Is Public Education in Alabama Poised on the Brink of Disaster?

Hyperbole?  Not really. Let's take a look at recent events and the GOP supermajority's plan to "fix" the state budget crisis during the special session set to reconvene the first week of August.


The first hit to public education came when Governor Robert Bentley appointed a 28-year-old man to a vacancy on the state school board.  He's not just relatively young; Matt Brown of Baldwin County has zero experience with public schools and is actively hostile to public education.

Brown said one of his motivations for seeking the position was to learn the educational structure of the state.

Does Governor Bentley really think that the State School Board is the proper venue for on the job training?  If Brown wants to "learn" about public education, maybe he should enroll his children in the public schools, volunteer at a school, or even run for his local school board before he injures every school child in this state with his inexperience. 

From Larry Lee's education blog:

Brown never attended public school, has stated that his children will not attend public schools and was head of the Educate Baldwin Now campaign that worked (successfully) to defeat an education tax referendum last March.  He is also an  opponent of Common Core, which is aligned with the Alabama College & Career standards.

The governor stated in a press release, “Matthew brings a unique perspective to the position.”  He is certainly right about that.  About like I (an avid Auburn grad and supporter) would do if appointed to the Board of Trustees at the University of Alabama.
As we know, the governor is a dermatologist and there is a group known as the Alabama Dermatology Society.  Would the governor nominate Matt Brown to serve as an officer with this group?  From where I sit, he seems to have just as much experience to do this as he does to be on the State Board of Education.

Insider speculation is that Governor Bentley traded this position for Senator Trip Pittman's cooperation on the budget deal Bentley hopes to push through. If true, it's no surprise to longtime observers of Alabama politics: Pittman has quite the history of insider deal-making and sweetheart contracts - not to mention an amazing affinity for Ten Commandments displays.

However, he has previously expressed  skepticism about a plan to combine Alabama's education and general fund budgets - a plan supported by Governor Bentley and many GOP legislative leaders.

In 2012, Gov. Robert Bentley floated a budget unification proposal, but the plan went nowhere. Senate Finance and Taxation Education chairman Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, said Friday that he was concerned that unifiying the budgets would not solve the General Fund problems, and possibly create another one within the school systems.

"Instead of the General Fund becoming the health care trust fund, you're going to make General Fund and the Education Trust Fund the health care trust fund," he said.
"I'd love to get the unified budget, but I've told Sen. Dial that until you get the Medciaid and prison situation under control, I think you have a hard time getting that done," he said.  

Even so, Senate President Pro-Tem Del March told the APT current affairs show "Capitol Journal" that he hopes to pass this bill during the special session.  Now the Governor has done Pittman a big favor by putting his unqualified buddy on the state school board. It's hard to believe though that Pittman comes that cheap.

Tell him what you think about this plan:  Trip.Pittman@alsenate.gov 



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