutting out their Reading Initiative programs entirely.

Lawyers have picked a jury for House Speaker Mike Hubbard's ethics trial scheduled to start next week. A-P-R’s Stan Ingold has more…

The panel of 12 jurors and four alternates is made up of five black men, four white men, four black women and three white women.

The Montgomery Advertiser and al.com reports that Lee County Judge Jacob Walker instructed the panel not to discuss the high-profile case.

Jury selection is ongoing in the trial of Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard.

About 100 of the 140 Lee County residents were on hand as the selection process began in Opelika. 

Republican Speaker Mike Hubbard faces 23 felony ethics charges of using his political position for personal gain back in October 2014. Hubbard has maintained his innocence throughout the indictments. 

Hubbard faces removal from office if he’s convicted.

An elementary school in central Alabama has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education for promoting better health and environmental education.

The Daily Home reports that A.H. Watwood Elementary was honored among 41 public schools and six private schools across the country by the department's Green Ribbon Schools Program. The recognized schools represent various grade levels from kindergarten through 12th grade.

The Alabama Education Association has  a new executive director.

AEA spokeswoman Amy Marlowe says Brenda Pike will start her new position on May 16. Pike serves as the executive director of the Indiana State Teachers Association.

Pike received her master's degree from the University of Tennessee, and a doctorate of education from the University of Memphis. She worked for 12 years as a classroom teacher before joining the staff of the Tennessee Education Association.

The two Alabama Senate budget chairmen are swapping committees for the upcoming session.

Sen. Trip Pittman of Montrose will head the general fund budget committee. Sen Arthur Orr of Decatur will take over as Education Trust Fund budget chairman.

The Senate Committee on Assignments announced the change on Friday.

Orr says he believes it is healthy to have fresh eyes on the state budgets. Pittman says he is looking forward to a new challenge.

A secret student society is under fire at the University of Alabama.

A group called "The Machine" has operated in Tuscaloosa for a century or more. Members don't publicly acknowledge its existence, yet the group historically controls campus politics.

But 19-year-old sophomore Alex Smith wrote a column in the campus newspaper this week identifying herself as a Machine member and publicly resigning from the group.

Samford University announces record-setting enrollment

Aug 30, 2015

Samford University has set records with the fall enrollment this year for students across undergraduate and graduate programs.

University officials announced Friday that there was an enrollment of 5,206. This is Samford's seventh consecutive record for fall enrollment, exceeding last year's mark of 4,933.

Samford President Andrew Westmoreland shared his excitement last week with employees about the start of the fall semester.

The school's fall enrollment figures include a record 826 first-year fulltime students.

Officials say closures of state parks are among the potential impacts of proposed budget cuts to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Department leaders and others met at Oak Mountain State Park today.  State Parks Director Greg Lein says additional cuts could be devastating and officials want lawmakers to preserve the department's funding. Lein says the parks system's emergency and reserve funds are depleted.

Voters in Athens have defeated a school tax proposal by a wide margin.

Residents rejected a 12-mill tax increase yesterday by a margin of 64 percent to 36 percent. They also turned down a proposed bond issue for school construction.

The new property tax would have funded capital projects worth more than $70 million for Athens city schools.

Superintendent Trey Holladay says the system now must find a different way to move ahead with school renovations and new buildings.

The Tuscaloosa County Board of Education has named its acting superintendent.

Deputy Superintendent Walter Davie was tabbed as the top administrator for Tuscaloosa County Schools at a meeting this afternoon.  Current Superintendent Elizabeth Swinford is taking a leave of absence due to deaths in the family and sickness.

Officials say the decision the change was a mutual decision between the board and Swinford.  Officials hope to know more about Swinford’s status next week. 

Alabama legislators believe a second special session is inevitable.

Lawamkers are deadlocked on how to fill a more than $200 million budget shortfall.

Lawmakers are at the halfway point of the session and have yet to pass a major revenue bill in either chamber.

Gov. Robert Bentley says funding cuts passed by the House of Representatives are unworkable. He says lawmakers must keep working to a find a solution.

Alabama’s lawmakers are back in Montgomery for a special session to work on the budget.

Governor Robert Bentley is seeking a 25-cent-per-pack cigarette tax increase. He also wants to raise the business privilege tax on larger businesses while giving smaller ones a tax cut.  The governor has also suggested ending the ability of taxpayers to claim a state income tax deduction when they pay their federal Social Security taxes.

Governor Robert Bentley has released his tax and budget proposals ahead of next week's special session on a budget shortfall.

Bentley spokeswoman Jennifer Ardis says the state is at a critical point, and must either make cuts to state services or find new revenue.

The governor is seeking a 25-cent-per-pack cigarette tax increase. He is also seeking to raise the business privilege tax on larger businesses while giving smaller ones a tax cut.

Two more counties issuing Same-Sex Licenses

Jul 22, 2015

Two more Alabama counties say they will issue wedding licenses following the legalization of same-sex marriage nationwide.

Both Houston and Henry counties have refused to issue any licenses because of gay marriage.

But the Dothan Eagle reports that probate judges in both counties say they will now issue marriage licenses to anyone.

The change came at the end of a 25-day window in which the U.S. Supreme Court could have reconsidered its decision.

Charter School guidelines, AARPs "Back to Work" program

Jun 11, 2015

The Alabama Board of Education has approved initial guidelines for regulating future charter schools in the state.

The board on Thursday voted in favor of regulations that include stipulations such as approval timelines, funding and safety.

The guidelines are rules temporarily set in place before a June 17 deadline.

State Superintendent Tommy Bice says the guidelines adopted are "broad categories" that will be addressed in permanent guidelines the board is putting together.

The University of Alabama is teaming up with Washington to study the nation's water. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association just unveiled its newest national center on the Tuscaloosa campus.

The twenty four million dollar National Water Center is a collaboration between several federal agencies. It will become the U.S. center for water forecasting.

NOAA Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan says they plan to hit the ground running at the new center with a research project starting this summer.

House approves Education Budget, Lake Wedowee fishing

May 21, 2015

The Alabama House has unanimously approved a nearly $6 billion education budget for 2016.  All 105 votes from state representatives went towards approving the Education Trust Fund budget.  A number of House Democrats and Republicans commended education budget committee chairman Bill Poole on an unusually smooth spending plan.

Alabama voters will decide Nov. 4 whether to give new protections to public schools against unfunded mandates enacted by the Legislature.

Amendment Four requires that at least two-thirds of the Legislature must pass a law that causes city and county boards of education to collectively spend more than $50,000 in local funds if the state is not going to pay for the increased expense. Currently, that can be done by a majority vote.

educationnews.org

The Alabama Education Association was once the unquestioned power in the Alabama statehouse. But that's changed since Republicans won a supermajority in the House and Senate in 2010.

Lawmakers around the country have made significant changes to teacher tenure, expanded charter schools and introduced different versions of voucher programs. But in Alabama, these kinds of changes have been part of a political upheaval not seen in most states.

Legislation that would allow city and county school systems to opt out of state education laws could come up for a final vote in the Senate next week.

A school flexibility bill cleared the House on Feb. 14 and was approved by the Senate Education Committee in a 5-3 vote Wednesday, with Republicans voting yes and Democrats voting no. A spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh says the bill is a priority and could come up for a vote as early as Tuesday.

Gov. Robert Bentley says he's ready to sign whatever version of the bill the Legislature passes.

istockphoto

Financial experts say the fiscal cliff agreement in Washington will cut funding for Alabama's public schools and colleges by at least $70 million annually.

The fiscal cliff settlement affects Alabama differently than most other states. That's because Alabama is one of the few states that provides its citizens with a state income tax deduction for the federal taxes paid. The federal settlement allowed a temporary reduction in payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare to expire. It also raised the tax rates on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans.

Alabama State House
Trance Mist / Flickr

The Alabama Legislature's 2013 regular session has started.

Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey started the session in the Senate at noon. Speaker Mike Hubbard gaveled the House into session at 12:10 p.m.

The session will last until mid-May. Lawmakers must complete the session in 30 meeting days during 105 calendar days.

Major issue facing lawmakers will be balancing the General Fund and education budgets in a year when funds are expected to be tight.

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