Governor, state leaders begin push to abolish elected school board

Governor, state leaders begin push to abolish elected school board

Photo credit: Governor’s Office/Hal Yeager

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Monday urged voters to approve a proposal to abolish the elected state school board and replace it with an appointed commission.

The governor said she is urging every Alabamian to support the constitutional amendment, which will go before voters next year. Her office called the effort the “Take the Lead, Alabama” initiative, saying it “will shake up how we do things in our state to improve educational outcomes for students in every region.”

“As a former teacher, I recognize that strong leadership and a strong plan are necessary components to improving our education system,” Ivey said in a statement.

Sen. Del Marsh speaks at a news conference to build support for his proposed constitutional amendment scrapping the state’s elected school board and move to an appointed commission to preside over education policy. (Governor’s Office/Hal Yeager)

Ivey has championed the change that supporters say is aimed at ensuring education experts are making education policy decisions. Only a few states have elected state boards. Critics, including current board member Stephanie Bell, have disparaged the proposal as a power grab.

The proposed new nine-member Alabama Commission on Elementary and Secondary Education would consist of members — including one from each congressional district — appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate. The commission would appoint a state education secretary who would replace the current state superintendent of education. The position would also have to be confirmed by the Senate.
Commission members would serve six-year staggered terms.

The proposal says the governor “shall ensure” that the commission membership reflects the geographical, gender, and racial diversity of the public school enrollment. Ivey on Monday signed related legislation that says the governor must consult with minority legislative caucuses when appointing minority commission members.

Alabamians will vote on the proposal on March 3, 2020, the same day as the presidential and U.S. Senate primaries.

The Alabama Legislature approved the constitutional amendment in lopsided votes, but critics said they thought it would interject politics or remove voters from decisions.

Bell, a longtime member of the Alabama Board of Education, told The Associated Press last month that elected board members must be responsive to people in their district.

According to the National Association of State Boards of Education, as of last year Alabama was one of seven states with an elected board. Another state has a board that is partially elected and partially appointed.

The proposal before voters also includes a directive for the new commission to set new study standards to replace Common Core curriculum standards.

Common Core is a set of standards delineating what benchmarks students must reach in math and English at the completion of each grade level. The standards were developed by the National Governors Association and adopted by 40 states. But they became a frequent target of Republicans after President Barack Obama’s administration pushed states to adopt them.