LWVUS Convention 2010 Workshops
by Kathy Byrd, LWVAL Co-President
Federal Role in Education
There were several caucuses related to promoting the adoption of the LWVUS study of the federal role in education; I attended three. The key issues were discussed, distilled, refined, and both Scarlett and I spoke on the floor in support of the adoption of this study. It passed overwhelmingly
The key points of the discussions can be distilled to a few key ideas:
- What is and what should be the federal role in education? Originally education was a state and local responsibility? But now, with federal programs have emerged and taken on an increasing presence across the land. Examples are those addressed in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which was passed in 1965 (and is now called “No Child Left Behind”), and what is now called the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, which was passed in 1975. More and more federal money comes to the states—with strings attached. Each state has a different system of taxation and funding education, as mandated by the individual state constitutions, as well as different ways of handing out federal money, within certain constraints.
- What positions should the League take with regard to reauthorization of “No Child Left Behind,” which may have been well intentioned, but which has been problematic in so many ways. We need to study the issues and come to consensus on at least some of these issues in the next two years.
- Another key issue involves nationwide standards for students. Standards have recently been released for reading and math, and a draft is being circulated for social studies.
- The problem of failing schools
The LWVUS board has appointed Peggy Hill to head the LWVUS study committee. Both Scarlett Gaddy and I have expressed interest in participating in this study. It is also an excellent companion to the LWVAL study on charter schools, recently adopted at our LWVAL council as an emergency study, and in our larger education study that will eventually update our state position in education. Laura Hill is the LWVAL Education Chair.
A workshop on redistricting was held on Monday, with two attorneys from the Brennan Center for Justice presenting. According to plan, the Census is mandated to deliver population counts to President Obama on December 31, 2010, and President Obama will present the apportionment count to the U.S. Congress on January 10, 2011. Alabama (and the other states) must receive their last data by April 1 according to PL 94-171. Then the real fun begins: states conduct redistricting, with the deadline for most states at the end of the 2012 legislative session. Redistricting must be completed before the filing deadlines for the 2012 state primary elections.
Obviously district lines are drawn to put voters in groups. The dicey part is deciding the factors which will determine which voters should be placed in which districts. For example, is the goal to include, exclude, or limit a certain economic or racial/ethnic group or political party? (Different people in power have different motives…) In Alabama, the legislature draws the lines for both state legislative districts and congressional districts, with the governor being given the power of a veto. If the districts are not drawn by the deadline, then the courts intervene.
Mary G. Wilson, outgoing LWVUS President, will chair the LWVUS Task Force on Redistricting. Alabama Leaguers will be able to have input based on our national position for this very important process.
Election Integrity: Seeking Transparency
On Sunday evening, a panel developed by the LWVUS Election Audit Task Force described the need and process for establishing transparency in elections. Transparency in this context refers to making sure our vote is secure, accurate, recountable, and accessible. (The recount of votes for Robert Bentley and Tim James was going on when this workshop was presented—how timely!) In Alabama, we use the Opti-Scan, and there is a paper trail (which isn’t entirely fraud-free), but in some states there is no paper trail—only computer print out.
Accessibility remains a problem in Alabama, though. League member and Senior Advocate of the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program (ADAP), Brenda McComb, noted accessibility problems in a number of sites during the recent primary, including the voting place she and I use! The LWVUS Election Audit Task Force demonstrated the need for systematic audits at the various levels of the election process. Clearly the LWVAL and our local leagues need to be vigilant in this important arena.
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