BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – In seven months, Alabamians will go to the polls to decide whether to change the Alabama State Board of Education to one appointed by the governor and Senate or to keep it as an elected entity.
However, a recent action by the Alabama Republican Party could influence the outcome of the vote.
During the state party’s biannual meeting in Auburn this past weekend, the group approved a resolution opposing the constitutional amendment that would make the state’s school board an appointed one. During the spring legislative session, Sen. Del Marsh introduced the bill, which was later passed and added to the upcoming March ballot.
In a written statement, ALGOP Party Chairperson Terry Lathan said that in addition to denying the opportunity to vote for their own board representative, one part of the reason the ALGOP opposed the amendment was regarding educational standards that some of the group have issues with.
“Two of the repeated reasons given by members was not being able to directly elect the state school board members and concerns that the word ‘standards’ could be interpreted as Common Core ‘standards,’ to paraphrase their presentations,” Lathan said.
In the past few years, there have been a couple of bills introduced in the Alabama Legislature to do away with elected school board members, but they traditionally never made it far. However, with support from Gov. Kay Ivey, Marsh was able to garner support for the bill.
As part of the bill, the school board’s name would be changed to the “Alabama Commission on Elementary and Secondary Education,” which would be made up of nine members selected by Ivey and confirmed by the Senate.
On Monday, Marsh told CBS 42 that he will work to get the word out on why it would be better for the state to have an appointed board.
“The way we’ve done it in Alabama is not working,” said Marsh, R-Anniston. “Alabama is ranked 50th in education. We have to fix this.”
Marsh, who was not at the ALGOP’s meeting Saturday, said it is possible that the group did not have all the facts about the resolution and that Alabama would be better off with an appointed board.
“Had I been there to explain to them, it may have gone differently,” he said.
Ivey has also championed the concept, calling it part of her “Take the Lead, Alabama” initiative. In a statement sent by her office Monday, Ivey said students in Alabama deserve to have the best education possible, but are currently not getting it.
“Supporting Amendment 1 removes the state board from the whims of the election cycle,” Ivey said. “Currently, Alabama is one of only six states without an appointed board – it’s time we finally align ourselves with other high-achieving states. We need education leaders and a structure that works in the best interest of our students, and Amendment 1 offers a bold plan that Alabamians can support.”
Marsh said that at the beginning of 2020, he will roll out a sizable media campaign to tell both his constituents and the people of Alabama about why the current school board needs to be changed.
Lathan said that despite what the Alabama GOP has passed, the decision will ultimately be decided by the people of Alabama on March 3.
“I believe citizens will look forward to having information on this important topic that will be on our ballot,” Lathan said.