- Associated Press - Thursday, October 2, 2014

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Alabama newspapers:

Montgomery Advertiser, Sept. 30, on prayer in public schools:

Here we go again. Two Alabama legislators say they plan to propose a hot-button bill to protect a right that isn’t endangered and clarify an issue that isn’t unclear to anyone with a lick of sense. If their legislation passes, it will do no more than open the door for needless controversy and litigation that the state will lose.

Their topic is prayer in public schools, a perennial favorite of legislators who don’t want to take on real issues in a state that has plenty of them. Students are not prohibited from praying; indeed, the very notion that government could somehow prohibit the private, individual act of prayer is ludicrous.

What is prohibited, and rightly so, is prayer directed by teachers, administrators or other officials. That puts the stamp of the state on religious practice and creates a subtle, and often not subtle, climate of coercion.

This is long settled in American constitutional law, but Alabama legislators keep butting their heads against it. Rep. Steve McMillan, R-Gulf Shores, and Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, are only the latest in a long line of lawmakers pandering along this path.

McMillan spoke of restoring rights of students to engage in voluntary religious activities at school. Perhaps he missed the annual “See You at the Pole” event last week, a voluntary gathering of students who meet at campus flag poles and pray together. This has been going on for years and is a perfect example of the sort of student religious activities clearly allowed under decades of legal precedent.

Students go the flag pole, or they don’t. It’s up to them. They aren’t led by teachers or principals or any other official.

Whether Dial and McMillan choose to acknowledge it or not, public schools are attended by - and, no less importantly, paid for by - people of all faiths and none. Religious practice and instruction is the province of the home and the house of worship, not the public schools. Their purpose is the education of children, not the religious indoctrination of children.

No one’s rights are being violated. No one’s religious liberty is being compromised.

Ideally, this legislation will never be introduced and will not take up the time of the Legislature in the next session. Failing that, however, it should be voted down, not only to thwart the effects of a bad bill, but also to send a message that this kind of falsely founded legislation is no longer useful as a political tactic. We’d give a hearty amen to that.

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Online: http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/

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Tuscaloosa News, Sept. 30, on the Alabama Education Association:

Which is the most powerful political organization in the state of Alabama? For many years, the answer was easy - the Alabama Education Association. For decades, the AEA reigned supreme in Alabama politics and its boss, Paul Hubbert - the veritable equal of a Central American strongman, minus the army, of course - was the king of Goat Hill. That all changed in one election, when Republicans won the governorship and super-majorities in both houses of the Legislature in 2010.

Now, former boss Hubbert says the organization is going to hell in a hand basket. Its finances are a mess, and Hubbert believes the organization should ditch his hand-picked successor. Most folks in the know say Henry Mabry’s days leading the AEA are numbered.

The latest blow came last week as the Alabama Supreme Court ruled unanimously to dismiss a lawsuit enjoining the state from prohibiting the AEA from collecting dues through payroll deduction. The law isn’t aimed specifically at AEA but at any organization that uses the money deducted for political purposes. But then again, let’s not fool ourselves. The AEA was the target of the Republican legislature that passed the law.

The key to being Montgomery’s bully boy was the millions of dollars that AEA gleaned from thousands of school employees. Employees were, of course, free not to have AEA dues deducted from their payroll. But most who didn’t support the AEA didn’t need the trouble that would cause.

Now, the tables have been turned. The AEA must convince the school employees who have been letting their checks be cut for dues to now write a check and send their dues to Montgomery. Considering the trouble they’ve gone to with the lawsuit to block the law, it appears they have concerns that not all of those employees value their membership so much.

If the Alabama Education Association is good for school employees and education in this state, it should have no fear and stand on its own merits. People will gladly send the AEA their money. Otherwise, it may have trouble collecting dues.

So which is the most powerful political organization in the state these days? That’s up for debate. But it’s pretty easy to tell which isn’t.

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Online: http://www.tuscaloosanews.com/

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Dothan Eagle, Sept. 26, on a new agreement between Troy University and Wallace Community College:

An agreement signed this week by officials at Troy University and Wallace Community College will benefit many students who transfer from Wallace to Troy before completing requirements for a two-year associate’s degree.

The pact will allow students to use college credit from Troy to apply toward credits earned at Wallace - a reverse transfer - so they can complete their associate’s degree.

Students will be better able to reap the benefit of course credit they earn, and that’s particularly important considering the rising cost of higher education.

It’s also a good starting point for a discussion about credit transfers between institutions, as many students learn the hard way that it’s possible that the work they’ve done at one school may not be accepted by another.

Institutions of higher learning make efforts to equalize this process through articulation agreements with regard to different curriculum tracks. In a perfect world, any class taken at any college or university would transfer anywhere. However, that’s not how it works.

To avoid expensive surprises, students who plan to transfer to another institution should do some homework to determine what courses they can take at a community college or other school and whether their intended transfer school will honor those credit transfers.

Troy University and Wallace College are on the right track with the reverse transfer agreement; making transfers between the two schools as easy as possible will benefit both institutions and the students they serve.

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Online: http://www.dothaneagle.com/

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