Summary of recent Alabama newspaper editorials

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Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

Feb. 24

Anniston (Alabama) Star on state's impending doom:

Less than a week. That's how long Alabamians have to wait on Gov. Robert Bentley to deliver his plan for funding the state's huge budget deficit.

For the record, we've been waiting for a very long time.

The shadow of a budget crisis was hanging over the state when Bentley was sworn in as governor in 2011. The governor and Republican leaders in the state House and Senate skipped making fixes and passed a patchwork budget.

Deep budgetary imbalances showed themselves as Montgomery went on a cutting spree that stripped away crucial operations, including our courts and public safety.

Our problems were obvious in 2012 when Bentley and the Legislature borrowed $437 million from a state trust fund to keep government afloat for three years.

Having put off the inevitable for years — recklessly cutting budget line-items and borrowing from state nest eggs — Bentley can hide no longer. There's no magic spell we can cast over our system of collecting and spending revenue. The bill is due, and the bottom line is anywhere from $250 million to $700 million. Alabama is in deep trouble unless it adds more money to its budget before the start of the 2016 fiscal year, on Oct. 1.

Bentley says taxes are going up, though we're waiting on his specific proposals. Regardless of his plans, it would be a mistake to describe our budget crisis as something that's just cropped up. We've seen this train wreck approaching for years.


Feb. 24

Decatur (Alabama) Daily on AEA's new head:

The late Paul Hubbert served as leader of one of the state's most powerful interest groups for 42 years. His successor, Henry Mabry, lasted less than four.

In politics, as in football, you don't want to be the guy who follows a legend. You want to be the guy who follows the guy who follows the legend.

Even so, Mabry's successor as executive secretary of the Alabama Education Association will have a difficult task ahead: getting along and cutting deals with a Republican-controlled state Legislature that has, since assuming power four years ago, regarded the AEA as Public Enemy No. 1.

And the feeling was mutual.

For most of its history, AEA has been a de facto arm of the Alabama Democratic Party, to the extent that a stranger from another state might struggle to tell the difference between an AEA convention and a Democratic Party convention.

The state Democratic Party's current chairwoman is Nancy Worley, a former AEA president. When Worley presided over an AEA convention in the 1990s in Huntsville, she made a point of recognizing all the "good Democrats" in the assembly.

AEA's partisanship didn't matter much when Alabama was a one-party Democratic state. It matters a lot now.

Hubbert died in October, and health issues were one reason he stepped down as AEA's leader in 2011. Yet Hubbert obviously must have known he was getting out while the getting was good.

Guy Hunt's election in 1986 as the state's first GOP governor since reconstruction may have been a fluke, but the 2010 election, which saw Republican win commanding majorities in the Legislature, was a watershed.

In 24 years, Alabama has transformed from a one-party Democratic state to a one-party Republican state. The AEA under Hubbert, however, failed to keep up.

Mabry, an Athens native, probably seemed like a good successor to Hubbert on paper. Mabry's resumé includes stints at both the Business Council of Alabama and Alabama Power, both Republican-leaning groups, although quite willing to spread their money wherever they think it will do them the most good.

But Mabry seemed to rub almost everyone the wrong way, and when it came down to electoral politics, he squandered AEA's legislative clout and its campaign war chest.

AEA, for the time being, will have to play within the Republican Party or be content to be irrelevant. In choosing a successor, AEA's first priority must be finding someone who realizes the landscape has changed and nimble enough to tread the new terrain. Otherwise, AEA might as well leave politics to someone else.


Feb. 24

The Gadsden (Alabama) Times on ACT scores:

We're sure there are holdouts, but GPS units and apps have pretty much replaced road maps for those traveling new or unfamiliar routes.

The concept remains the same, though. The information presented either on paper or electronically is a baseline that tells drivers how to get where they want to go.

That's how Etowah County's three public school systems are treating their students' results on the 2013-14 ACT tests administered throughout the state.

For the first time, third- through eighth-graders took the ACT Aspire test, which is aligned with Common Core standards and is designed to assess students' progress toward college and career readiness from an early age.

Tenth-graders took the ACT Plan test, but will switch to ACT Aspire for 2014-15. Alabama is the first state to use that test to gauge how its students are doing.

Scores for Attalla City, Etowah County and Gadsden City system students followed the general state trend.

The tests gauge which kids are meeting or exceeding standards, which are close to meeting standards and which need support. Scores across the state were higher in English and lower, often painfully so, in math and science.

A big reason for the math difficulties, according to school officials, is that the ACT tests are much more difficult than the old Alabama Reading and Mathematics Test.

There won't be any basic math moving forward. As students get into the higher grades, they'll be faced with pre-algebra, algebra, plane geometry and trigonometry. They also will have to explain their answers, not just write down a solution.

In the English component, students weren't just tested on their knowledge of grammar and reading comprehension. They actually will have to edit text and will have to demonstrate argumentative, analytical and narrative writing skills.

It's a different, tougher world, where all concerned — administrators, students, teachers and parents — will have to pick up their respective games.

The local systems seem committed to do so. Among steps being discussed are more training for teachers, hiring of coaches in subjects that need work, making sure there are enough tools like graphic calculators to go around and a focus on communication and coordination on the elementary, middle and high school levels. Some innovative teaching methods helped Etowah County post exceptional English scores and exceed the state average in math.

The starting point is in place. We'll be interested in seeing how much progress has been made a year from now.


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