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Bill to abolish elected county superintendents stalled in Alabama House

(STOCK)

The Alabama House of Representatives rejected a proposal Friday to force all Alabama counties to adopt a system where the county board of education hires a school superintendent.

In many Alabama counties, the county school superintendent is an elected official over the schools analogous to the Sheriff with law enforcement. City systems already have appointed superintendents.

Senate Bill 222 was sponsored by State Sen. Tom Butler, R-Madison.

It was carried in the House by State Rep. Steve McMillan, R-Gulf Shores.

There was widespread Republican opposition to this from the moment it hit the House floor.

“What we are doing is carrying Alabama kicking and screaming into the 21st century,” McMillan said. “You can change it with a local constitutional amendment.”

“I have to have a local constitutional amendment to take care of my county,” said State Rep. Lee (R). “That will cost money and take time. I can change this now by killing your bill.”

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State Rep. Phillip Pettus (R) said the average length of tenure of an appointed Superintendent is two years.

“The people in my county don’t want an appointed school superintendent,” Pettus said.

“It is working in the rest of the country,” McMillan said.

“Our county is working fine and everybody is happy,” Lee said. “We are happy and content where we are in our own little red wagon.”

Lee said he had never come down to the well before to oppose anybody’s bill, but he is here now.

“Houston County is happy, and we don’t want to change anything,” Lee said.

“This is needed,” said State Rep. Brett Easterbrook. “In our rural counties, we cannot find qualified people who want it.”

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“There are some good bills on those other calendars,” said State Rep. Kyle South, R-Fayette.

“What are the qualifications to be on the school board?” South asked. “They don’t have to have any qualifications. They don’t even have to have a high school degree. What qualifications do they have to pick a superintendent?”

South made a motion to carry the bill over and asked that rule 32 be invoked. Under rule 32, only members in the chamber can vote. Normally, absent members allow their friends to vote their machines for them.

The motion to carry over failed 35 to 41 with a rash of late votes voting no on the motion.

State Rep. David Standridge, R-Hayden, said he had concerns about it.

“It does force my home county to appoint a superintendent where they now elect a superintendent,” Standridge said.

Standridge asked McMillan if his county, Baldwin, has an elected school superintendent.

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“No, we are in the 21st century,” McMillan replied.

“This does not affect your home county and yet you are telling me that you know better about my county than I do,” Standridge responded.

“We have tackled several big issues in this session,” said State Rep. Tracy Estes (R). “My hope is that this session has brought a seismic change in education. This is the next step.”

“I served on a school board for 15 years, and I have seen the advantages of this,” Estes said.

“Fortune 500 companies do not let the general public elect their CEOs,” Estes concluded.

State Rep. Connie Rowe, R-Jasper, asked to carry the bill over and that rule 32 be followed this time.

“There was evidence that rule 32 was not followed last time, please vote your machines,” said Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia.

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The motion to carried over passed 41 to 27.

The Senate voted sine die, followed by the House ending the 2019 regular Legislative Session.

The Alabama Political Reporter asked McCutcheon if he was surprised by the amount of opposition to the superintendents bill.

“No, I was not surprised at all,” McCutcheon said. “It failed to get the support to pass last year.”

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

DIG DEEPER

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McMillan had announced in January that he had three brain tumors and would not be seeking reelection.

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The University of Alabama’s Education Policy Center report, the last in the series, focuses on local leaders in the Black Belt.

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The association has endorsed House members Phillip Pettus, Ben Robbins, Prince Chestnut, Kenneth Paschal and Chris Blackshear.

Opinion

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