The content of public education has been a matter of contentious public discourse in the United States, and Alabama was no different in 2022.
Debate on the role of educators and administrators is among the most heated in the nation. With concerns about Critical Race Theory (CRT), sexual education and gender ideology infiltrating school systems, cries from parents for school choice have grown louder.
In 2022, legislators, school officials, teachers and curriculum came under the microscope in the increasingly loud call for reform in public education.
1. Huntsville teacher exposed for moonlighting as a drag queen and performing for children
In October, Libs of TikTok exposed Mountain Gap Middle School teacher James Miller for his activities outside the classroom. In one video, Miller made sexually suggestive comments while reading a child's book at a dog shelter where some children were present.
Miller was placed on paid leave and returned to his classroom after two weeks.
On December 12, 1819 News uncovered audio from a podcast featuring Miller describing how he "strategically" and "covertly" placed LGBTQ+ material in his classroom. The following day, state officials informed 1819 News that Miler was retiring within the week.
2. High-profile state officials connected to non-profit pushing radical sexual education in public schools
In September, 1819 News exposed an Alabama-based non-profit that sought to implement highly controversial methods of sexual education in Alabama schools. The Alabama Campaign for Adolescent Sexual Health provides training in "age-appropriate" sexual education for Alabama students and offers multiple resources for accomplishing this goal.
Some of the resources provided by the campaign were marketed for ages 10-14 and included several sexually explicit cartoons.
State Board of Education Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey and State Health Officer with the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) Dr. Scott Harris were both ex officio board members of the campaign.
In the wake of the revelations about the campaign, Mackey claimed he had never heard of the campaign and had his name removed from the board. Harris has never responded to 1819 News' inquiries on his involvement.
3. Alabama implements controversial law mandating mental health coordinators in every public school system
The bill, sponsored by State Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville), was not without opposition from concerned parents in the state.
Although State Sen. Sam Givhan (R-Huntsville) introduced an amendment that allows parents to give permission before their child participates in any programs or sees a counselor, it did not relieve the concerns.
Section 22-8-4 of Alabama's legal code allows someone 14 or older to make their own medical decisions in the state of Alabama. This means children over 14 in Alabama schools can participate in mental health programs or visit a counselor without parental consent.
With lingering concerns of ideological influence by school staff on students, the confidential nature of counseling relationships left many parents furious.
4. Alabama schools show lackluster test scores in national report card
In October, The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2022 Nation's Report Card showed Alabama's average fourth-grade mathematics scores remained the same from 2019 to 2020 but dropped five points for eighth graders.
Despite the lack of improvement, Alabama's fourth and eighth graders rank higher than they did in 2019 compared to other states.
Despite beating out states that declined more drastically, Alabama is still three points behind the national reading average and five points behind in math.
5. School choice fizzles in the legislature
In this year's regular session, then-State Rep. Charlotte Meadows (R-Montgomery) and then-State Sen. Del Marsh (R-Anniston) introduced bills in their respective houses to create a system by which school funding would follow students to whatever school they desired.
The bill would give students the average annual cost per student in the state, which was set at $6,500 at the time.
The Alabama Education Association (AEA) vigorously opposed the bill, claiming the bill would have disastrous effects on the state's Education Trust Fund
Through a series of committee debates and proposed substitutes, the bill never made its way to the Senate floor for a vote.
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