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GOP candidates for State Education Board seat discuss priorities

At a forum hosted by far-right nonprofit LOCAL Alabama, candidates for District 3 on the ALBOE spoke about challenges facing schools and “the woke agenda.”

“(Founding father) John Jay once said ‘I consider education to be the soul of the country;’ I agree,” Ann Eubank, a candidate for District 3 on Alabama’s State Board of Education, said on a zoom forum hosted by LOCAL Alabama Tuesday. “Our country in grave danger of losing its soul.”

Eubank’s remarks set the tone for a candidate forum that largely focused on attacking critical race theory, social emotional learning and diversity, equity and inclusion—although Eubank was far and away the loudest in that regard.

LOCAL Alabama is a far-right nonprofit that has hammered the issue of social emotional learning in the classroom and the “Marxification of education” as pressing issues in the state’s schools.

Eubank was joined by her opponents in the Republican primary: former State Rep. Charlotte Meadows and Kelly Mooney, wife of State Rep. Arnold Mooney. Both Meadows and Mooney also hit on the “woke agenda,” though not nearly as hard as Eubank, and also spoke more on issues facing the schools including chronic absenteeism and teacher recruitment and retention.

“The American Lung Association has a saying, ‘If you can’t breathe, nothing else matters’—similarly, if you’re not in school, nothing else matters,” Meadows said. “To me that is a really critical problem, and there are some significant things we can do like taking the Helping Families Initiative statewide.”

Meadows also highlighted student discipline as a concern, stating that discipline has gotten worse since Covid, and a shortage of trained and qualified teachers.

Mooney said the state BOE needs to focus on closing achievement gaps, particularly between students of different socioeconomic or ethnic backgrounds. The board should also prioritize curriculum standards and funding transparency, Mooney said. 

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“We need to focus time on core subjects, remove Common Core, teach historically accurate and strong civics, and stay away from gender ideology— that’s for parents to address in homes,” Mooney said.

According to Eubank, the number one problem facing education is the “Marxification of education.”

“During Covid, parents learned what their children were being taught,” Eubank said. “Parents staying home could not believe what was being taught to their children and the radical agenda being used, not history, math and science. We expect them to learn history, math, science, reading—like we were back in the old days, but that’s not what’s happening now. They’re teaching Critical Race Theory, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and—worst of all—using social emotional learning and critical pedagogy instead of teaching concrete facts.”

A moderator asked each candidate how they would prefer Education Savings Accounts to be approached, although that would likely be dictated by the Legislature after Gov. Kay Ivey reveals her proposal at her State of the State address next week.

Meadows pointed to her school choice bill from her time in the House in 2022 as a roadmap, and said there should be no barriers to students having the opportunity to access the ESAs and private schools should be required to post testing data to the public to ensure accountability.

Mooney said she would want to ensure there were diverse options among private schools, with equitable access and would need to create the program after engaging with all stakeholders. She also said it is important that there is accountability to make sure students are getting a good education. 

Eubank said she would follow the Hillsdale model, a conservative college that already has one “classical education” charter school coming to Prattville in the near future. The schools were created as a conservative answer to perceived liberal biases in public education.

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Each candidate was also asked what consequences a teacher should suffer if caught teaching DEI or CRT concepts in the classroom.

Eubank said she would like to see the teachers sent to be “reeducated” on the first offense, and fired after the second offense, but noted firing public school teachers is a difficult process.

Meadows relayed a story about a student being sent home with homework that mentioned “two mommies and two ladies” and that teacher being told that wasn’t acceptable and resolving the situation. She noted charter school teachers are not usually tenured and can be let go at the end of the school year,

Mooney said she would go up the chain the command to resolve the issue if not satisfied, and said there “is no place for that in the classroom.”

The primary is set for March 5.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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