- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

Feb. 18

Decatur (Ala.) Daily on Common Core fight makes odd politics:

Common Core is not a partisan issue, at least not in Alabama.

Here, Common Core divides Republicans who understand what Common Core is, and who are almost universally in favor of it, from Republicans who oppose it on the basis of misconceptions and misinformation.

Then there are those who oppose Common Core because it will provide exactly what they claim they favor: giving teachers more options and imposing more rigorous teaching standards.

Their opposition is either ironic or disingenuous.

State Board of Education member Betty Peters, of Dothan, gave the game away when she said recently that she had a problem with local school systems being allowed to use books on the Common Core exemplars list that she found objectionable.

The books in question are “The Bluest Eye,” ”In the Time of the Butterflies,” ”Dreaming in Cuban” and “Things Fall Apart,” but what the books are ultimately doesn’t matter. Books listed as Common Core exemplars are not required reading being forced on the states. They are not even, as some Common Core critics maintain, a “de facto” reading list. They are suggestions. States and local school systems can use some, all or none of them.

The crucial thing about Common Core is it is not a curriculum. It outlines concepts every student should know but leaves the specifics of getting there, such as required reading, to states and localities. Common Core provides examples, but that’s all they are: examples.

Peters indicated her real fear isn’t federal control of Alabama schools, but local school districts making decisions she doesn’t like. She fears that local school systems might, on their own, require books she would just as soon ban. This is, at best, hypocrisy.

Still, the anti-Common Core side has unlikely allies among what few Democratic power brokers remain. Henry Mabry, executive secretary of the Alabama Education Association, is no fan of Common Core, either. If AEA ends up backing some conservative, anti-Common Core Republicans and upsetting more moderate, pro-Common Core GOP incumbents, that would be the irony of ironies.

The GOP’s split over Common Core is playing out in the primaries. State Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, seeking to avoid divisive issues during an election year, won’t let attempts to repeal Common Core come to the Senate floor. That has earned him a primary challenger, Steven Guede, who is running on an anti-Common Core platform.

State school board member Mary Scott Hunter, of Huntsville, whose support of Common Core has gotten her censured by the Madison County Republican Party, faces two anti-Common Core challengers.

It takes a brave Republican, or one not seeking re-election, to stand up to the fairytales and hypocrisy motivating the anti-Common Core brigades. As Decatur state school board representative Dr. Charles Elliott, said, “I’ve had people tell me that schools are going to use ‘Three Little Pigs’ to teach socialism. I said, ‘You’re killing me.’ “

Of course, he’s not running for re-election.




Feb. 16

Tuscaloosa (Ala.) News on state usury laws do not protect poor:

The American economy functions best in a free market. Keeping regulations to a minimum usually spurs growth. That places the burden for making the best decisions about products and services on consumers’ shoulders. But an informed consumer should benefit from the competition and innovation created by a free market.

That said, some regulations are needed to protect consumers, especially those in dire straits, from fraud and abuse. Usury laws are among them, and we wonder what has happened to the usury laws in Alabama. It doesn’t appear that they are protecting some consumers from exorbitant interest rates.

Two bills in the Alabama Legislature designed to protect consumers from abuse by the payday loan and title pawn industries are hung up in committee. According to the Anniston Star, some of the committee members blocking the bills received political contributions from the payday loan and title pawn businesses and their political action committees. That relationship seems a bit too cozy for us.

The Star reported that some of these businesses charge fees that translate to annual interest rates of up to 400 percent on short-term loans. How that escapes the definition of usury, we’re just not sure.

The bills would limit the amount of interest these businesses can charge to 36 percent - a figure that sounds modest next to the outrageous rates being charged but really isn’t. One bill would limit how many short-term loans consumers could take out in a year.

The problem is that these loans tend to take advantage of the poor in a state with high poverty levels. To some, the bills might seem like nanny state fodder, protecting consumers from themselves and interfering in a business relationship between consenting adults. Some would say that the “victims” should learn to be more responsible with their money and shouldn’t borrow money they can’t repay.

It is true that people often create their own financial problems by buying luxury items they can’t afford and being careless with their spending habits. But not all poverty results from sloth or carelessness.

Can a poor family who can’t afford full insurance coverage for their vehicle be blamed if their car is totaled by an uninsured drunk driver? Are they at fault if their under-insured house is destroyed by a tornado? How about if their child gets desperately ill and they are saddled with huge medical bills?

People sometimes become desperate for legitimate reasons. And desperate people often face two choices, bad and worse. Payday and title loans might be bad, but the alternative could be worse. And people in this situation shouldn’t be taken advantage of.

Payday and title loan business owners argue that they provide a service to people who can’t borrow from traditional lenders. If so, they should be a little more service-minded and a little less profit hungry.




Feb. 11

Anniston (Ala.) Star on Beason goes to D.C. (maybe):

State Sen. Scott Beason is running for Congress, not that anyone should be surprised. He’s done it before.

It is his familiar refrain. When he announced last month that he would not run for re-election to the Alabama Senate, Beason speculation took on new life. Now he has announced his candidacy and is the last of seven candidates who will try to fill the spot left by vacating U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus.

If nothing else, voters in Alabama’s 6th congressional district should know what they would get if this Gardendale Republican represents them in Washington.

Beason was one of the leading legislators who pushed through Alabama’s sweeping immigration bill - some would call it an anti-immigrant bill - that the courts have gutted. We assume from this lesson in constitutional law that if Beason got to Congress he would know what the courts would accept and govern himself accordingly.

Yet, given his record, ill-conceived remarks and racially insensitive statements - telling lawmakers they need to “empty the clip” when combating illegal immigration, or his reference to black voters as “aborigines” - there is little reason to believe that the 6th district would have a reasonable, level-headed representative who has learned from his experiences should Beason prevail.

Beason’s record suggests a legislator who will exploit a hot issue without considering the consequences, as he did when he sponsored gun legislation that ended up dividing two of the GOP’s most loyal constituencies, the National Rifle Association and the Business Council of Alabama, over the issue of guns in the workplace.

This is what the 6th congressional district will get if Scott Beason is elected to Congress. And though the rest of Alabama wouldn’t be up there voting with him, it would hurt the entire state, nonetheless.





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