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Alabama editorial roundup

April 3, 2019

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

April 2

The Dothan Eagle on distracted driving:

The next time you’re a passenger in a vehicle, take a pad and pencil along, and note how many drivers have their smart phones in their hands while barreling down the road. Count the cars you check, and compare the total against the number of phone offenders. You’ll likely be jarred by the results. You should be alarmed by the number of drivers who spend a good bit of time studying the tiny screen instead of watching where their heavy steel projectile is heading with great velocity.

Many people wouldn’t even notice. We’ve become so inured by the ubiquitous communication devices that it might be more noticeable if a driver weren’t holding a phone.

Imagine if you looked over and the driver next to you lifted a cold beer and took a swig. That might get your attention. People take a dim view of intoxicated drivers sharing their roadways, as does the law, which carries heavy penalties for driving under the influence.

However, studies have shown that distracted drivers are impaired to a similar degree, and common sense suggests that when the distraction is a smart phone, that impairment can be worse. A bill under consideration in the Alabama Legislature could help mitigate this growing problem by prohibiting drivers from having smart phones in their hands.

The hands-free bill goes further than Alabama’s current law, which simply bans texting and driving. This would also restrict drivers from making calls with the phones in their hands.

State troopers support the measure, which makes good sense. But the key to making the highways safer is in the hands of motorists who must realize the dangers created when they’re looking at their phones or concentrating on a telephone call instead of paying attention to the road and the traffic around them.

Online: https://www.dothaneagle.com

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March 31

The TimesDaily on repealing Common Core educational standards:

The Alabama Legislature is halfway to eliminating the state’s Common Core educational standards and replacing them with — well, no one really knows with what. Supporters of repealing Common Core say that can be worked out later.

If this seems a half-baked way to go about making policy that will affect the state’s more than 700,000 public school students, that’s the Alabama Legislature for you.

The state Senate voted 23-7 this month to repeal Common Core. The vote fell largely along party lines, with Republicans for repeal and Democrats against, although the partisan lines are not so neatly drawn in the House, which would have to pass the repeal for it to become law.

Spearheading the repeal effort is state Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, president pro tem of the state Senate and a likely candidate for U.S. Senate, who seems to be burnishing his resume for the pending campaign.

“We’re sitting here today with math scores in the eighth-grade level at 49th in the country and reading at 46th. I mean, you can’t justify that,” Marsh said. “So we’re saying after nine years with this program, it’s not working and we need to change direction.”

We’re not sure that’s a valid comparison. After all, that’s comparing Alabama students to students in other states that, for the most part, are also part of Common Core. Why, then, is Common Core so bad for Alabama students but not for other states’ students?

Also, it obscures exactly what Common Core is: It’s a set of benchmarks, not a teaching manual. It leaves states free to decide for themselves how to reach those benchmarks. It is exactly what one would expect of a plan formulated, not by the federal government, but by the National Governors Association.

Marsh’s bill would “terminate the adoption and implementation of the curriculum standards commonly known as the Common Core Standards, also known as the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards, in K-12 public schools” and “terminates all plans, programs, activities, efforts, and expenditures relative to the implementation of” the current curriculum standards.

According to the amended bill that passed the Senate, the State Board of Education must replace Common Core with new standards for math and English that will go into effect with the 2021-22 school year. The bill gives those new standards a name, “The Alabama Core Standards,” but otherwise they remain a question mark.

Most states that have rescinded Common Core have ended up replacing it with standards that are mostly the same, or, in a few cases, less rigorous.

State Rep. Terri Collins of Decatur, chairwoman of the House Education Policy Committee, could put on the brakes.

Collins said last week she’s not putting the bill on the “extremely fast track” for a vote in her committee because she sees “a lot of problems that hadn’t been addressed.”

She specifically mentioned a section of the bill that “prohibits the adoption or implementation of any national standards from any source.”

Alabama’s education system does need a lot of improvement. About that much, Marsh is exactly right. But improvement can be made within the Common Core framework, and even if it couldn’t, scrapping Common Core without first coming up with a replacement is pure folly.

You can’t change direction, as Marsh puts it, without knowing where you are going.

Online: https://www.timesdaily.com

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March 27

The Gadsden Times on fly fishing and tourism:

A major river runs right through Etowah County and the area is surrounded by dam-created lakes, so it’s no surprise fishing is a popular pastime around these parts.

We imagine many of those anglers, whose tackle boxes are filled with crankbaits or have no issues impaling wriggling worms on hooks, aren’t familiar with one branch of the sport, fly fishing, other than what they’ve seen in books or magazines, or online or on television.

It’s considered a more difficult, even challenging way to catch fish, and requires different equipment and casting techniques than regular spin fishing.

There is an active local group, the Rainbow Fly Fishing Club, that according to its Facebook page was founded more than 15 years ago, has members from throughout North Alabama and is dedicated to promoting the sport.

This week, they took a significant step along those lines — and in opening Gadsden up to potential tourism benefits — by stocking 1,000 coppernose bluegill into Black Creek above Noccalula Falls. It’s the culmination of an idea that’s been tossed around for years by club members Craig Lipscomb (now a state legislator) and Frank Roden.

Ideally, those fish went over the falls — don’t worry, in other locales stocking has been done by airplane drop — into the watershed below. The expectation is that anglers will follow.

City officials are excited about the project, maybe more so because the club has pledged to do the heavy lifting in managing it.

Plus this was only step one. Later this year, the club plans to stock the waters with rainbow trout, which members think will flourish since the watershed below the falls generally stays cool because of the deep pool and the shade coverage in the gorge. Those are similar conditions to North Georgia, where trout streams are prevalent.

Lipscomb said the club just wants to improve the area’s quality of life and give local residents another outlet for their spare time. We’re all for that — but we see the potential for more.

According to the 2017 Special Report on Fishing compiled by the Outdoor Foundation and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, fly fishing trails freshwater and saltwater fishing in participation.

However, its overall numbers and its first-time participation rates are increasing. The income and age demographics it most appeals to are people who have the time and discretionary income to travel and spend money on the sport (and at restaurants, hotels and stores).

Let them know we’ve got the fish and say “Y’all come.” We bet a bunch of them will.

Online: https://www.gadsdentimes.com

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