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Alabamians: Keep elected state board of education

By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

Alabamians on Tuesday said they want to keep their ability to vote for the state’s K-12 leaders.

Amendment One was defeated soundly, with more than 1.1 million vote cast, about 75% were “no” votes, according to unofficial results from the Alabama Secretary of State. The amendment would have done away with the current elected Alabama State Board of Education that oversees K-12 education, replacing it with a governor-appointed commission.

“I’m proud of the people of the state,” current board member Jeff Newman, a Republican who represents the Shoals and a portion of the Tennessee Valley, said Tuesday night. “I like to work for the people, the schools belong to the people.” 

“… There’s no doubt we have work to do in education, we do; but we need the means to do it.” 

The amendment’s defeat is a loss for Gov. Kay Ivey, who was its chief advocate. It also had the support of other state GOP leaders and a coalition of groups led by the Alabama Farmers Federation, who pinned schools’ poor achievement rankings on the board of eight elected members.

But some, including the Alabama Republican Party’s executive committee, opposed the amendment that would end Alabamians’ ability to elect state education leaders, something they’ve done for about 50 years.

“Amendment One was a bold and ambitious effort to transform our state’s public schools.” Ivey spokeswoman Gina Maiola said Tuesday evening. “Gov. Ivey was willing to step out and support this idea because she firmly believed leadership – and change – started with the Board itself. Tonight, however, it appears the fear of losing the right to elect our state school board members was greater than the confidence we had that fundamental change could be made. While disappointed, the governor’s resolve to improve our public education system remains intact.”

The 2019 legislation that allowed Tuesday’s vote also directed a new commission to adopt a new course of study to replace Common Core in the state, controversial standards first adopted by the board in 2010. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, also called for new assessment and accountability systems.

“I am disappointed, we had the opportunity to fundamentally reform education in this state unlike we had seen at any point in the past 50 years and move to a system that has proven to work in the states which are top ranked in education across the country,” Marsh said Tuesday night.

“Obviously, the voters disagreed with this reform and I accept that, however the status quo is not acceptable. We are failing our children and the future of our state if we allow ourselves to remain last in the country in education. This is not the end. I look forward to continuing to look for education reform measures to improve education in Alabama.”

Lawmakers and the state board have butted heads in recent years, with the Legislature frustrated at slow implementation of its laws, including a way to grade individual schools and the creation of charter schools.

“I just hope (the defeat of the amendment) shows the Legislature that nothing is gained by finger pointing,” Board member Jackie Zeigler, a Republican from Mobile, said.  We have to work together to advance students, she said.

While some large groups supported the amendment and put money into campaign advertising, Zeigler said the opposition was grassroots.

Several local superintendents took to social media Monday and Tuesday, saying they were voting no. 

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