By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY— The latest trend in Alabama State politics is for Republican legislators to resign their positions to become lobbyist. If Charlotte Meadows wins Montgomery House District 74, she will be a lobbyist who becomes a legislator.
Meadows is a paid lobbyist for the non-profit StudentsFirst led by the controversial school reform champion Michelle Rhee. Rhee’s organization is backed by Wall Street billionaires who see public education funds as the next big boom for the high-flying investors.
Meadows has bragged about her lobbying work for StudentsFirst the same way she has touted the closing of schools and the laying off of teachers during her tenure on the Montgomery School Board. These she considers major accomplishments of her short career in education.
As the wife of a wealthy Montgomery physician, Meadows says she has a background in building a small business. But, other than her work for StudentsFirst, there is no data to support such claims. What Meadows does have going for her candidacy is her close ties to Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard and to Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh. Both who wish to see public education in the state privatized.
Powerful politicians like Hubbard are counting on Meadows’ election to prompt Michelle Rhee to bring her millions to Alabama to ensure that control of State government stays in the hands of a few corporate-owned insiders.
StudentsFirst is spending big money to elect lawmakers who will pass legislation to open public school system to privatization.
In neighboring Tennessee during the 2011-2012 election cycle, StudentsFirst spent $533,000 on around 60 local races, according to a national report. Campaign records in Tennessee show that Rhee’s group was the biggest source of campaign money outside of the state’s party PACs.
No doubt Alabama needs education reform. The state is ranked at the bottom when it comes to education funding, yet, our teachers have managed to keep our students at number 30 in the nation.
Meadows hopes to replace Rep. Jay Love, who traded his seat in the House to take a high-paying lobbying job with an education reformed group backed by the Business Council of Alabama.
Like the Wall Street bankers that back Rhee, Meadows is angling for the elite business machine of the BCA to give her a much needed push across the finish line.
StudentsFirst is so eager to break into the Alabama market that Michelle Rhee personally came from her home in California to lobby in Alabama last session, right before the passing of the Accountability Act.
Meadows has been criticized by the state’s teachers association, AEA, for her part in the controversial Alabama Accountability Act. Meadows told the Montgomery Advertiser in late September, “Alabama’s education system needs reform and I’m not going to back down because AEA attacks me.”
A campaign mailer from the teachers groups reads in part,
“It would be great for Charlotte Meadows if she’s elected to the Legislature…then she could vote for legislation that benefits the special interest group she works for.”
Among StudentsFirst’s stated goals is to end teachers tenure and to bring charter schools to every state. Meadows shares these goals, so, perhaps the attacks are just inconvenient statements of facts.
Meadows has said that she would leave the employ of StudentFirst if elected, however under state law she cannot be a lobbyist and be in the legislature at the same time.
The AEA has also stated that Meadows supports taking money from public education and giving it to charter schools. This is a position that Meadows has proudly embraced.
Because of Meadows’ employment with Michelle Rhee, and given Meadows’ other elected office as a member of the school board, questions about her thoughts on public education would seem to be appropriate.
The StudentFirst agenda is heavily supported by Speaker Mike Hubbard, the BCA and those who see public education as a growth industry for the business class. Meadows shares that agenda and doesn’t seem to be shying away from it.
The question that is before the voters: Do you believe that public education should be placed in the hands of financiers or in the care of career educators?
The debate continues…