With 1,000 responses to our recent survey about an appointed vs. elected state school board, let’s take a final look at the numbers.
And the one that jumps off the page is that 96 percent will vote NO on amendment one to switch from an elected to an appointed state school board on March 3.
As might be expected from readers of this blog, the overwhelming majority are connected to public education. Some 25 percent are retired educators, 24 percent work for a public school system, but are not teachers, and 26 percent are teachers. That adds up to 75 percent.
(Which begs the question, why aren’t the groups who claim to represent various sectors of the education community telling people to vote NO? And how in the world can the Alabama Association of School Boards actually be in favor of amendment one? That is mind-blowing.)
One of the most interesting facts we found is that while it is Senator Del Marsh and his Republican supermajority friends who are backing this amendment, 43 percent of those who answered the survey say they are Republicans. This compares to 35 percent who are Independents and 22 percent who are Democrats. Are Marsh and his cronies that out of touch with their constituents?
But considering what happened in August when the state Republican executive committee met, that is a rhetorical question. On Aug. 24 this 461-member committee met and passed a resolution opposing Marsh’s amendment 64 percent to 36 percent.
Other facts about survey takers: 65 percent were female, 85 percent were Caucasian and 37 percent were 36 to 55 years of age, while 41 percent were 56 to 70.
Why did they vote no? Some 28 percent said they do not want to give up their right to vote and 65 percent said they do not trust the state senate to appoint people to the board who have the best interests of public education at heart. (While the amendment says the governor will appoint nine members to this board, they must be confirmed by the state senate. In other words, Marsh will handpick board members who will, in turn, pick a state superintendent. In effect, Marsh would be the czar of Alabama’s public schools.)
And 92 percent of survey responses say they have “very little” confidence in Marsh doing what is best for schools.
Given his track record on public education since becoming senate majority leader in 2011, this is hardly a surprise. After all, he sponsored the Alabama Accountability Act in 2013 that has now diverted $155 million from the Education Trust Fund to give scholarships to private schools and the charter school act of 2015 which is governed by an APPOINTED state charter commission that has made a mess out of charter applications in both Washington County and Montgomery.
While supporters of amendment one are quick to say those who oppose it simply want to protect the “status quo” in Alabama schools, the survey says this is untrue as 65 percent believe education here is going in the wrong direction.
Why do they feel this way? The fact that when asked to give the legislature a letter grade of A-F, 71 percent handed out either a D or an F is a strong indicator educators blame lawmakers for continuing to set education policy that is anything but helpful to public schools. (Only one respondent out of 1,000 graded the legislature an A.)
I do not know what will happen on March 3. But it is for certain that if amendment one passes, it will not be because of support from those who feel deeply about our schools.