Alabama editorial roundup
Posted September 21
Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:
The Dothan Eagle on reported clown sightings:
In the last week or so, police and school officials in Georgia and Alabama have been taking measures to respond to apparent vague threats from people who identify themselves as scary clowns. These threats, both veiled and overt, have been posted on social media and, in some cases, on notes. The trend has caused quite a stir, which is obviously what the perpetrators intended.
To our knowledge, as of this writing, there have been no destructive incidents. However, on Monday, two Daleville schools were first locked down, and then evacuated after a bomb threat was made on a note left in a sink in the high school gymnasium.
Considering the sort of violence that has played out on school campuses across the country in the last few years, police and school officials are taking such threats seriously, as they should. Safety on campuses is paramount, and every threat must be treated as viable.
Meanwhile, the threats are disruptive. They consume the attention of law enforcement, they cause turmoil in the schools and interrupt school work, and that time must be made up during the school year.
What's worse is that when those responsible are eventually caught — two high school students in Troy have already been detained — they could be prosecuted under charges of making terrorist threats, which carry heavy penalties.
In other words, the people making these threats may well be simply amusing themselves, but no one's laughing at these clowns. Eventually they'll find there's nothing funny about any of it.
The Decatur Daily on the Alabama Accountability Act:
After a full year of students receiving scholarships to private schools through the Alabama Accountability Act, there is much still to be learned about the law's successes and failures.
The first report on student performance was hampered by a lack of data in some areas, so it is difficult to fully assess whether the act is working as intended.
The report found that scholarship students in private schools were not performing any better on standardized tests than their counterparts in public schools. The report also states that, as information accumulates in coming years, the picture could become clearer.
The act was passed by the Legislature in 2013, with the stated intent of helping low-income students attending failing public schools to attend private schools through scholarships. The act allows donors to scholarship funds to claim tax credits in exchange for their gifts. That is money that would otherwise be earmarked for public schools.
That alone is troublesome. Instead of providing more assistance to schools that need help, they are being starved of the very tax dollars that could offer solutions.
An evaluation of the report by the University of Alabama reveals other information that is troubling. For example, the evaluation was based on test scores for 970 students in 91 private schools, yet the report identifies 4,115 students receiving scholarships.
Of the students for which data was gathered, 43 percent of them were zoned to attend a failing school. That does not mean they had attended a failing school, but that they lived near a failing school. That raises a question: Where did the other 57 percent of scholarship students live, and how did they qualify under the act?
Public school officials are concerned that restrictions on student performance data are creating an unfair comparison. They want comparable information from private schools so that an accurate comparison is possible. That is not unreasonable.
The University of Alabama's evaluation includes some sensible recommendations. They include requiring uniform testing across all schools, requiring new scholarship students to provide previous-year test scores and acquiring additional test information from the state Department of Education.
The Accountability Act is in need of some accountability itself in light of the findings.
The Times Daily of Dothan on the Tennessee River:
The natural beauty of the Tennessee River, which meanders through the heart of the Shoals, has attracted people to this area for hundreds of years. The beauty of the river whose banks are lined with trees is undeniable. It enriches our daily lives and helps define the region as a sportsman's paradise.
But a closer look tells a different story — a tale of how mankind has marred that beauty. As you walk the banks of the river, all types of litter can be seen. Foam cups, metal cans, plastic bottles, all types of paper, tires and other discarded debris can be seen along the banks and floating in the water.
That trash threatens wildlife, and destroys the beauty of this natural resource.
It's important to note that boaters aren't the only ones responsible for this trash. Some of the debris isn't tossed directly into the river. It's swept up during rainstorms and washed into the river.
Besides being unsightly, this litter and debris is harmful to aquatic life like fish, turtles and birds.
Much of the litter sinks to the bottom of the river where it isn't seen. But large pieces of plastic can trap animals, and smaller pieces can be in eaten by wildlife. Once digested, the plastic can release toxic chemicals, which are then passed through the food chain. These toxic chemicals, in high doses, could harm the health of wildlife.
Shoals residents have an opportunity to do something about the pollution of the river. They can participate in the Tennessee River Litter Tournament on Sept. 24.
This river cleanup effort is being sponsored by Keep the Shoals Beautiful and the Tennessee Valley Authority. For one day, volunteers are being encouraged to pitch in and help remove as much litter and debris from the river as possible.
Each participant will get a 13-gallon trash bag they can use to collect debris. For each bag filled up, the participant gets one entry into a contest drawing for a $500 cash prize. Also, everyone that participants will get a free T-shirt on the day of the event.
Waste Connections will set up roll-off bins near boat ramps in four locations: McFarland Park in Florence, Lock Six in Killen, Fleet Harbor on the TVA Muscle Shoals Reservation, and Riverfront Park in Sheffield.
This one-day sweep of litter will be a big help in tidying up the riverside in the four targeted locations. But the real challenge is convincing every resident in the Shoals area to make a long-term commitment to keep the Tennessee River as clean as possible — all year long.