By Larry Lee
In a strange twist of logic, apparently the chair of the House Education policy committee thinks it a crime for someone to speak out in support of public schools and said so in an email to some members of the State Board of Education.
Rep. Terri Collins of Decatur chairs the House Education policy committee. Since the State Board of Education has just begun a search for a new state school superintendent, Collins decided to weigh in–even though the Code of Alabama (section 16-4-1) is very clear when it states: (The superintendent) shall be appointed by the State Board of Education and shall serve at the pleasure of the State Board of Education.
It DOES NOT give power or authority to members of the legislature to make this choice.
The deadline for applicants for superintendent was noon, June 7. There are 12 applications, six from Alabama. Three of the Alabama applications are from current local superintendents.
But rather than trusting the State Board to do their job as directed by code, Collins has injected politics into the process by sending an email to some board members.
One of the applicants is Craig Pouncey, superintendent of the Jefferson County system and one time right-hand man for State Superintendent Tommy Bice. Collins’ email says, “I hope you do not consider him, he does not fit the priorities you set as a Board.” She says she opposes Pouncey because former Speaker Mike Hubbard wrote a letter to Bice telling him to not let Pouncey come back to the Statehouse.
And what was the “crime” Collins is concerned about? During a legislative hearing Pouncey stood up for public education when a legislator attached public schools.
Imagine that. A high-ranking education official goes to bat for public schools and the chair of a legislative committee says because of this they are unfit to run the state’s public school system. What am I missing?
To make matters even more strange, Collins’ contention about a letter from the Speaker is not true. There never was such a letter sent. I confirmed this with former State Superintendent Tommy Bice.
In fact, shortly after the incident Pouncey had a meeting with the Speaker, committee chair Mary Sue McClurkin, Rep. Ed Henry and Rep. Phil Williams to discuss the matter.
There are 105 members of the House of Representatives. There are eight elected members of the State School Board. This means one board member has about 13 times as many constituents as one house member does.
Yet Rep. Collins seems to have little regard for school board members. For instance, she had a bill in the past regular session to take the appointment of the state superintendent away from the state board and let the governor fill this position. In 2015, when the same board did not move quickly enough to suit her on making appointments to the new State Charter School Commission, Collins came up with a bill to strip them of making these appointments.
Ms. Collins would be well served to look at Alabama code section 16-3-11 which states: The State Board of Education shall exercise, through the State Superintendent of Education and his professional assistants, general control and supervision over the public schools of this state…”
Education is already way too “political” in Alabama. And this attempt by Rep. Collins to make it even more so serve no useful purpose.
Larry Lee led the study Lessons Learned from Rural Schools and is a longtime advocate for public education. [email protected] Read his blog: larryeducation.com