Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey lost in a landslide on Super Tuesday. So did Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh. And most members of the Alabama House and Senate.
You say they weren’t on Tuesday’s ballot? Well, yes, they were. They were the big sponsors of Amendment One, the proposed constitutional amendment that would have taken away Alabama voters’ right to elect the state school board.
The vote wasn’t even close. Amendment One didn’t just lose. It lost so badly that you have to wonder what Ivey, Marsh, and lawmakers were thinking. The amendment failed by more than 555,000 votes: 830,436 No (75.22 percent) to 273,592 (24.78 percent).
Allowing the governor to appoint the state school board was mainly a power grab. Ivey claimed she wanted the power to help improve education in Alabama.
Don’t they always?
More likely, Ivey was angling for the chance to make a few more political appointments for some of her cronies.
I’m not defending the state school board. It has some serious issues. But I am defending Alabama voters’ right to elect their school board members so that the board can remain independent.
You know an idea is really bad when both the chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party and the executive director of the conservative, paranoid Eagle Forum are on the same side opposing it.
House Ways and Means Chair Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, who supported the amendment, said: “Let’s take the Rs and Ds and primaries and general elections out of it, and let’s just put qualified persons on the board and let them make good, sound decisions.”
Yeah, that always happens with “appointed” boards, right? If you believe that, take a look at some of the whacky decisions made in the past by the Alabama State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners. Like the state school board would have been had Amendment One passed, the members of the state Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners are appointed by the governor.
Poole is wrong that appointing a school board removes the politics. It just shifts the politics from the voters to the governor.I think Democratic Party Chair Christopher England has it right: “As a state, Alabama ranks last — or close to last — in just about everything. Some might try and convince you that this is an effort to move public education forward, but greedy power grabs rarely lead to sustainable progress. Our state’s education system should not be used as a political football. Amendment One is another attempt to dismantle democracy, trading the will of the people for the wishes of one person.”
Ivey has used her popularity to do a lot of things, including raising the state’s gasoline tax, but voters drew a hard line in the sand on giving up their elected school board.
Yeah, many Alabama schools are crappy, but that’s not only the school board’s fault. We underfund many of our schools; where is Ivey’s proposal for a tax to help improve teacher pay?
And if Ivey and the Republican-controlled Legislature are eager to end elections for something, how about ending partisan elections for judges? We could do what some other states are doing: Finding truly qualified lawyers and appointing them to the courts where after six or eight years, they stand in a retention election. A judicial commission could be set up to screen the judicial applicants, and then it would send the names of three qualified attorneys to the governor for selection.
Politics truly has no place in the judiciary; judges are supposed to rule on the law, not filter their decisions through party affiliations.
But a school board? How the schools are run is, in the end, a question for all of us, not just the governor. On Amendment One, voters sent Ivey a really loud “No! No! 830,000 times No!”
Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column each week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]