To support schools and districts in addressing the impact of COVID-19, Congress has provided financial support through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund. Funds are allocated to each state in the same proportion as their Title I, Part A grants. In March 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act included $13 billion in ESSER funds. In December 2020, an additional $54 billion for ESSER II was allocated through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act. The American Rescue Plan (ARP) authorized another $122 billion for ESSER III (also called “ARP ESSER”) in March 2021. With the CARES ACT of March 2020, Alabama was allocated $217 M for its K-12 schools, administered through ESSER 1. The Greene County School System received approximately $864,000. ESSER I provided resources for additional student services in curriculum and instruction; staff development and professional services; Special Education Services; PPE supplies and safety and sanitation of facilities in preparation for students to return to on site classes; technology including learning aids for students’ virtual classes; transportation; health services which included equipping nurses stations; other sundry services for the system. These funds must be spent by 2022. Following the CRRSA Act signed December, 2020, Alabama received $899 M for ESSER II. Greene County School System has been allocated approximately $3.3 M in ESSER II funds. According to Superintendent Dr. Corey Jones, the system is in the process of completing its ESSER II plan, which must be submitted to the State Board of Education by June, 2021. Dr. Jones noted that 50% of these funds can be allocated to upgrading facilities, with the remaining supporting curriculum and learning loss with enhanced summer school programs; technology expansion and upgrade across the system; staff development; continued safety measures in facilities; supplies, etc. These funds must be spent by 2023. In the recently passed American Rescue Plan of March 2021, Alabama is likely to receive $2 B to distribute through the ESSER 3 fund. Although the specific guidelines have not been released, more than 80% of these funds will be used to address unfinished learning and supporting the school system’s return to in-person learning. The ARP specifically states that the public school system must spend 20% of ESSER funds to directly address student learning loss. Districts have the flexibility to use the ESSER funds on any “activity authorized by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.” As a condition for receiving ESSER funds, state education agencies must continue to financially support K-12 public schools (maintenance of effort) at the same level or greater in fiscal 2022 and 2023 as they did on the average of fiscal 2017-2019. Similarly, state agencies and local districts may not reduce funding on a per-pupil basis (maintenance of equity). As the Legislature prepares to pass a state education budget, it cannot reduce funding to local school districts or the state risks losing ESSER funds. This is not expected to be an issue, with both Gov. Kay Ivey and the Legislature supporting increases in state funding.
By Trisha Powell Crain | firstname.lastname@example.org
Alabama state school board member Ella Bell died Sunday, November 3, after an illness, a state board of education official confirmed.
“I’ll be in prayer for the family of State Board of Education member, Ella Bell,” Gov. Kay Ivey said. “We shared a passion for the children of our state. She was an ardent champion of her district and will be missed. May the Lord be with her family and friends during this time.”
Felicia Lucky, President of the Black Belt Community Foundation says,”We mourn the loss of Ella Bell. She was a tireless warrior and advocate for children and the education they deserve during her many years of service on the Alabama Board of Education. Representing District 5, she became a champion of the Alabama Black Belt.
“For many years, Ms. Bell provided invaluable service and leadership in her role as a member of the BBCF Board of Directors. We are deeply grateful for all her contributions and we will m iss her wit, pluck and tireless dedication to the cause of fair and equitable accdess to quality education, especially for those in the Alabama Black Belt.”
The Black Belt Community Foundation family mourns the lBell represented District 5, which covers west and southwestern areas of Alabama, including most of the Black Belt counties. Bell, a Democrat, was first elected in 2000 and was serving her fifth term as a member of the Alabama Board of Education. The Montgomery Advertiser reported Bell ran for mayor of Montgomery in 2015. “The driving force behind my run for mayor is that I’ve lived here,” Bell said of her reason for running, the newspaper reported.
Alabama State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey confirmed Bell died Sunday morning. “The Alabama State Department of Education is shocked and saddened by the passing of an education icon,” Mackey said in a statement. “Mrs. Ella Bell dedicated her life to the betterment of the students of Alabama. Her tenacity and steadfast resolve in fighting for equity for all students will be her legacy always. Her presence on the Alabama State Board of Education will be sorely missed.”
Bell was known for her provocative statements at the board table, often pointing out racial disparities in student outcomes, unequal access to educational opportunities based on wealth, and asking for help and resources for students in her district.
Board member Stephanie Bell was first elected in 1995 and served with Ella Bell the entire time Bell was on the board. “Ella referred to us as “The Bell Sisters,” something I will always treasure. Heaven has gained an angel who sincerely cared about those she served,” Stephanie Bell said Sunday.
“I am truly blessed to have the opportunity to serve on the state Board of Education with my dear friend and sister in Christ, Ella Bell,” Stephanie Bell said. “Our conversations always included updates on family members before focusing on the latest concerns regarding children, parents, and educators in her beloved District 5. Ella was extremely close to her sister and immensely proud of her son, daughter, and grandson. She often shared special stories about her precious Mother.”
State school board member Dr. Cynthia McCarty, R-Jacksonville, said Ella Bell’s heart “was always for children and especially for those who had the least advantages. She stood up for those less able to take care and fight for themselves. I have a tremendous amount of respect for her, and I will miss her.”
Ella Bell was in attendance at the Oct. 10 state board meeting, where she dressed in red alongside advocates and fellow board members in celebration of Dyslexia Awareness month.
Bell completed her Master’s degree as Alabama State University in 1974 and her Bachelor’s degree at Tuskegee University in 1969. She completed coursework toward a doctorate in education leadership at the University of Alabama.
By Mike Cason | email@example.com
Gov. Kay Ivey made her first public appearance today since apologizing last week for wearing blackface during a racist skit when she was a student at Auburn University in 1967, an incident the governor says she does not remember.
The governor spoke to reporters this morning after a ceremony about the state’s bicentennial at the Archives and History building in Montgomery.
Associated Press reporter Kim Chandler prefaced the first question by saying that Ivey had told her last spring that she had never worn blackface. Today, Chandler asked Ivey today what she remembered and her reaction to the revelation about the skit.
“I was shocked to hear the tape,” Ivey said. “I didn’t remember being at the Baptist Student Union for any kind of skit like that for sure. But I’ve apologized for it. I should not have done that. And I know it’s important to apologize to the people of Alabama. And since I took office in 2017, my goal has been to make Alabama as good as it can be and certainly better, or to leave the state better than when I found it.”
On Thursday, Ivey’s office released a statement and a video apologizing for the skit at the Baptist Student Union, which came to light while Auburn University was converting archived records to digital format, including a 1967 interview on the Auburn student radio station during which Ivey and her then-fiance talked and laughed about the skit.
The Alabama NAACP and two African American lawmakers – Reps. Juandalynn Givan and John Rogers of Birmingham – called on Ivey to resign because of the incident. Others said they were disappointed but accepted Ivey’s apology and said they hoped it could bring attention to improving race relations and issues important to African Americans.
“Governor Ivey wants us to look at the record,” Bernard Simelton, President of the State of Alabama NAACP said, “Here it is. During Governor Ivey’s administration, she refused to Expand Medicaid, did not support Birmingham increase in minimum wage; Governor Ivey even signed a bill approving the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act of 2017. A law that upholds racism and the effects of racism. If you want to heal the land, or correct errors, or even make right the wrongs, you have the power to do that. You are the leader who can do away with the status quo, and you are in a key position to leave a legacy that heals the hearts of Southerners who got slavery and the confederacy wrong, heal Alabamians and lead Americans. We are better than honoring those who led us into darkness, calamity and shame. No, we don’t need to erase our history, but we do need to make right, what was done wrong.”
The issues mentioned in the press release have divided black and white politicians in Alabama for several years.
Democratic lawmakers have called for Medicaid expansion since it became available under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Ivey has not supported expansion, nor has the Republican-controlled Legislature.
Ivey’s office issued a statement last week indicating she has no intention of resigning. Ivey was asked today about her response to the calls for resignation.
“Heavens no, I’m not going to resign,” the governor said. “That was something that happened 52 years ago and I’m not that person. And my administration stands on being inclusive and helping people. We’ve got a lot of good things going on with our rebuild Alabama and broadband access being expanded and improving our education, etc. So, no, I’m full speed ahead.”
Ivey said she had heard positive comments since her apology.“Not only from African-Americans, I’ve heard a lot from them as well, but also most of the comments I’ve had have been very encouraging and very supportive and very understanding,” Ivey said. “And I’m grateful for that support and that understanding. It was a mistake when I was a student in college and I do apologize. And I’m grateful for everybody’s support, including African Americans.”
News Analysis by: John Zippert, Co-Publisher
The Alabama Hospital Association, a statewide trade organization representing 100 hospitals in the state is launching the ALhealthmatters campaign highlighting the importance of expanding Medicaid. The Association says If Alabama expands Medicaid, almost 300,000 uninsured Alabamians would receive health insurance coverage, an estimated 30,000 jobs would be created, and $28 billion in new economic activity would be generated. Alabama would also save millions of dollars on current state services. “On average, almost one out of every 10 hospital patients does not have health insurance, resulting in more than $530 million annually in uncompensated care,” said Danne Howard, executive vice president and chief policy officer of the Alabama Hospital Association. “Currently, 75 percent of Alabama’s hospitals are operating in the red, meaning the dollars they receive for caring for patients are not enough to cover the cost of that care. Expanding Medicaid would be a significant investment in the state’s fragile health care infrastructure and would help maintain access to care for everyone.” “In Greene County because we are a poor county, one in three patients do not have any insurance, which means we provide an average of $100,000 in uncompensated care per month. Expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act would help people in our county whose earn less than 138% of poverty (approximately $20,000 annual for a family of four) to secure affordable health insurance coverage,” said Dr. Marcia Pugh, Administrator of the Greene County Health System. Howard adds that hospitals and other health care providers are a critical piece of the state’s infrastructure. “Alabama’s hospitals employ about 90,000 individuals and indirectly support another 96,000 jobs,” she said. “Not only are they often one of the largest employers in their communities, but hospitals also have a huge economic impact on their local economy. Statewide, the annual economic impact of Alabama hospitals is nearly $20 billion, not to mention the pivotal role access to quality health care plays in recruiting and keeping new businesses.” The Alabama Hospital Association statement indicates the importance of expanding Medicaid but does not endorse the state’s Democratic political candidates who support Medicaid expansion. Walt Maddox, Democratic candidate for Governor, in the November election, says, “ I will expand Medicaid for Alabama during the first hour of the first day that I am Governor. We will find the resources to pay our part of the costs to pay for this critical life-saving service from our people.” Incumbent Gov. Kay Ivey has not expanded Medicaid and does not intend to because of cost. State Senator Hank Sanders said, “ It is clear that on the one issue of expanding Medicaid, there is a clear distinction between the candidates for Governor on the ballot in November.
Democratic candidate Walt Maddox will expand Medicaid and help save lives in Alabama as well as expand our economy in every county, while Kay Ivey will continue to oppose this program for narrow political reasons.” Since 2010 when Medicaid expansion has been available under the Affordable Care Act, Alabama has lost $7 billion in Federal support under the program. For the first three years of the program, there was no cost to the states to participate. This has increased by 2.5% a year until it reached the maximum 10% this fiscal year. In addition in coming years beginning in 2020, the disproportionate share reimbursement rate payment to rural hospitals will decline because the program assumes coverage for low-income people in the state by Medicaid expansion under the ACA. Rural hospitals in states like Alabama, that have not expanded Medicaid, will begin to take a “double-whammy” for not expanding Medicaid – more patients without insurance coupled with lower reimbursement rates. Howard notes that a recent study showed that hospitals in expansion states were 84 percent less likely to close than hospitals in non-expansion states. “Alabama has had 12 hospitals close since 2011, and more are on the verge of closing if something doesn’t change,” she added. “Plus, the economic impact in other states has been tremendous; Louisiana has added 19,000 jobs; nearly 50 percent of new enrollees in Ohio have been able to receive mental health and substance abuse treatment, and the state has seen a 17-percent drop in emergency department use; Kentucky has seen an increase in state revenues of $300 million.” The AHA study says, “Investing in the rural health care infrastructure is critical as Alabama works to improve rural prosperity. Alabama’s rural hospitals are an anchor in their communities‒creating jobs, providing critical care, and supporting other industries. “When a rural hospital closes, other mainstays in the community often follow … local pharmacies, physicians, banks, and grocery stores to name a few. When a rural hospital closes, it’s very difficult to attract new business. “ Throughout the next few months, hospitals will be talking with business, civic and government leaders to stress the importance of expanding Medicaid in Alabama and to share quantitative results of the positive impact it is having in other states. For more information on the impact Medicaid expansion could have in Alabama, visitwww.alhealthmatters.com.
Gov. Kay Ivey is planning to ask the federal government for permission to make Alabama’s bare-bones Medicaid program even more stringent, harming thousands of low-income parents who work at home taking care of dependent children. The state’s Medicaid work requirement proposal creates a no-win situation for parents living in deep poverty: They lose coverage if they don’t get a job AND if they .
Parents and caretakers of children can’t qualify for Alabama Medicaid if they earn more than 18 percent of the federal poverty level – or about $312 a month for a family of three. Working 10 hours a week at minimum wage puts a parent over this income limit, yet the plan would make them work 35 hours a week and lose their coverage. Medicaid is one of the only protections many of these Alabamians have.
Besides harming the targeted families, the plan would hurt the state budget, which affects everyone. Keeping track of who’s working, who’s not working, who’s looking for work and who’s exempt is a massive undertaking that Medicaid is not equipped to handle. The major new administrative costs will reduce funding available for vital human services like mental health and child protection.
A required public comment period for the new plan produced around 800 comments, the vast majority of them opposed to the work requirement. But Medicaid intends to send the proposal to Washington in a couple of weeks. Governor Ivey is the only one who can put the brakes on this cruel and costly plan, and a public outcry can help make that happen.
Please call the governor’s office today at 334-242-7100 and tell her: Don’t kick thousands of parents off Medicaid. Withdraw the work requirement proposal!