Voters in Alabama will have a chance next March to approve, or turn down, a constitutional amendment that would replace our elected state school board with one appointed by the governor. Governor Ivey calls this the “Take the Lead, Alabama” initiative.
But right now she has one huge problem. The appointed 10-member state charter school commission has proven that it is little more than a bumbling, fumbling collection of ill-informed folks. And the governor appoints four of the ten members of this group. (The Speaker of the House appoints three, the President Pro Tem of the Senate appoints two and the Lt. Governor appoints one.)
As we’ve documented over and over, the charter commission’s handling of the applications to open Woodland Prep charter in Washington County and LEAD Academy in Montgomery has been a classic case of throwing common sense to the wind and failing to carry out due diligence.
On June 14 the Texas state board of education rejected a request from Soner Tarim to open new charter schools in Austin. (Tarim owns Unity School Services which has management contracts with both LEAD and Woodland Prep.) Yet on June 7 this same Soner Tarim appeared before the Alabama charter commission and they gave him everything he wanted and believed anything he said.
This is the same charter commission that ignored the recommendations of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers to deny the applications of Woodland Prep and LEAD Academy and approved them anyhow. And lo and behold, both Woodland Prep and LEAD Academy have management contracts with Tarim.
(Tarim recently told a group in Texas that the Alabama charter commission did not know what it was doing when it came to grading applications. Of all the things I have heard Tarim say, this may be the only statement I believe.)
While Tarim is new to Alabama, he is well-known in Texas, having opened his first charter school there in 2000. Which begs the question, what do folks in Texas know about him that folks in Alabama don’t? There are 15 elected members of the Texas board of education. Ten are Republicans, five are Democrats. The vote against Tarim was 8-5. Four Republicans voted against him.
The appointed charter commission is an albatross around the neck of Governor Ivey’s effort to get rid of an elected state school board. If you are really concerned about the future of education in Alabama, it will be impossible to vote for an appointed state school board that might be as unprofessional as the appointed charter commission.