By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Most people in Alabama stopped on the street at random probably couldn’t name two current members of the Alabama State School Board; but Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R)’s appointment of attorney Matt Brown (R) to the Board has earned a shocking amount of vitriol within Baldwin County and the education community.
Brown’s appointment was controversial in some circles because he was the founder and Chairman of the group: ‘Educate Baldwin Now,’ which despite being massively outspent, successfully defeated massive property tax increases advocated by the Baldwin County School Board at the polls in March.
Bay Minette Elementary School parent Heather Karras responded to the appointment by starting a petition to ask the Governor to withdraw the appointment. The petition reads:
“We are asking Governor Bentley to reconsider the appointment to Matthew Brown to Alabama State Board of Education because of a lack of qualifications. When hundreds of educators, parents and concerned citizens worked tirelessly to to pass a tax last March to help our schools, Matthew Brown was leading the effort to defeat this vote. So a few months ago he is against helping public schools–now the governor wants us to believe he is the right person to support public education. Does a leopard change his spots?”
“Matthew never attended public school and has stated he will not send his own children to public schools. Plus, during the March campaign his group frequently distorted information in order to mislead voters. There are many well-qualified people who could serve on the state board from south Alabama, Mathew Brown is NOT one of them. We urge Governor Bentley to reconsider this appointment and give someone who will work FOR our public schools, instead of AGAINST them as Matthew Brown has done.”
Despite the extensive play in the media only 616 people have signed the online petition as of 10:00 p.m. on Wednesday. By contrast the much less well publicized petition asking Bentley to restore all the Confederate flags to the Capital grounds has 24,672 signatures to this point.
Outspoken traditional public schools advocate Larry Lee wrote on his blog: “Like me, the great majority believe this appointment was ill-advised and speaks more to creating a climate that is not supportive of public schools than to the credentials of one citizen.” “They believe this was a single action in a much bigger battle. A battle that should be about children, not some ideology being promoted by forces that don’t know Andalusia from Atmore. And don’t care about either.”
Political consultant and former Mobile County Commissioner Stephen Nodine (R) scoffed at the criticism of Brown. Nodine said that Brown is bright, articulate and the right person for the job. “Matthew will do an excellent job,” Nodine said.
Nodine dismissed the critics as people who got their feelings hurt due to their rejection by the voters at the polls in the March referendum. Nodine said that some blowback was to be expected and hoped that Gov. Bentley would remain steadfast in the appointment.
Brown was appointed to fill the remainder of Al Thompson’s term on the Alabama State Board of Education. Brown represents the First Congressional District on the Board.
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) said at the time, “Education is a key component to the success and growth of Alabama, and I am confident Matthew will serve the citizens and students of South Alabama with honesty and integrity. Matthew brings a unique perspective to the position, and will build on the positive momentum Al Thompson created. I appreciate his willingness to serve.”
Brown’s district includes the following Alabama counties: Baldwin, Butler, Covington, Conecuh, Crenshaw, Escambia, and Mobile.
Matthew Brown said in a statement, “I want to thank Governor Bentley for entrusting me with the great responsibility of serving on the State Board of Education. Education is the great stepping stone which enables young people to achieve success in our society. I look forward to working with families, teachers, local and State school board members, the legislature, and the Governor to ensure that our children are prepared to compete and be successful in Alabama and around the world.”
Brown is a graduate of the Pensacola Christian College and is a 2011 graduate of the Cumberland Law School. Brown is a member of the Baldwin County Young Republicans and works for Baldwin County.
Matthew and his wife, Sarah, have two children.