Friday, November 15, 2013

Alabama Supreme Court Ends “Right” to College Life

The Alabama Supreme Court ruled 6-2  that non-custodial parents are no longer required to help pay their child’s college expenses

While everyone was fretting over the Federal shutdown, the Alabama Supreme  Court took the unexpected, but absolutely correct action, of overturning Bayliss v. Bayliss. The Bayliss precedent has been used by courts to provide post-minority support for college. It has become an expected right for the "college life" for Alabama children.

Now, with Bayliss overturned, the choice to provide monies for college is the choice of divorced parents. These parents, just as with the children of non-divorced parents, may add conditions that may be met by their children in order to provide college costs.

It is the first lesson in responsibility for many children to seek funds through scholarships, grants, parents, grandparents, and "God forbid" work. Now all children, whether or not their parents are together, may learn this lesson.

The ruling does not affect cases where a final decision has been rendered. It could impact cases that are currently on appeal.

Lyn Stuart, Associate Justice, Supreme Court of Alabama, stated: I concur in the main opinion, and I write specially to further state my reasons for concurring to overrule Ex parte Bayliss, 550 So. 2d 986 (Ala. 1989). I disagreed with this Court's holding in Ex parte Bayliss when it was decided in 1989, while I was serving as a trial court judge. However, cognizant of my role at that time, I recognized Ex parte Bayliss as the law and followed it when called upon to do so."

The Alabama Supreme Court ruled 6-2 in Christopher v. Christopher that non-custodial parents are no longer required to help pay their child’s college expenses. With the Supreme Court’s decision, the children of divorced parents must now rely on voluntary parental support from both custodial and non-custodial parents to help cover college expenses, such as tuition, room and board, and books. 

In 2010, Christopher v. Christopher originated in Limestone County after a divorced father asked his wife to help pay for their son’s college costs. A court ordered the mother to pay 25 percent of the costs. The decision was upheld by the Court of Civil Appeals before it went to the Supreme Court.

In this decision, the Supreme Court overruled Bayliss v. Bayliss, a 1989 case where the court determined the non-custodial parent should help pay the college expenses of a post-minority child. In Alabama, a child is a minor until age 19. The child in Christopher v. Christopher was at least 19, but still unable to support themselves.

With the Bayliss decision, the court determined it has a right to assure that the children of divorced parents, who are minors at the time of divorce, are given the same right to a college education before and after they reach the age of 19 years that they probably would have if their parents had not divorced.

The Alabama Supreme Court stated in its conclusion: "The Bayliss Court failed to recognize the ordinary and common-law definitions of ‘child’ as a minor, did not defer to the Legislature’s designation of the age of majority, and failed to observe the canon of construction that courts cannot supply what a statute omits. Accordingly, we expressly overrule Bayliss."

Stephen Johnson, chairman of the Family Bar Section of the Alabama State Bar Association, wasn’t surprised with the decision. "… The Bayliss case has been the subject of controversy for the last 24 years," Johnson stated in an email. "Most lawyers that I know whom do domestic appellate work have been looking for the right case to take to the Supreme Court to challenge the Bayliss decision for years.

"What is surprising is that the decision to overturn Bayliss was predicated on statutory interpretation instead of the constitutional argument of equal protection. Christopher v. Christopher is technically a domestic relations case; however, the language of Christopher is long reaching into how our current Alabama Supreme Court is going to view statutory interpretation in the legal system."

Auburn attorney Stephanie Pollard visited an Auburn University class last week and said approximately one-fourth of the class had a non-custodial parent helping pay college costs. Pollard emphasized that parents can still work out an agreement to help their children cover college costs.


Feds' Tentacles in the Common Core

In 2007, a group of governors and state education chiefs got together to try to remedy the declining and degraded U.S. public academic system. Their goal was to establish a new set of standards that better prepared kids for college, careers and their ever-changing, hyper-connected and globally competitive world.

In short, as a result, the Common Core State Standards were born.

In 2010, standards were published and made available for mathematics and English language arts. Though standards for science and social studies are still in development, the goal is for states to have 85 percent of their curricula based upon the full spectrum of those standards.

CCSS advocates pitch that the initiative is a step in the right direction from the disastrous No Child Left Behind federal system. But not everyone is catching the CCSS fever. In particular, there are concerns about federal overreach into and control of their local academic arenas.

By 2009, 45 states had signed on to join; Virginia, Nebraska, Texas and Alaska declined CCSS adoption. Minnesota partially adopted the language arts standards but rejected the math ones. And some other states have since jumped ship in other ways. In August, Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Oklahoma and Utah withdrew from the assessment groups designing tests for the CCSS. And noted, "Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Utah are all currently considering full withdrawal with other fiscally conservative states sure to follow." And in September, Florida Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order restricting Florida's involvement with the CCSS national assessments because of concerns over federal overreach of the program.

I commend the governors and state education chiefs who tried to improve the substandard and dilapidated state of U.S. public education, despite decades of attempts by federal and state governments to improve it. But there are good reasons that so many states have rejected or are questioning the ultimate value of the adoption of CCSS.

Let me tell you my core problems with CCSS and why I believe that the standards are not the solution for America's broken educational system. (I'm going to unfold these problems in depth with solid evidence in successive weeks, concluding with what I believe would be a far better option than CCSS.)

My first issue with CCSS is one that is hot on the blogosphere and in the news: The feds have abandoned their commitment to stay out of local academic affairs by using CCSS to usurp power over public schools and influence young American minds.

In fact, one of the biggest defenses by CCSS advocates is their belief that the federal government -- particularly the White House -- is in no way behind the standards' implementation, development and utility.

PolitiFact examined the words of Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who said last July that CCSS is being "used by the Obama administration to turn the Department of Education into what is effectively a national school board." PolitiFact categorically evaluated Rubio's statement as false.

But recent evidence shows that Rubio is right and PolitiFact is wrong. The feds already have started invading local school districts via CCSS in three ways: funding, influencing classroom curricula and siphoning student information from schools. Let me explain each in turn.

First, if the feds are so far removed from CCSS, why is it that the Department of Education has funded it with $350 million and motivated states to adopt the standards by rewarding Race to the Top grants and waivers from No Child Left Behind? (Please read and ponder that question again.)

For example, according to Politico, in August, the Department of Education granted NCLB waivers to eight school districts in California that agreed to the White House's pro-Common Core preferences.

Politico further reported that the Council of Chief State School Officers, which represents state superintendents, has shared that it regards district-level waivers "as an example of federal overreach -- and a direct threat to their authority over schools."

Politico also noted, "California teachers unions also oppose the plan, warning in a June letter that the waiver sets up a 'privatized "shadow" system of education in California' that leaves children 'susceptible to market exploitation and profiteering.'"

I don't know about you, but I've yet to see the federal government funding anything that it didn't eventually have its hands into.

The Foundry explained: "The waivers are set to expire for 34 states and the District of Columbia at the end of the 2013-2014 school year. The Department (of Education) is offering renewal but is requiring states to reaffirm commitments to its policies. (Notice: "its policies"!) This includes increased emphasis on 'college and career-ready standards,' which most states have interpreted to mean Common Core national standards and tests."

I know that Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who is a former CEO of the Chicago Public Schools (interesting that it's Barack Obama's former turf), is working desperately to distance the federal government's connection to and influence over CCSS. But if Duncan is going to be successful in maintaining that separation, for starters, he needs to drop the funding (monetary coercion) and refrain from using first-person plural pronouns when discussing who is responsible for the Common Core State Standards as he did when he told a group of journalists in June: " We've set a high bar for states." (Italics mine.)

I am personally challenging state and federal representatives to get on board to stop this Common Core insanity. I will be researching each politician to see who is and who is not supporting CCSS, and before this series is complete, I will be publishing their names in my columns, and they reach millions. I'm sure my readers will find my list of names helpful the next time they walk into the voting booths!

Stop Common Core right now!


Britain:  My old class mates and why every town needs a grammar school

By Simon Heffer

When I was at school in Essex, I had a friend whose parents were a bus driver and a school dinner lady. They lived in a council house and were the most decent, respectable people, their house spotless and their garden immaculate.

They always ensured he did his homework and worked hard to get on, and partly because of that attitude, he went to Oxford, and is now a senior executive with a leading international bank.

But if his parents were the driving force behind his success – and the importance of a supportive family in a child’s progress cannot be overstated – our school was the vehicle that allowed him to flourish.

Another boy I knew, whose father drove a lorry, ended up as a successful accountant. Others whose fathers were clerical workers or farm labourers went to Oxbridge or top Russell Group universities, going on to found businesses and working all over the world.

For my first three or so years, I caught the bus from our village each morning with a genial boy in my year who was rather good at art – grammar schools were not relentlessly academic. He has since won the Turner Prize and delivered the Reith Lectures: his name is Grayson Perry.

What bound this eclectic group together was the fact that we all went to a grammar school. That meant it didn’t matter a jot what our backgrounds were.

If we were bright enough and fortunate enough to get a place, we found ourselves on a level playing field on which any boy could excel if he chose to. I’ve always believed there could be no better illustration of what social mobility means – and grammar schools delivered it magnificently.

I knew scores of boys from modest homes who were recruited to an aristocracy of talent thanks to the availability, free of charge, of a better education than most private schools offered. The exercise was rewarding for them, but also for the teachers (many without any teaching qualification, Nick Clegg should note) who saw their dedication rewarded by most of their charges getting into the best universities and into serious professions thereafter.

Our magnificent headmaster – a former maths master at Eton, who himself had gone to Cambridge after grammar school in Staffordshire – told us all on day one, when we were 11 years old, that we were incredibly lucky to be there.  If we did what was expected of us, and worked hard, glittering prizes would await us.

My school survives, one of just 164 grammars that do. The attempted wholesale abolition, launched in 1965 by Labour’s education minister Tony Crosland (who notoriously said that ‘I’m going to destroy every f****** grammar school in England’) has led to the state of affairs described in a speech to Conservatives last Friday night by John Major. He spoke of the dominance of the privately educated and the ‘affluent middle class’ in British life, and lamented a collapse in social mobility.

It is undeniably true that, as a society, we have almost ended meritocracy by failing dismally to develop the potential of children whose parents can’t pay for their schooling. And I have no doubt that this is because of the near-abolition of selective education from the late 1960s: a policy – though Sir John omitted to say so – supported by David Cameron.

Sir John was a grammar school boy, and what he learned there – at Rutlish school in south London, now a comprehensive – may well have helped him to Downing Street. It is surprising he did not mention this in his own social mobility.

One of the many criticisms of grammar schools is that they provide an elite education to the middle classes free of charge. In some cases that is true: my parents were civil servants, and among my friends’ parents were teachers or small businessmen. But, equally, some never knew the luxury of a white-collar job.

A glance through Who’s Who shows that many senior positions in society are held by grammar school boys and girls. But with so few such schools now, the preponderance of the privately educated reaching the top echelons of society will become even greater.

It is a crying shame that David Cameron, who lives off a trust fund, and whose parents were rich enough to send him to Eton, refuses to endorse grammar schools. He should be ashamed of denying to children without his advantages the chance to have the superior education their talents demand.

I don’t know how Sir John would fare as a boy today but if other state schools offered a challenging, rigorous and inspiring education, one might say there would be no need for grammar schools at all.

But even the most dyed-in-the-wool socialist must know that too many of them do not. No wonder the grammars that do remain are wildly oversubscribed.

There is an anecdote, for example, of one boy travelling every day from Portsmouth to a grammar school in Kingston in South-West London, so excellent is the education on offer.

Some argue that these schools are becoming a preserve of the middle classes, but I would say that bright children from any background will always flourish in this system.

What we really need is a grammar school – or two – in every town. Everyone should live in a catchment area. But because of the political bigotry on Left and Right against selective education, the only guaranteed means in most parts of the country to have an outstanding education is to pay for it.

And that is depriving Britain of the skills of all those lorry drivers’ sons and farm labourers’ daughters who would once have been nurtured by grammar schools to be the stars of tomorrow.


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