Alabama education leader resigns over pre-K educator book ban

The Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education secretary resigned after Gov. Kay Ivey banned a pre-K teacher resource book.
Published: Apr. 24, 2023 at 8:36 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education secretary resigned after Gov. Kay Ivey banned a pre-K teacher resource book containing what she calls a “woke” agenda. The book in question is part of the fourth edition of the Developmentally Appropriate Practice Book from the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

The banned book is a guide for teachers that interact with students under 8 years old, specifically advising teachers on situations if students ask questions related to race and gender.

House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, D-Madison County said the ban was a shock to him.

“I’m on the education budget committee and I’m on the education policy committee, and no one said anything to me,” he said.

The book is used as a guide for teachers when dealing with diverse identities.

“There is no particular curriculum that names CRT. It is a tool that is used to convey certain things,” said Rep. Ed Oliver, R - Lee County.

“My son is in pre-K,” said Daniels. “My son is not being told what they’re accusing.”

Barbara Cooper, the secretary of the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education, was forced to resign. Cooper was appointed in 2020 and sits on the board of the association that published the book.

“We should be celebrating Dr. Cooper and the work that she’s done instead of attempting to tear her down and bring her into politics. It’s unfair. It’s unfortunate. And we will have more conversations about this for the remainder of the session,” said Daniels.

Jan Hume will serve as the interim secretary of the ADECE while Ivey makes a decision on a permanent secretary to lead the department in the immediate future.

In a statement, Ivey’s office said, “For added context on some of the governor’s concern that this resource book contained a woke agenda, the book invokes ideas for teachers that there are ‘larger systemic forces that perpetuate systems of White privilege” or that “the United States is built on systemic and structural racism.’ Also included for four-year-olds to learn is that ‘LGBTQIA+ need to hear and see messages that promote equality, dignity and worth.’ The glossary includes equally disturbing concepts that the Ivey Administration and the people of Alabama in no way, shape or form believe should be used to influence school children, let alone four-year-olds.”

The NAEYC said of the banning: “For nearly four decades, and in partnership with hundreds of thousands of families and educators, Developmentally Appropriate Practice has served as the foundation for high-quality early childhood education across all states and communities. While not a curriculum, it is a responsive, educator-developed, educator-informed, and research-based resource that has been honed over multiple generations to support teachers in helping all children thrive and reach their full potential. Building on the good work that is happening in states and communities, NAEYC looks forward to continuing its partnership with families, educators, and policymakers to further our shared goals of offering joyful learning environments that see, support, and reflect all children and their families.”

“The governor made a mistake,” said Daniels. “If you’re providing guidance, it’s a choice that the educator or the practitioner has when teaching content but teaching around certain things.”

“Governor Ivey forced Dr. Barbara Cooper to resign because Dr. Cooper endorsed a nationally accredited teaching manual, a new low for government censorship,” said JaTaune Bosby Gilchrist, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama. “Censorship has no place in Alabama classrooms at any level and is harmful to students, educators, and administrators. Dr. Cooper worked with teachers to set up an inclusive and welcoming classroom for all students – centering equality, dignity, and worth. The governor’s actions are divisive and detrimental to free speech and are a disservice to all students and teachers.”

The Alabama Institute for Social Justice also sent a statement against this book banning.

Oliver supports Ivey’s removal of this book. He is sponsoring a bill that would ban similar ”divisive concepts” from public schools and universities.

“The intent of the bill is to create a civilized environment where kids can learn history without being compelled to say or believe things that they don’t,” said Oliver.

The Alabama GOP released a poll that says protecting children from “woke” policies is the top issue for Republican and independent voters.

“That would indicate to me that we’ve just got so many distractions in school,” said Oliver.

The NAEYC book is banned but there are still 33 programs in the state that are accredited by the organization, including at the University of Alabama, Auburn University and Maxwell Air Force Base.

Sign up for the WSFA Newsletter and get the latest local news and breaking alerts in your email!