By Larry Lee
For reasons yet to be determined, there is a concerted effort to destroy our public schools.
For months now Alabama public education has been the target of bad legislation, outright lies, out-of-state money trying to buy state school board and legislative seats and an attempt to manipulate the search for a new state school superintendent.
This latest volley in this crusade was the governor’s misguided statement that “education sucks.” A governor with one of the lowest approval ratings in the country, who has signed one bad education bill after another, misses most meetings of the state board of education where he is president and continues to take test results out of context to push a political agenda.
Here are things we’ve seen in the last 12 months. When you look at each in isolation, they are easily overlooked. But taken together, they clearly show the mindset our schools are fighting against.
- The infamous RAISE bill that wanted to force a discredited teacher evaluation system on us and that was roundly denounced by professional educators. The Business Council of Alabama supported this bill.
- The Business Council also spent $365,485 on three state school board campaigns, losing two of the three.
- The Alabama Federation for Children spent $74,458 on two state school board races, all of which came from out-of-state billionaires.
- State board member Matt Brown took $49,522 in billionaire money from the Alabama Federation for Children and then appointed their director, Ryan Cantrell, to the state Every Student Succeeds Act . He said the appointment and the contribution were not related.
- State Rep. Terri Collins sent an email to state board members telling them to not support Craig Pouncey for state school superintendent because of a letter Speaker Mike Huibbard sent to superintendent Tommy Bice about Pouncey. There was no such letter.
Which brings us to the “search” for a new state superintendent to replace Tommy Bice when four members of the state board and the governor voted to hire an attorney from Massachusetts who did not meet the school board’s own required qualifications.
It is now evident that this process was tainted and raw politics came before the well being of 740,000 public school students
A legislative committee investigating how an anonymous “smear sheet” used to discredit an applicant for state superintendent became public has met once.
We now know that all school board members got this bogus info on July 12 at a state board meeting. However, this was not signed or attributed to anyone, meaning that it would not be investigated by the Ethics Commission. But someone informed the Ethics Commission and they asked the state education department for a copy. Then the Ethics commission attorney sent a letter to the state department of education. This was sent to all state board members and soon became public.
We also now know that within a few days a member of the state board was at a Business Council of Alabama meeting telling senators that the candidate named in the smear sheet would not be considered for state superintendent because of the Ethics Commission complain. Only problem, there is not a complaint and never has been.
Clearly an insider was trying to taint the process. And clearly someone or some group is working had to undermine our public schools and going to any means to do so.
This is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG.
The fact that the governor publicly disparages all educators just shows how pervasive this culture has become.
Thankfully, 40 plaintiffs have created the Alabama Public School Defense Fund to seek legal action and sort through this corrupt process.
It is incredible that citizens have to take legal action to protect 740,000 students from the very state school board supposed to look out for them.
But bless those who are doing so and drawing the line in the sand. Among them are retired teachers, superintendents, school board members, local officials and even one former college president and one former U.S. Congressman.
They have already been joined by dozens and dozens who are funding this effort. But they need more.
Click here to visit their funding site. Please join them in standing up for our children.
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