Gubernatorial candidate Tim James released a statement Thursday calling for members of the Alabama Legislature to vote against the Alabama Numeracy Act.

On Friday, 1819 News talked with Lindy Blanchard, Dean Odle, and Lew Burdette to get their views on the controversial math education plan. All three agreed with James on this particular piece of legislation.

Senate Bill 171 (SB171) is sponsored by State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), who chairs the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee.

“I call on Alabama Legislators to vote 'NO' on SB171,” James wrote in a press release. “Also known as the Alabama 'Numeracy Act,' this bill claims to rid Alabama of Common Core math. However, this legislation does not remove Common Core math from our schools. It actually allows the state to spend $92 million to hire math coaches who will train kindergarten through fifth-grade teachers on how to teach Common Core.”

SB171 has already passed the Senate. The Alabama House of Representatives could take up the legislation as soon as the next legislative day. If it gets sent to Gov. Kay Ivey’s desk, she will have to make the difficult decision on whether to sign it or to veto the legislation.

James is a businessman from Greenville. He is the son of former Gov. Fob James (R) who served from 1979 to 1983 and again from 1993 to 1999.

“Our state government has a responsibility to protect our children from liberal indoctrination,” James said. “State leaders must also protect the rights of parents from having their values contradicted in the classroom. Instead of embracing these programs, the Alabama State Department of Education should get back to the basics and concentrate on making our schools a leader in true areas of education like reading, writing, and arithmetic.”

“My plan for Alabama K-12 education includes removing all traces of Common Core and then putting into place a total, no-strings-attached school voucher program,” Odle said. “That means no central state or federal government control over schools. We will put into place parent boards in each school as they will become autonomous. This will create free-market competition among schools. The good schools will get better and the bad schools will stop being propped up by tax dollars even though they fail year after year. My opponents give lip service to school choice, but none of them have put forth a plan that goes far enough to truly transform Alabama’s K-12 education disaster. A Dean Odle administration will go all in on fixing our broken education system.”

“I have been against Common Core for many years,” Dean Odle told 1819 News. “My friend and campaign advisor Troy Towns (former Vice Chairman of the ALGOP) has been in this fight against Common Core for over a decade. He even advised and argued with Governor Bentley about it. I have been speaking all over the state about the need to get rid of Common Core since my campaign began in April 2020.”

Odle is a Lee County pastor, evangelist, and schoolmaster.

“This is another example of a bait and switch, brought to you by our leadership in Montgomery,” James said. “Instead of helping our struggling students in our failing education system, math teachers across this state will learn Common Core standards for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. But there’s more. SB171 also introduces Multi-Tiered Systems Support (MTSS) as a part of this instruction. Embedded in the program are concepts related to Critical Race Theory (CRT), Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), social justice, and the LGBTQ lifestyle.”

Lew Burdette told 1819 News that the Numeracy Act highlights the problems with Common Core.

“The Numeracy Act is another glaring example that Common Core has to go,” Lew Burdette told 1819 News. “How is there any common sense in hiring 700 math coaches to teach math teachers how to teach Common Core math? That’s ridiculous and a waste of education spending. Common Core is the reason Alabama is 52nd in math — dead last. Raising the standard of education must be the number one priority of the legislative agenda in Montgomery to get us out of the bottom. Our kids deserve better.”

Burdette is a Birmingham area businessman who served 19 years as head of the King’s Home after a successful tenure at Books-a-Million.

“I’m pleased the Legislature recognizes the need to address our abysmal math rankings, but I’m concerned that this bill may not be the best way to go about it,” Lindy Blanchard told 1819 News. “I don’t think we need to hire teacher-coaches to teach our teachers how to teach Common Core math. I’d much rather get rid of Common Core altogether and go back to teaching old math. That’s the math I learned, and it’s the math that put men on the moon.”

Blanchard is a Montgomery area businesswoman and philanthropist. She served as the U.S. Ambassador to Slovenia during the Trump Administration.

“Like every other Marxist system, Critical Race Theory wants to ‘deconstruct’ what’s being taught, and I’m completely opposed to that,” Blanchard said. "I want to weed out CRT, get rid of Common Core, and then rebuild our education system to teach real skills our kids will use throughout their lives. We need to go back to teaching what matters — real math, real history, reading, writing, science and civics. As Governor, that will be what I insist on from our schools.”

State education officials argue that the state does not teach Common Core. They claim that the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards are Alabama standards and are not Common Core.

State Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur), who chairs the House Education Policy Committee, recently denied that the state uses Common Core math in an appearance on Alabama Public Television’s Capitol Journal.

"You know, the sad part about that is Senator Orr meant to address that issue with the bill," Collins said. "He includes at the very beginning and at the very end, and he tries to codify what the state board did - I think it was back in 2013 in saying, 'We cannot teach Common Core.' And he tries to codify that in the bill. And so it's not trying to bring it in. It's actually trying to codify that we cannot teach Common Core.

"But there are people who continue to talk about it every single year. We have math teachers who came up with our standards. They are aligned to NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress). They are aligned to high-quality standards. I think that we are doing all that we can do and you just can't make everyone happy sometimes."

Odle called the Numeracy Act the "Smokescreen Election Year Desperation Act."

“This bill claims to get rid of Common Core math, but it does not," Odle said. "Eagle Forum of Alabama has done a great job exposing the fact Governor Ivey and our RINO legislature NEVER got rid of Obama’s Common Core curriculum. They just gave it a different name and changed a few inconsequential words. I have viewed the side-by-side comparison and the so-called Alabama Standards is Common Core. This is one of the main reasons Alabama K-12 education is ranked 47th overall and 52nd in math. This ridiculous bill authorizes $92 million to hire hundreds of math coaches. The coaches will not be teaching students rather, they will be teaching K-5 teachers how to teach the already failed curriculum.”

Eagle Forum, Alabama Legislative Watchdogs, and other conservative groups argue that the state’s standards are Common Core-aligned standards and whatever Alabama’s public schools are teaching is not working, as Alabama public school students consistently score at or near the bottom on national assessments.

Lindy Blanchard, Lew Burdette, Stacy Lee George, Kay Ivey, Tim James, Donald Trent Jones, Dean Odle, Dave Thomas, and Dean Young are all running in the Alabama Republican Primary on May 24.

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