Rep. Terri Collins of Decatur chairs the Education Policy Committee in the House of Representatives. So it is only natural that she comes up with her share (and then some) of education-related bills. I give her credit for that. However, I can’t remember a single one that I thought made much sense.
Take the latest one filed April 12. Presently the state board of education hires the State Superintendent of Education. There are eight elected members of the SBOE and the governor serves by virtue of his office. He has one vote, just like all the other members.
However, the Collins bill would make the state superintendent a member of the governor’s cabinet and he/she would be hired by the governor and serve at their pleasure.
Collins told Mary Sell, Decatur Daily reporter, “Right now, we have a state board that appoints the superintendent, who then, in all practicality, is to superviese and direct them. Well, if (the superintendent) were to supervise or direct in any way that (the board) didn’t want to go, they could just fire him.”
Excuse me. The SBOE works for the state superintendent? That is news to me and I imagine to all eight elected members of the SBOE.
(During my career I worked for several organizations with boards. I was hired by the board. Never once did I think the board worked for me.)
Collins said that she took the bill to Governor Bentley in March and waited for his support before she filed it. However, the governor’s spokeswoman told reporter Sell he was “neutral” on the bill. But he was anything but neutral at the state board meeting on April 14 when he told SBOE member Stephanie Bell of Montgomery that this was not his bill and that he did not support it.
Collins had 14 co-sponsors for the bill. I have known several of them for a long time and asked them why they were supporting it. Two told me that Collins said that she had been asked to come up with the legislation by members of the SBOE. This group is now in the middle of selecting a new state superintendent to replace Tommy Bice. Several have told me that this will be the most important decision they will make during their current term of office.
And some want to give up this responsibility?
Granted, strange things often happen in Montgomery. But this is one tale I just can’t buy. Especially after talking to several state board members who were not hesitant to say Collins’ bill was a bad idea.
To Collins credit, she has now withdrawn her bill, telling the Tuscaloosa News, “Some different things developed and I don’t see the need for it at this time.”
But let me make a suggestion. Since Collins thinks the state’s chief executive officer should hire the state superintendent, wouldn’t this same logic be true for local school systems? The Decatur City School System is presently searching for a new superintendent to replace Ed Nichols who is retiring. Why doesn’t Rep. Collins introduce a local bill for Decatur that says the new superintendent should be hired by the mayor (the city’s chief executive officer) instead of the Decatur Board of Education?
After all, if this is a good idea for the entire state, wouldn’t it also be a good idea for House District Eight?