I think they did. And so does Josh Moon, who writes for the Alabama Political Reporter. Read his story here.
Here are parts of what Josh reports:
“There is a process in place to approve charter schools in Alabama.
When the Alabama Legislature passed the law allowing charters in the state, they spent some time putting together a written plan with steps that must be followed. Things like: any organization wishing to start a charter school must submit an application that includes a detailed plan with specifics about funding and student-teacher ratios and facilities.
That plan must be approved by the state’s charter school board, or by a local school board that has applied and received approval from the Alabama State Department of Education to become a charter school authorizer.
But before any plan can be approved, it must first be submitted to the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, to which the state pays an annual fee to have all charter applications reviewed. The NACSA then makes a recommendation to the state’s charter school board or the local school board authorizers.
Last year, LEAD Academy became the city’s first-ever charter school, despite failing to satisfy any of NACSA’s criteria and failing to receive its recommendation. LEAD also failed to receive a majority of the state charter board’s vote — a fact that has left it in limbo after the Alabama Education Association filed a lawsuit and a Montgomery Circuit Court judge blocked its approval.
And now, the approval of four conversion charters has been pushed through, despite that plan also failing to meet NACSA’s approval and despite the Montgomery County School Board failing to vote for the charters’ approval.
The four conversion charters will be operated by the Montgomery Education Foundation. To date, the MPS board members said, the Foundation has not presented the board with a plan for approval.
Under the current charter schools law, that’s an important step, since the Department of Education considers the MPS board an official charter school authorizer.
But their application was rejected by the state and sent back to MPS to work on. The primary issue, according to the board members and people within MPS who worked on the application, was funding — the system lacked the financial resources to set up and operate an office devoted to authorizing charters.
The MPS application also received an unfavorable review from NACSA.
ALSDE, however, takes another view. According to Michael Sibley, the department’s director of communications, MPS’ original application “was never denied.” Instead, it was “left in pending status.”
And although the MPS board never addressed any of the concerns raised by NACSA, last January, “(interim superintendent Ed Richardson) removed the pending status,” Sibley said.
“This is a lawsuit waiting to happen,” said an MPS employee. “There’s no way he has the authority to both approve the board as a charter authorizer and then approve four conversion charters using that authority.”
Josh raises valid points. I do not think due process has been followed.
Local education foundations are scattered all across the state. For the most part their role is to work with the local school systems and help them bring projects to fruition. Jefferson County has had one for years. They are housed in the building with the Jefferson County school system. Sally Price ran this organization for years and retired recently. I know her well.
She told me that were treated about like “a member of the family” and their purpose was to shore up efforts the system was putting in place and providing necessary financial support. Many foundations run grant programs for teachers to provide supplies the system can not fund. When I told Sally that the Montgomery foundation planned to get in the charter school business, she could not believe it.
I have never known what the Montgomery Education Foundation does. Nor can I find anyone who is a Montgomery principal or teacher who does either. When I was on the Montgomery school board, I asked other board members about MEF. They were in the dark as much as I was.
When I went on the board last September one of the first things I did was ask superintendent Ann Roy Moore if we could have a work session with the foundation. It never happened.
In the spring of 2018 MEF held a meeting at Lanier high school to tell the world how they planned to convert Lanier high, Bellingrath middle and Davis and E. D. Nixon elementary schools to charters. They had not discussed this plan with the MPS board, nor with any principals involved.
Some 15-20 local people spoke, NO ONE was in favor of the plan. Ed Richardson was there. Had Jesus spoken against this conversion it would not have mattered. We were just all standing beside the railroad while this train sped by.
I later had lunch with Ann Sikes, who runs the Montgomery Education Foundation. I asked how many blacks were on her board. She told me 27 percent. I told her that this didn’t look like either Montgomery which is 55 percent black, or the school system which is 78 percent black.. I asked how the board is selected. She told me they “self select.” I responded that this was like going to a family reunion looking for a date.
The Bourbon Democrats were the landowners, mill owners and mine owners who rose to power in Alabama after Reconstruction in the late 1800s. They wrote the 1901 Alabama Constitution that said my grandpa Horace Lee, a Covington County sharecropper, could not vote because he did not own land.
From what I know about this situation, you can’t tell me the Bourbon Democrats aren’t still alive and well in Montgomery.