July 2022 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

Students don’t go back to school for another month, but Alabama is working hard to tackle its statewide teacher shortage. Programs to train teachers are now more accessible, and changes to teacher certification requirements are taking effect. The state is also looking to improve its services for special education students, using federal funds to hire a consulting group for a complete overhaul of its procedures and offerings.

Alabama is also ready to spend some more money on infrastructure, with a round of projects funded by the grants from the Rebuild Alabama Act recently announced.

And a tense Republican primary race for the state senate is finally over. Learn more about it all below. 

July 2022 Group Watch: Tweet of the Month

@thebloomgroup
July 13
Congratulations @ScottBeason!! We know how happy you must be.

July 2022 Group Watch: In Auburn, Whatley Concedes to Hovey

State Senator Tom Whatley of Auburn withdrew from a disputed race in the Republican primary in the east Alabama district he has represented for 12 years. The state Republican Party declared Auburn City Councilman Jay Hovey its nominee for the November 8 general election. The state Republican Party had declared a tie in the race. After learning of Whatley’s withdrawal, the party proceeded with a second hearing on the election dispute and decided to rescind its decision to count the provisional vote. Whatley was seeking a fourth term representing District 27, which includes parts of Lee, Russell and Tallapoosa counties. Hovey is expected to win the general election in this heavily Republican-leaning district.

July 2022 Group Watch: Alabama Approves Immediate Changes to Teacher Certification

The Alabama State Board of Education approved a set of changes to teacher testing requirements in an effort to put more teachers in classrooms this fall. The changes take effect immediately and will be in place through the 2023-24 school year. Currently, teachers must pass the Praxis teacher test in their subject area, have a GPA in their subject area of 2.5 and pass the edTPA assessment, which measures teaching skills, in order to obtain a teaching certificate. All board members voted yes for the change with the exception of Stephanie Bell, who abstained from the votes.

July 2022 Group Watch: New Round of Rebuild Alabama Projects Selected

Governor Kay Ivey announced more than $2 million in state funding is being awarded to cities and counties for various road and bridge projects. The funding is made available through the Annual Grant Program, a program created under the Rebuild Alabama Act. The Rebuild Alabama Act requires ALDOT to establish an annual program setting aside $10 million off the top of the state’s share of new gas tax revenue for local projects. Ten projects were selected for this round of funding. Of those awarded projects, cities and counties also contributed a total of over $2 million in local matching funds, although matching funds are not required to be eligible. The projects chosen are: 

  • Clanton, Chilton County, resurface Temple Road at a cost of $291,842
  • Dallas County, resurface CR-17 at a cost of $1,254,579
  • Crossville, Dekalb County, bridge replacement of CR-825 at a cost of $230,000
  • Scottsboro, Jackson County, subgrade repairs and resurface Crawford Road at a cost of $578,024
  • Linden, Marengo County, resurface Moore Avenue, Miller Avenue, Brandon Avenue, Easey Avenue, Shiloh Street, Old Myrtlewood Road and Caroline Road at a cost of $578,024
  • Brundidge, Pike County, resurface Veterans Boulevard at a cost of $667,292
  • Roanoke, Randolph County, full depth reclamation and drainage improvements on Franklin Road at a cost of $388,767
  • Talladega, full depth reclamation of Whiting Road from Chastain Road to Orangevale Road at a cost of $388,767
  • Woodstock, Tuscaloosa County, resurface Georgia Loop, Candice Lane Hunter Drive and Gilbert Tommie Road at a cost $592,450
  • Wilcox County, bridge replacement on Hideaway Road at a cost of $301,000

July 2022 Group Watch: AL Using $4.2M In Federal Funds on Special Ed Contract

The Alabama Department of Education received approval to award a $4.2 million contract for Boston-based Public Consulting Group to overhaul special education to improve services and outcomes. The contract will be paid for with federal funding. According to the state department of education, the plan is to build a framework for special education and accelerate academic improvement for students with disabilities. That includes providing training for teachers and school staff at the local and state level. Alabama received $200 million in regular federal K-12 special education funding for the current year. Through the American Rescue Plan’s COVID relief funding, the state received an additional $38 million to help educate students with disabilities. PCG has been working with the state department since 2019 to evaluate how the department operates, issuing a 168-page report in March 2020 that detailed challenges and made recommendations to improve the department’s effectiveness.

July 2022 Group Watch: Prison Bond Falls $200M Short; Two New Prisons Still On Track

Alabama’s prison finance authority sold $509 million in bonds to help build two large men’s prisons, leaving the state about $200 million short of what it expects to need for the projects. State Finance Director Bill Poole said that will not change or delay plans for the 4,000-bed prisons in Elmore and Escambia counties. Poole said the bond sales give Alabama a total of more than $1 billion to proceed with projects, which was estimated to cost about $1.3 billion. The finance authority, a seven-member board created by the legislature, had approved a $725 million bond issue. Poole said he expects the annual debt service to be about $45 million to $48 million once all the prison financing is in place.

July 2022 Group Watch: AU Early Child Development Degree Addresses Teacher Shortage

The need to resolve Alabama’s statewide teacher shortage issue led to the creation of a new fully online early child development degree offered by Auburn University’s College of Human Sciences. The program was formed in conjunction with the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education.  The fully online program will be offered in 7.5-week mini terms, with five terms available each academic year. After completing all required coursework, graduates will be qualified to seek an early child development certificate. The certificate will meet the mandatory requirements to teach preschool in publicly funded Alabama pre-k classrooms.

July 2022 Group Watch: State Rep. Terri Collins: Legislature Could Streamline Adoption, Foster Care

During a recent appearance on Alabama Public Television’s “Capital Journal,”  State Rep. Terri Collins of Decatur, who authored the Alabama Human Life Protection Act, detailed how efforts to support infants could soon be addressed by state lawmakers. In this year’s regular session of the legislature, $4 million in the general budget was allocated to the Alabama Medicaid Agency for the establishment of a pilot program to extend postpartum coverage from 60 days to 12 months. According to Collins, the political will exists to further extend coverage and to streamline adoption and foster care. Collins, who is one of the legislature’s leading pro-life advocates, asserted that the cost of adoption would need to be addressed as the state moved forward with the implementation of its near-total abortion ban.

June 2022 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

The air outside isn’t the only thing heating up quick in Alabama. The state’s track record in economic development continues its hot streak. Now that she’s officially the Republican nominee for governor, Kay Ivey will no doubt tout Alabama’s recent record of bringing in new industry and jobs while she’s on the campaign trail. The state’s also recently been praised for its efforts to increase literacy among young students. 

And speaking of elections, the primaries setting the ballots for Alabama’s next round of voting may be over, but there are still several runoffs coming, and some of the races should be interesting to watch. As always, Group Watch has you covered. Read on for all the news you need to know on these topics and more. 

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