Education & Public Safety

Andrew Sorrell

Education


I am related to several educators who have informed my opinions on education. My wife comes from a family of teachers, and has taught at both the college and the middle school level. She taught special education at Hidden Treasure Christian School, and she can attest that smaller classroom sizes and individual planning and instruction makes a world of difference in education. Likewise, my mother has spent years educating the next generation. She has taught nursing for 21 years at UNA and Northwest-Shoals Community College.

I believe that a public education option is foundational to preserving our republican form of government.  We all benefit from a strong education curriculum and strong schools.

I fully support the right of parents to homeschool or send their children to private schools when they do not feel their children are getting a good education in the public school system and/or when the school system’s moral philosophy is contradictory to a family’s values.

I believe in school choice.  Parents should be able to move their children from failing schools to a school where their child has a better chance at a good education and success in life.  Forcing students to stay in failing schools is a disservice to the community.  Children should have the opportunity to get the best education available within their geographic region.

I support the repeal of Common Core education standards, because I believe it promotes some objectionable material and because education has failed to improve under that system.  The Department of Education has basically forced states to accept the standards by tying grant money to the standards. I believe curriculum should be customized at the local level to meet the needs of each school district.

We have to stop simply teaching the standardized tests to improve the scores. Teachers are pressured to get results, and we must stop asking kids to conform to a standardized test. Not all students learn the same way, and not all students are good test takers.

After 15 years in the education system, I realized when I graduated college that I had never been taught basic entrepreneurial skills.  All education seems to be directed at preparing students to get a job when they graduate high school or college.  The problem is, often times they struggle to find a job because the jobs don’t exist.  We need more classes geared towards starting small businesses.  About 2/3rds of the new jobs created come from small business.

We need to focus on technical training programs in developing career fields so graduating students can easily find a job.

We need to expand the AP (Advanced Placement) program, which allows high school students to take college-level classes and earn dual credit.

I will also work to ensure more tax dollars actually reach the classroom instead of administration and bureaucracy.

Prisons


Alabama has 180% capacity in its prison system.  If we don’t take action soon, a federal court may step in and force us to begin releasing prisoners.  Already, prisoners are released back into the population after serving only a small portion of their sentence.  Unfortunately, Alabama is on a tight budget and does not have the nearly one billion dollars it would take to build four new prisons. I do not support building new prisons, but I do have some creative ideas to solve our prison problem.

1 – Fund mental health. Many of the prisoners we have today might not have committed a crime at all if their mental conditions had been treated a year ago. I will allocate additional budget dollars to the Alabama Department of Mental Health.

2 – Support laws to shorten appeal times, similar to the one that passed in the 2017 Legislative Session.  I do not support reducing the number of appeals available to inmates on death row, because everyone deserves every chance to prove their innocence.  However, there is no reason an appeal should take 5-10 years.

3 – Teach prisoners a trade.  When prisoners are released, those who have a marketable skill are likely to use it.  I support trade programs for non-violent offenders so they can reestablish themselves once they have repaid their debt to society. I also think prisoners should be offered a factory-type job while in prison so they can pay for part of their expenses and save some money for when they leave the system. That way they walk out the door with some money and are less likely to commit a crime as they search for employment.

4 – Allow felonies to drop off a person’s record.  For non-violent offenders, I support removing the felony from their record after some period of time.  If a 19-year-old is caught smoking marijuana, he or she will live with a felony on their record for the rest of his or her life, making honest employment difficult to obtain.  It would be to our benefit to allow these rehabilitated people to re-enter the workforce and become productive citizens.  I believe this would lower the recidivism rate.

5 – Open more drug courts.  We have reduced our prison population from 27,000 to 24,000 due in large part to drug courts. We can potentially drop to as low as 20,000 by using this idea.

6 – Rent beds from county jails. For instance, Limestone County has a 230-bed jail but only 115 inmates.  The state should contract with these jails and immediately shift prisoners to them.  In fact, 1500 beds are being offered at $30/day by partially empty jails statewide.  It costs Alabama $48/day per prisoner.