By Lee Hedgepeth
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The candidates in the Alabama House District 74 special election to replace Jay Love (R) met for a forum hosted by Citizens’ Voice for Truth on Tuesday.
The forum, attended by Republicans Courtney Meadows, Heather Sellers, and Dimitri Polizos, focused primarily on education in Montgomery County and around the state. While both Meadows and Sellers are both professionally involved in education (President and Vice President of the Montgomery County Board of Education, respectively), Polizos did not seem uneducated on the issues.
A large portion of debate centered around the recently enacted Alabama Accountability Act, which provides tax credits for parents to transfer students out of schools labeled as “failing.”
Both Sellers and Polizos voiced opposition to the new law, showing specific concern over both the method of its passage, and over its implementation and efficacy. Their comments may resonate with some in the district who may have heard about recent controversy surrounding the law. Both the Alabama Education Association and the Southern Poverty Law Center are challenging the law in court, and many politicians around the state, including House Minority Leader Craig Ford, have passionately proposed its repeal.
Sellers emphasized that many legislators did not even have time to read the bill, much less question its substance. Polizos furthered her argument with observations on the speed of its passage, as well as rhetorical questions about what he views as the real costs of the Accountability Act:
“A lot of folks were gone. And boom, boom. It got passed. And I don’t think a lot of people aren’t using it, they don’t know how to use it—how to get from a failing school to another school. Who’s going to transport you? How are you going to get there? Like I said, things people didn’t think about.” As Sellers later put it, “It is not helping the children.”
Meadows, on the other hand, said she supports the law. While she acknowledged there are some legitimate concerns about it, she made clear that it is still in the very early stages of implementation, and therefore no real judgments can yet be made. However, she said that what she sees as the foundation of the law is fundamentally right: “Every parent should have the right to put their children in the school that they choose.”
Other issues were seldom discussed. All candidates, for example, expressed concerns about Common Core standards.
One of the only issues discussed outside of education was the nature special elections in general. With questions about the recent flurry of Republican lawmakers leaving the political arena for more lucrative private sector careers (usually in some form of lobbying) in voters’ minds, candidates were asked whether they would support proposals to have lawmakers who resign midterm pay money towards the cost of the special election to replace him or her.
Each of the three candidates passionately said that yes, they would support such a measure.
The special election for Alabama House District 74 will be held on October 8th. District 74 encompasses areas in Montgomery County. No Democrats or Independents qualified for the race.