With the first 700 responses to our latest survey now in, it’s time to see what folks are saying about the March 3 vote to change from an elected state school board to an appointed one.
Some 95 percent say they will vote NO on this amendment. (When we asked the same question in a July survey, 89 percent said no.)
If this constitutional amendment passes, the governor will appoint nine members to a commission known as the Alabama Commission on Elementary and Secondary Education. Members will serve a six-year term and can not serve more than two terms. One member will be appointed from each of the present school board districts. They will appoint a secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education.
However, all appointments by the governor must be confirmed by the state senate. So in reality, the senate will call the shots.
Alabama had an appointed board until voters passed an amendment in 1969 to switch from appointed to elected. Consensus was that an appointed board only answered to the appointing authority (governor) and local voters and school systems had little input into education policy.
Obviously those who answered the survey are not interested in returning to a system once considered “failing.”
But before digging deeper, let’s look at who responded.
As might be expected, these 700 have close ties to public education. Retired educators made up 29 percent of responses, teachers were 30 percent and those who work for public school systems, but are not teachers, were 30 percent. And 53 percent have either children or grandchildren in public schools.
When it comes to political affiliation, 37 percent are Republicans, 37 percent are Independents and 26 percent are Democrats. Females were 64 percent of those who took the survey, 83 percent were Caucasian, 38 percent were from age 36 to 55 and 40 percent were from 56 to 70.
Why did those who will vote no do so? Some 23 percent say they do not want to give up their right to vote, while 70 percent say they do not trust the state senate to make good choices about who should be appointed to the state school board.
This distrust of the legislature is intense. When asked to give the legislature a letter grade of A-F, 71 percent handed out Ds and Fs. Only 21 percent gave them a C. And distrust of senate majority leader Del Marsh is even more intense. Some 93 percent say they have very little confidence in Marsh to do what is best for public schools.
No doubt this comes from his record since taking control of the senate in 2011. For example, he was the sponsor of the Alabama Accountability Act which has now diverted more than $150 million from the Education Trust Fund to give scholarships to students attending private schools, he sponsored the charter school law of 2015 which has led to major problems with charter schools in Montgomery and Washington County and he supported the 2012 law giving a letter grade to schools which is considered worthless by most educators.
While critics of our public schools claim educators are simply wanting to protect the “status quo,” this survey says that is not the case. For example, 61 percent believe education is going in the wrong direction. But they place the blame for this on education policy passed by the legislature, not on educators.
As we have pointed out before, the vote on March 3 is really more about how the public feels about the legislature and their too-often misguided attempts to pass unreasonable education policy, than it is about whether we should have an elected or an appointed school board. The disconnect between those in the statehouse and those in classrooms is about as wide as the Grand Canyon.
As long as this is the case, we will never have meaningful progress in Alabama. Until some folks on goat hill decide to try to build some bridges instead of burning them, the 700,000 students in our public schools will be the ones who pay the price.
A great number of those who will vote no on this amendment are the very people critics of public schools claim to represent. White, female and Republican. There are 27 Republican senators in Alabama. None of them are female. All 27 voted to support Del Marsh’s call for an appointed school board.
There are more female voters in Alabama than male. It appears that the Republican supermajority is largely out of sync with this voting bloc.
More than 600 people across Alabama have now responded to our survey about an elected vs. appointed state school board.
But the more, the better.
Go here to add your voice to those who have already taken the survey.
And be sure and ask others to give us their opinion as well.
We’re now just four months away from a CRITICAL vote regarding Alabama public education.
On March 3 voters will be asked to vote FOR or AGAINST Amendment One. A YES vote will be to abolish our elected state school board and replace it with a board appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state senate. A NO vote means you want to keep the right to vote for your state school board member.
Alabama switched from an appointed to an elected board 50 years ago because the consensus was that an elected board was more accessible to local voters and educators.
Respond to the survey which you find here. Your response is anonymous.
And please pass this along to friends and colleagues and ask them to respond as well.
Results will be posted in a few weeks.
We posted a survey on July 2 asking readers how they feel about an elected vs. an appointed state school board. Response was tremendous as more than 1,000 answered the survey, even though we were bumping heads with the 4th of July.
The vote was overwhelmingly opposed to an appointed board, by 89 percent to 11 percent.
However, since the format of a survey such as this limits information you can obtain, need a favor.
If you were one of the many hundreds who said you would vote NO, I would like to probe your reasoning some. So I am asking that you send me an email (email@example.com). The reason being that I would like to ask you a few more questions and dig a bit deeper.
Any info I get will be kept confidential. And as always, appreciate your help and the fact that you read this blog.
Editor’s note: We use Survey Monkey for feedback on education issues. Unlike surveys used for political polling, responses are not sorted to reflect the general population of a certain area such as a state senate district where those polled reflect the district’s demographics. However, because the number of respondents is usually very large, we get a very good sense of trend lines. More than 6,500 companies worldwide use Survey Monkey, often to gather information on market share.
In the presidential primary of next March 3, Alabama voters will vote whether or not to adopt a constitutional amendment to switch from an elected state board of education to one appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state senate.
The first 1,000 responses to the survey we posted on July 2 were overwhelmingly supportive of keeping an elected board–to the tune of 89 percent in favor of our present system, to only 11 percent who will vote to change it.
But it is important to see who answered the survey. Some 44 percent are teachers, with an additional 31 percent employed in some capacity other than teaching, by a school system. Some 58 percent have children or grandchildren in a public school. Forty-nine percent say they are Republicans, compared to 20 percent Democrats. Respondents were 73 percent female, 86 percent Caucasian and 52 percent between the ages of 36 to 55.
So the sample is top-heavy with those involved with education. But it is important to note there are more than 50,000 public school teachers in Alabama who can be expected to weight in heavily on this issue with family and friends.
Which is to say that any effort to approve this Constitutional Amendment appears to be a very uphill battle.
The only real message to voters to get them to support an appointed board is to tell them that our present system is not working. But our survey shows this may not work.
When we asked the question: Do you believe education in Alabama is going in the right direction, or the wrong direction?, 62 percent said wrong direction. So telling them we should change direction becomes something of a moot point. The question we did not ask, but is very germane to everything is, Why do you think it is going in the wrong direction?
However, answers to a couple of other question may give us a hint. When asked how much confidence they have in Governor Ivey to put qualified people on the state board, 50 percent said they did. Since the constitutional amendment calls for the senate to confirm gubernatorial appointments, we also asked about the confidence level respondents have in the senate to confirm competent appointees. Only 17 percent said they trust them.
So, it is not hard to believe that while folks are not happy with the direction education is going, they have little confidence in politicians to make necessary changes. When you look at what the legislature has done to education since 2012 with things like A-F school reports cards, the Alabama Accountability Act and the charter school law, it is easy to see why.
It appears that respondents have more tolerance for the state school board than they do for legislators. For example, the state board hired Eric Mackey as superintendent in the Spring of 2018. Those answering the survey don’t have a high opinion of his job performance. Only 37 percent gave him an A or B, while 63 percent said he should get a C, D or F. He got more Fs than As, This is consistent with the evaluations he recently got from the state school board.
Which simply means that the March 3 vote may well be more a referendum on our current political leadership than it is about education. (There is no doubt that recent actions of the appointed state charter school commission are definitely hurting those wanting an appointed state school board.)
The law setting up the constitutional amendment vote also directs an appointed board to set new study standards to replace Common Core standards. Given how Common Core has been vilified, this would seem a good ploy to entice people to vote for change. But 69 percent of respondents say our version of these standards known as Alabama College & Career Ready should NOT be replaced.
So this approach may not be as fruitful as some who drafted the legislation thought.
And the following question may be as revealing as any we asked: Under the present system of electing state school board members, candidates must raise money to run their campaigns. This often comes from political action committees. Under the proposed new system, do you believe the lobbyists who control these political action committee will still play a major role in who is selected?
It is not surprising that 73 percent said yes.
In other words, respondents don’t think you can take politics out of politics.
So why change?
In addition to voting for candidates for president next March 3rd, Alabama voters will decide YES or NO on a constitutional amendment as to whether to switch from the present elected state board of education to one appointed by the governor.
If approved, the amendment gives the governor the authority to select a nine-member Alabama Commission on Elementary and Secondary Education. Appointments would have to be confirmed by the state senate. Members would serve staggered six-years terms. They would appoint a state education secretary.
The proposal also includes a directive for the new commission to set new standards to replace Common Core curriculum standards.
What do you think? Here is your chance to be heard. Respond to our survey which you find here.
It will take three to four minutes. As always, your response is anonymous.
We hope you will fill out this survey and that you will also pass it along to friends and colleagues and ask them to as well.. The more, the better.
Results will be posted in a few weeks.