There are only two candidates in the Republican primary on June 5 for District Two on the Montgomery County school board. I am one, the other is Ted Lowry.
To my dismay, Lowry has resorted to phone calls to voters to smear my campaign. Here is the transcript of the call he did on Monday night, May 21:
“But just months before he qualified to run as a Republican Larry Lee voted in the Democrat primary in the Senate Special Election. When real Republicans like us voted for our nominee, Larry Lee voted in the Democrat primary to choose his nominee. Larry Lee has run and lost four time as a Democrat, campaign manager for a Democrat congressional candidate (inaudible) was a paid contractor for the same special interest group who are fighting reforms in the Montgomery schools. Don’t be fooled by Larry Lee.
His record tells us who he really is—a Democrat who will fight against the reforms Montgomery schools desperately need. We can do better. Vote against Larry Lee in the June 5th primary.
Paid for by Lowry for school board, 1532 Old Park Row, Montgomery, AL 36117”
NOT A SINGLE WORD ABOUT WHAT HE WANTS TO DO TO HELP OUR 29,000 PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENTS.
Just more deceit and deception. Among the things Lowry fails to mention is that my candidacy has been challenged at both the local and state level. The local committee voted UNAMIOUSLY in my favor and the state steering committee voted overwhelmingly for me just last week.
Lowry talks about “real” Republicans. But wouldn’t real Republicans abide by what their local and state party has said Instead of trying to undermine them?
He also fails to mention that in 1968 (50 years ago) I was a member of the Jefferson County, AL Republican Executive Committee helping Judge Perry Hooper run for the U.S. Senate. I was a Republican way before it was “cool” or “convenient.”
And while Lowry trashes Democrats, he obviously does not know that four of the seven school board seats are now held by Democrats and a Republican cannot get anything done without working with them. It might help him to look at all the candidates running for the board on June 5. Some 17 of them are Democrats, only five are Republicans. Obviously he does not understand the reality of this community.
Just why is Lowry so desperate for a seat on the board?
Something he said at a candidate forum sponsored by the Montgomery Advertiser on May 10 may give a clue. He told this crowd that he had done research and three of the top four high schools in the United States are charter schools operated by the BASIS. Company in Arizona.
Not surprisingly, Lowry’s research left much to be desired. For example, as this article from the Washington Post explains, charter schools run by BASIS are woefully inadequate in representing public school populations in Arizona. While the statewide public school populations were three percent Asia, 45 percent Latino and 39 percent white, student bodies in 18 BASIS schools were 32 percent Asian, ten percent Latino and 51 percent white.
In fact, there were NO English Language Learners in the BASIS schools. IN ARIZONA!!
Neither did he mention that parents of students at these schools are “requested” to contribute $1,500 a year per child and that less than 50 percent of all students who enroll in a BASIIS school graduate from one. Finally, BASIS schools spend an average of $2,291 per pupil on administration while public schools spend $638.
My position on charter schools has always been that they should be carefully considered on a case by case basis. We should be diligent with our homework before we approve them.
But homework does not seem to be Lowry’s game plan. Rather, he had rather deal in half-truths and trash.
I have been in hundreds of classrooms and I’ve never seen one labeled as either Republican or Democrat. It is shameful that Ted Lowry puts politics ahead of school kids..
Diane Ravitch, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education under President George H. W. Bush, has endorsed me in my campaign for the Montgomery school board.
I am honored and humbled by this endorsement, because, without doubt, Diane Ravitch is one of this country’s leading advocates for public schools. The fact that she was an assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Education under President George H. W. Bush, gives this endorsement tremendous credibility.
Ravitch, whose last two books about education were New York Times best sellers, endorsed me on her blog, which receives 100,000 views per week. She says in part:
“Larry Lee is the real thing. He is running for the school board to fight for better schools. I hope the people of his district elect him to stand up for their children and their public schools.”
Ravitch has been a member of the National Assessment Governing Board and held the Brown Chair in Education Studies at the Brookings Institution. Nine universities and college have recognized her with honorary degrees.
She is also founder and president of the Network for Public Education. I was on the charter board of this national organization.
For someone of this stature to endorse a candidate for a local school board is highly significant.
In the last 24 hours I have read two articles that paint something of a stark picture of Montgomery these days.
One is about Montgomery public schools in the Montgomery Business Journal, a publication of the Chamber of Commerce. Here we learn that “seven out of ten Montgomery voters blame the Board of Education for Montgomery’s failing school system.” The article goes into detail about comments of interim state superintendent Ed Richardson discussing the plight of the schools here.
We are told that at the chamber’s annual meeting last December, Richardson asked 700 business and community leaders, “Do you really want good public schools for Montgomery?” The article goes on to say: “Montgomery’s public schools are failing; they’re failing the students they exist to serve; they’re failing the city and its residents whose tax dollars fund them. And they’re negatively affecting the business community by stifling economic development efforts.”
The other article that made a big impression is this one in The Montgomery Advertiser about LaDonna Brendle, who became so concerned about the homeless and needy that ten years ago she left her career in accounting and started Reality and Truth Ministries.
In the grand scheme of things, Brendle has not moved mountains or started something that swept the country, but she has had a HUGE impact on those she has helped.
An old saying goes, “If you want a helping hand, there is one at the end of your arm.”
This was the approach LaDonna Brendle embraced. However, as I go from setting to setting in my school board campaign, I don’t sense that this is the way it is with this school system..
For example, when Ed Richardson asked that roomful of people if they wanted good schools, his follow up question should have been, “So what are YOU going to do to make this happen?”
There was once a time when communities and schools were practically one and the same. This was OUR community and these were OUR schools. But I rarely hear anyone mention “OUR schools” these days. Instead, we want someone else to fix things. IF we just had a new school board? IF we just had a new superintendent? IF the state intervention will work?
I have referred to David Mathews little book, Is There A Public For Public Schools? many times. It is all about the disconnect we now have between communities and schools. He says, “The public and the schools haven’t had a divorce, but they are definitely separated.”
He also says, “The only way for the community to be a better place to live is for the people of the community to understand and accept their personal responsibility for what happens.”
There are many examples of individuals and businesses helping our schools. A few days ago I was at a meeting where the PTA gave the principal a check for $25,000–and this was after having spent $58,000 on school improvements in the last year. That was at a magnet school. The story is far different for most of our non-magnets.
Too often we sit around waiting for Santa Claus to show up. But Santa Claus is not in Washington, and he ain’t in the state capital down on goat hill.
If Santa Claus is going to show up in Montgomery and make our schools better, then it is up to each of us to go find a red and white suit.
As we explained a couple of days ago, after being challenged in March about running on the Republican ballot for Montgomery County Board of Education, I was challenged again by former legislator Perry Hooper, Jr. of Montgomery in late April.
I am happy to report that in a conference call on May 15, the steering committee of the state Republican party denied the challenge and we’re now on to the primary on June 5 (hopefully).
And while I don’t consider this a knockout by any means, I do consider it a win by all means.
From the get-go I thought this challenge was more frivolous than anything else. Why Hooper wanted to circumvent a decision made by his own home county, I will never know. It’s strange that those who scream the loudest about “states rights” when referring to mandates from the Federal government don’t apply the same logic at the state and local level.
But then, who said that there is much logic used in political decisions?
Pat Wilson is chair of the Montgomery GOP. She is a fine, fine person who spent more than 40 years in the classroom. She knows far more about education and the things that should be done than any of those pushing the challenge.
It was sickening to me to see her being put through all of this commotion needlessly. It was an insult to all the work she has done on behalf of the Republican party to be treated the way she was.
She made more than a yeoman effort in this matter. I will always be grateful to her.
It was both heart-warming and humbling that when I put out a call for help to friends across the state to send emails of support, so many responded. Especially retired educators.
I have connected most of the dots in this caper and know that the Business Council of Alabama does not want me on the Montgomery school board. Actually, I don’t believe this has anything at all to do with the local school board, instead it is an effort to get an ounce of blood as payback for my being willing to speak loud and long about the continuing attacks on Alabama public schools by certain groups. And BCA is standing at the head of the line.
There is no way that BCA can testify in favor of the Alabama Accountability Act and claim to want what is best for all the 730,000 children in our public schools.
BCA could be an extremely positive force for public schools if they wanted to be. It’s unfortunate that is not the path they have chosen.
There is a battle going on for the heart and soul of our public schools. And really for the heart and soul of Alabama.
So that battle has now landed on District 2 of the Montgomery School Board. A few square miles of east Montgomery are now a microcosm of what is taking place from Bayou La Batre to Bridgeport and from Smith’s Station to York.
Last night I sat in a packed auditorium of a Montgomery elementary school while the 5th grade performed their own version of a Broadway musical. It was delightful. Mamas and daddies clapped and took pictures and beamed when Johnny or Mary had a featured part.
This was Alabama at its best. This is what public schools are all about. About teachers who work tirelessly to teach some very awkward young man how to “dance” or some shy young lady to step to a microphone and recite lines with 500 pair of eyes staring at her. It’s about the PTA giving the principal a check for $25,000 to be used to make her school better.
It’s about the smell of popcorn and five-year old little sister squirming on the floor at the front of the room while big sister sings and dances.
I know that. It’s sad that others don’t. That instead, they think a school board election is only about bending others to their own will.
I am glad the battle continues.
At the top of the home page of this blog you can click a small box to make a campaign contribution to help us go forward. I will appreciate it with all my heart.
So, the attacks about my running for the Montgomery Board of Education continue.
This time I am branded as a racist. See it all here.
Someone went to the trouble to go back 36 years and dig up an article from the Montgomery Advertiser where a reporter said that I used a racial slur. I NEVER SAID THIS. And the reporter had no proof that I did.
This was my first encounter with what today is called “fake news.”
Notice that the headline on this article says:
“School Board candidate Larry Lee’s racial slur sparked controversy in 1980s”
It’s not until the seventh paragraph that my denial gets mentioned.
And someone wants the public to believe that a racist is running for a seat on the school board of a system that is 78.5 percent African-American. How much sense does that make?
Nor does it make any sense that two school superintendents, a retired principal, a retired teacher, two principals, a former dean of a school of education at a HBCU and the longtime director of the Montgomery HIPPY program, all of whom are African-American, would be supporting my campaign financially.
Nor does it make sense that I helped start the Black Belt Teacher Corps at the University of West Alabama to provide excellent faculty for Black Belt schools.
Nor does it make sense that I raised $17,000 to install showers at George Hall elementary school in Mobile. A school with 373 students, 367 of whom are African-American.
On the home page of this blog you see me standing with two sixth-graders at Dadeville Elementary. One, Alana Tolbert, is black while Addison Spakes is white. I wrote about being interviewed by them for their school’s morning TV show.
You can see this interview here. Judge for yourself how I interacted with these students.
Over the years I have been a consistent voice FOR public schools. I have spoken truth to power over and over when it comes to efforts by the Business Council of Alabama to control our schools and the woeful results of the Alabama Accountability Act that has now diverted $146 million from the Education Trust Fund and the madness of A-F school report cards that makes a mockery of the efforts of some of the hardest-working educators I know.
Have I stepped on some toes?
Which is why I am under attack now. This is NOT about a seat on the Montgomery school board. This is about the heart and soul of public education in Alabama. The same schools where 90 percent of our students go.
This is about greed and power and money.
And children be damned.
NEVER did I think that when I decided to run for the Montgomery school board things would turn as ugly, disgusting and sickening as they have.
And sadly, I have learned that there are some who put politics WAAY above anything that may benefit the school children of the state. It turns my stomach.
With the primary election three weeks away on June 5th, I am now being challenged about running on the Republican ballot. Though I was already challenged before the Montgomery County GOP in March and approved unanimously, I am now being challenged at the state level.
Terry Lathan is chair of the Alabama Republican Party. Sick and tired of the gossip and untruths being tossed around by certain people apparently wanting to handpick a Republican candidate (there are only two Republicans running for school board district two), following is part of an email I sent Ms. Lathan:
“I write in regards to the challenge to my being a Republican candidate for the Montgomery county board of education.
A year ago, running for any office at any level was the absolute last thing on my mind. I was busy writing my blog about public education (www.larryeducation.com), working on various education projects and generally enjoying retirement.
In early January my friend Durden Dean, Republican county school board member, told me he was moving to North Carolina and would not seek re-election. He encouraged me to run.
I considered doing so because I have a great deal of knowledge of the woeful state our public school system here is in and felt that my track record of involvement in public education could serve this system well.
Since I know Montgomery GOP chair Pat Wilson well, I called her and asked what was involved in qualifying. (I have no clue who her counterpart is with Montgomery Democratic party.)
I qualified on Jan. 29, paid my $200, and started putting a campaign together. Several weeks after this I learned my candidacy as a Republican was being challenged. There is only one other candidate in the Republican primary.
Honest, that night was rather weird. When I got to the appointed place, a man I had never met greeted me and told me how much he enjoyed my blog and agreed with it. Then he told me he was there to challenge me.
He said that he was neither a Republican or a Democrat and I really never understood on what basis he brought the challenge.
I made my presentation to the local committee, including documentation of contributions to Republican candidates, such as Jo Bonner, Martha Roby, and our mutual friend David Wheeler. In 2016 I also gave $1,000 to Adam Bourne of Chickasaw who was running for the state school board.
I was called later that night and told that the committee voted unanimously to allow me to run.
I assumed that was that. But was I wrong.
Perry Hooper, Jr. sent you a three-page letter on April 26 protesting my candidacy.
Since this was signed by Perry, the assumption would be he originated the challenge.
But that does not appear to be the case at all. At a local GOP event on May 5, Pat Wilson asked Perry why he was challenging me. He told her that “they” brought him the info and asked him to do it. He also told Pat that “they” was Will Fuller, a member of the Young Alabama group.
Earlier this past week Bill Britt talked to Fuller and was told that Perry was the “stooge” they were using for the challenge.
Which brings me to this point. If a letter of challenge is signed by someone, isn’t it normal to assume they are acting on their own–not fronting for another party?
Someone should ask Perry if he received any compensation for doing this. If this were the case, then he was simply selling his seat on the executive committee for personal gain.
As you recall, Perry was involved last fall in a situation in Crenshaw County where he attempted to interfere with the local GOP organization.
I attach the letter you wrote to Perry after this episode.
And I cut and paste part of this letter.
While the apology you sent to the Crenshaw County chairman is appreciated, the ALGOP Steering Committee wants to make it clear that we support our county parties and their respective chairmen to handle their business. We need everyone to work in concert with our groups and respect their authority.
Which begs the question of why it appears that one standard was applied to Crenshaw County–but is not being applied to Montgomery?
Perry also spoke in his challenge about the fact that I once had a small contract with AEA. (Of course, he never mentioned that I also had contracts with the Council for Leaders of Alabama Schools (CLAS) and the School Superintendents of Alabama)
I did have a contract with AEA for several months. One day I ran into Henry Mabry at the statehouse (then exec secretary of AEA) and he told me he enjoyed my blog and asked who paid me to do it. I told him no one, that all the expenses and travel associated with it came out of my pocket. He suggested that they could give me $2,000 a month to defray expenses. Being retired with no income other than a social security check, I was glad to get it.
NEVER did anyone with AEA ask me to write anything on the blog or give me any kind of direction as to editorial content.
The particular irony here is that at the same time I was getting $2,000 a month from AEA, Perry, his father and his brother were collectively getting $16,000 a month from them.
I attach an AEA document that verifies this.
This past week Todd Stacy, who does a political news blog, questioned Perry about his AEA money. Here is his response:
I asked Hooper about it. He said former AEA head Henry Mabry contracted him for strategic counsel on rebranding the organization to Republican voters and redirecting its objectives within the GOP supermajority in the Legislature.
“I gave advice to help Henry chart a more conservative path. We tried to find ways to change AEA for the better, to find common ground for them with Republicans,” Hooper told me.
And he and his family were getting $16,000 A MONTH for doing this?
The other issue this seems to have some up in arms is that I voted in the Democratic primary in the special election in 2017.
I was NOT going to vote for Roy Moore. So, I voted in the Dem primary. Here is the real irony to me, had I voted in the GOP primary and then voted for Doug Jones in the general no one would be saying a word.
However, that would have been dishonest.
But apparently, we’re in a situation where honesty means little.
I was not an elected official in 2017, nor a candidate, nor an official with any political party. I had signed no loyalty oath.
Let me close by saying that had I had any inkling when I qualified in January that i would be involved in this mess, I WOULD NEVER have signed up.
This school system is a WRECK of the highest order. We desperately need good leadership. However, it is obvious that the well-being of the 29,000 students in our public schools is not being considered in the least bit in this matter. Instead, we are once again using children as the rope in a political tug of war.
This is shameful.
Jo Bonner and I have been great friends since 1982. We have had many conversations about why it is so hard to get decent people to seek political office.
What I am now going through is exhibit A.
June 5 is three weeks from this Tuesday. But here I sit, having spent $19,000 telling folks to vote for me in the Republican primary and I’m left to twist in the wind.
God help us all.
At this point I am so beaten down about all of this and so disgusted that politics of this nature is being used at the local school board level, I don’t know how to feel.
However, if you are going to kick me out, please go ahead and do it. Enough of this Chinese water torture.
I have no clue how this will all turn out. But I do know that all of this has NOTHING to do with better educating our children.