Kay Ivey announced on Friday that she had replaced her director of early child education due to the use of an educator training book written by a nationally-recognized education group. The Republican Governor had denounced the book as teaching "woke concepts" based on the language used about structural racism and inclusion.
Barbara Cooper has been forced to resign as the head of the
Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education
Ivey had expressed concerns about the book's distribution to state-run preschools. Gina Maiola, Ivey's spokesperson, identified the book as the NAEYC Developmentally Appropriate practice Book 4th Edition. Maiola confirmed that she believes the books were collected from state classrooms.
Let me be crystal clear: Woke concepts that have zero to do with a proper education and are divisive at their core have no place in Alabama classrooms, let alone for our youngest learners," Ivey said in a statement. Let me be clear: Ivey's statement was clear that woke concepts that have nothing to do with an education that is proper and are divisive in their core have no place at any level of Alabama classrooms, especially with our youngest students.
Ivey made her statement at a time when conservative politicians are making a rallying call to denounce so-called "woke" teachings. Schools have sometimes become a flashpoint for diversity training and parental rights.
Ivey's office stated that Ivey asked Cooper first to "send a message to disavow the book and to cease its use immediately." Ivey’s office didn't say what Cooper replied, but did state that Ivey made the decision to replace Cooper. Cooper was not available for immediate comment.
This book is intended as a guide to early childhood educators. This is not a program for children.
In a press statement, the governor's staff cited two examples of the book. One was about white privilege, and how 'the United States has a systemic and structural racism.' The other, according to Ivey, taught inclusion for LGBTQ+s to 4-year olds. According to a copy obtained by The Associated Press of the 881 page book, these sections discuss making all children feel welcomed.
Early childhood programs serve and welcome families of all compositions. The book says that children from all types of families (single parent, grandparents-led, foster care, LGBTQIA+, etc.) should hear and see messages promoting equality, dignity and worth.
In the section on structural racism, it is stated that "systemic and structural racist... has permeated all institutions and systems through policies and practices which place people of color into oppressive, menial, repressive positions." Early education is not immune from these forces. The report says that preschool is a place where children "begin to understand how they are represented by society" and the classroom should provide a space of "affirmation, healing and affirmation."
NAEYC, a national accreditation board, works to provide resources and materials of high quality for early childhood education. The group's response to The Associated Press was not a direct answer to Ivey, but it did say that the statements were inaccurate.
This is a resource based on research for educators.
Since nearly four decades and in partnership hundreds of thousands families and educators have been using Developmentally Appropriate practice as the foundation of high-quality early education across all communities and states. It is not a curriculum but a resource for teachers that has been developed by educators, informed by educators, and based on research.
Alabama's First Class pre-kindergarten program operates in more than 1,400 classes across the state. The National Institute for Early Education Research has given the program high ratings.