District 11 candidates speak on education bills; vote March 26

Republicans Danny Alldredge of Holly Pond and Randall Shedd of Fairview will face each other next Tuesday, March 26, in the runoff election for the District 11 House of Representatives seat. The runoff winner will face Democrat Kelly Evans of Cleveland in the general election on May 7.

Blount County precincts that are part of District 11 include Summit, Rock Springs, Brooksville, Blountsville, Cleveland, and a small portion of Rosa.

As a final indicator of their preparation for the office, The Blount Countian asked the candidates to comment on two pieces of legislation pending at the time the questions were posed on March 7. Both bills were education bills presented at this session of the Legislature, both potentially far-reaching in their effects on local education, and both highly controversial, pitting important education interest groups against each other in public, sometimes acrimonious, debate. It seemed a fitting test of the candidates’ mettle to ask them to stake out their positions on these issues.

The questions presented both candidates are printed below. They were given a limit of “200 or so words” to respond to each question. Their answers may serve as a rough index of how they might respond to your questions to each of them, if they are elected as your representative. Question on the Alabama Accountability Act: Please critique the Alabama Accountability Act (the “failing schools” act). Briefly explain your understanding of it in layman’s terms to prospective voters and (2) what it means to their children and their school systems. Comment on the way it was handled in the Legislature (if you wish to), urge action on voters’ part (if you think any is needed), and indicate how you would vote on the bill (yea or nay) if you were a voting member of the Legislature. Shedd’s response:

“What matters at this point is ‘What do we do now?’ The bill has already passed and the Governor says he’s going to sign it, obviously if the courts allow it. ( The Alabama Supreme Court has since overruled the lower court’s stay, and Gov. Bentley has signed the bill into law – ED.) This is a complex 27-page bill with dozens of new provisions for education. As with any sweeping reform bill, future Legislatures may need to readdress the bill with corrections to deal with unintended consequences.

“If I am elected, and as proposed corrections come up, my question will be “What will the impact be to J.B. Pennington and Cleveland schools and all the schools in my District?’ We have good schools in District 11, and while I understand there are failing schools in some parts of the state, I don’t want to harm the good schools we have in our area.” Alldredge’s response:

“The way I understand the Alabama Accountability Act is (1) it provides school systems the flexibility to utilize their state funds in the daily operation of schools to meet their most critical needs. (2) It provides parents of students who attend ‘failing schools’ the opportunity to transfer their students into a ‘non-failing school’. And (3) it provides the parents of a student who transfers into a non-failing school an income tax credit to help defray the cost of tuition.

“An important part of my platform is that I will listen to the discussion on both sides of each issue and try to make an informed decision based on the arguments presented. I have tried to research the issue of the Alabama Accountability Act through the Internet, personal phone calls, and by interviewing people of this legislative district.

We have elected and appointed officials in Montgomery whose support of this bill has changed in the last few days. I have come to the conclusion that I am too far away from that discussion to make a wise and informed decision as to whether I would vote yea or nay on the bill. However, I would encourage each citizen who has concerns about this bill to contact his or her state representative and/or state senator with their concerns.” Question on repeal of ‘Common Core Standards’ (Alabama College and Career Ready Standards). Same question as above on bills now before the Legislature that would repeal the State Board of Education’s 2010 adoption of Alabama’s version of the Common Core Standards curriculum, forbidding its use now or in the future in Alabama, and giving the Legislature – not the State Department of Education – control over statewide curriculum standards. Briefly explain, comment, critique, call to action (or not), and state your position, yea or nay. ( This bill has since died in committee and will not be debated in this legislative session – Ed.) Shedd’s response:

“I want to make sure we provide the opportunity for our students to be adequately prepared for a competitive workforce, but I want us to be careful and cautions that Washington, D.C., doesn’t have too much control in Alabama schools.” Alldredge’s response:

“With regard to the Common Core State standards curriculum – it is my understanding that these Common Core Standards were adopted by the Governor’s Association after having been facilitated by the chief state school officers of each state. These standards attempt to unify the curriculum across this nation and from state to state. An example would be if a child attended a school in rural Alabama and moved to an urban school in California, that child would be held to the same standards of educational skills. It is also my understanding that Alabama’s standards are among the toughest in the nation.

“Having been a teacher, a principal, a career-technical director and a local school board member, I am opposed to federal intrusion into our school curriculum. I fully support rigorous standards for our school curriculum. I also support standards that include career and technical training in our high schools. I support the Alabama state Department of Education under the direction of superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice and state career tech director Dr. Phillip Cleveland in their effort to make career tech training an integral part of the educational process.

“Again, I would encourage any citizen who has concerns about the Common Core Curriculum to contact his/her state representative or state senator.”