Bill would move state school board from election to appointment

Updated: May. 9, 2019 at 9:35 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - As it currently stands, members of the Alabama State Board of Education are directly elected by the citizens. That could change if new legislation passes the Alabama legislature. The legislation, filed by Sen. Del Marsh, R-District 12, would allow the governor to appoint commissioners who would then be confirmed by the Senate.

“It is nothing personal against any elected state school board member, but if you look at the grades and stat we are not getting the job done,” said Marsh.

Marsh says 11 states have this process in place already where the state school board is appointed rather than elected.

“I didn’t pull this out of the air. I looked at the four models that are used for education governance. This is the model that has the best effect on education in states across the country," said Marsh.

Marsh points out this will give the governor and legislature responsibility for what is happening in education.

“The problem is this. People go to the polls and they have a choice but many times they do not know the background of an individuals they are voting for," said Marsh. “We are taking the politics out of it. Our children we have to give them the best chance to be successful.”

Marsh says those appointments there must be geographic diversity, racial diversity, and gender diversity.

House District 59 Rep. Mary Moore is a supporter of education reform, but questions if this is the right step.

“That takes the voice of the people away and it’s taking us more toward an authoritarian form of government," said Moore.

The bill already has the support of Gov. Kay Ivey.

Thursday, Ivey sent a letter to the board, which she leads by state statute, indicating her support for a bill that would turn the board into a commission. What’s in the name change? The way you get to become a member.

“Since day one, I have made it abundantly clear to the people of Alabama, our students and educators across the state that improving our education system is a top priority of mine as governor," Ivey stated. “We can all agree that Alabama students should be given the opportunity for a quality education. Unfortunately, that is not happening today.”

Ivey said she spoke with each board member, as well as State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey, about the matter on Thursday. Some school board members did share their thoughts with the Media on Thursday.

“What I like about it is that people will have the opportunity to vote whether they want an appointed board or an elected board. I’m still one of these people that I believe in protecting our vote as a citizens, I’m that way. I’ll be through with this job one of these days and I would like the right to still vote on the state board and superintendents and everything. I think it’s kind of a basic right. I don’t want that taken away from me,” said Jeffrey Newman, State School Board, District 7.

“I did tell the governor that I support her decision if that’s what she thought was best and we would just allow our constituents to determine what they think is best in the state of Alabama in reference to education,” said Dr. Yvette Richardson, State School Board, District 4.

The Alabama Policy Institute did announce its support for the bill. The press release read in part, “The Alabama Policy Institute, along with Governor Ivey, Senate Pro Tempore Marsh and others, believes that the status quo of education in Alabama is unacceptable. The current system, as it stands today, hampers any policies an elected governor might pursue. This new model will give the Governor of the State a significant stake in our education and, hopefully, be the first step in transforming Alabama from a state that is first in football and last in education to one that excels equally in both.”

AEA Statement: “As with all bills of this magnitude, AEA’s Legal Department will do a thorough review to determine the effects – both positive and negative – the legislation could have on Alabama classrooms and students. Until that process is complete, AEA will withhold comment on the legislation.” – AEA President Sherry Tucker

If Marsh’s bill passes the legislature, it would need to go to a statewide vote in order to approve an amendment to the state’s constitution.

Copyright 2019 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.