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Alabama Republican Executive Committee votes to oppose abolishing elected school board

Alabama State Board of Education

Saturday, the Alabama Republican Executive Committee voted in favor of a resolution opposing a state constitutional amendment

Constitutional amendment 284, if ratified by the voters, would replace the elected school board with a school commission appointed by the Governor. The amendment also repeals the highly unpopular Common Core standards, but requires that the Board replace the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards with “national standards.”

The bill to abolish the state school board was introduced by State Senator Del Marsh (R-Anniston), who has championed various education reform proposals over the last nine years. Marsh argued that the state has the worst public schools in the entire country, based on test scores over the last five years, and needs to institute reforms, reforms that the school board has been reluctant to implement. The bill passed the Senate unanimously. Governor Kay Ivey (R) strongly supports the legislation to change how K-12 schools are governed. The legislation passed the House with broad bipartisan support.

While both parties supported the measure in the legislature, it has been widly condemned by conservative grass roots groups, who were already angry with the legislature over the passage of a ten cent a gallon increase in fuel taxes, without a vote of the people. As a state constitutional amendment, c.a. 284 has to go before the voters of Alabama to be ratified.

A wide bipartisan array of grassroots opposition has since arisen opposing c.a. 284. The critics are upset that if passed by the voters, it would strip the voters of the right to elect their own representatives on the state school board and would concentrate far too much power in the hands of whoever happens to be the governor at that time.

The Alabama Republican Party Resolutions Committee, chaired by Ed Isom, approved the resolution opposing c.a. 284 and urged executive committee members to approve the resolution.

Republican executive committee member and outspoken Common Core opponent Mike Parsons told the committee that putting the requirement of a “national” standard in the state constitution “Will lock Alabama into national” standards like Common Core and any future changes that might occur at the national level the state would be forced to adopt; and there would be nothing that Alabama parents could do about it.

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State Senator Sam Givhan (R-Huntsville) said that most voters can not even name who represents them on the state school board.

Givhan said that the state board oversees a $400 million bureaucracy that could be better managed and that he was elected to the Senate because of his opposition to Common Core.

Former State Senator Phil Williams (R-Rainbow City) said that all of the top-performing states in education have appointed a board and that the legislature created a newly appointed board two years ago to run the two-year college system and they were doing a great job.

Phil Williams now works for the highly influential Alabama Policy Institute.

Givhan, seeing that there were far more executive committee members in the line to speak in favor of this resolution than there were members joining him and Williams at the microphone for members opposed to it, moved that debate be ended and the matter brought to a vote.

“I can see where this is headed,” Givhan said making the motion to cut off debate. “If we are going to have a rat killing, then lets have a rat killing,”

The resolution opposing amendment 284 was passed by the Alabama Republican Executive Committee 65 to 35 percent.

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The matter will ultimately be decided by Alabama voters. The Republican Governor and almost all of the state legislature are urging voters to approve the controversial constitutional amendment.

Nearly a two-thirds majority of Republican Party Executive Committee voted for the resolution to formally opposes the amendment. This means that the Republican Executive Committee is formally urging voters to go to the polls and reject the amendment.

The Alabama Democratic Party Executive Committee has not yet met to make a recommendation on where they stand on c.a. 284.

The voters of Alabama will get to decide whether they want to keep electing their state school board members or not when they vote on March 3 in the major party presidential primaries.

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

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