The votes have now been counted in the Oct. 24 elections in Louisiana, including those for eight members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary education (BESE). Under Governor Bobby Jindal (who was term limited and could not seek re-election) and his hand-picked state superintendent, John White, the Pelican state has been a hotbed of what is generally known as “corporate education reform.”
In an effort to make sure many of these so-called reforms did not fall by the wayside, enormous amounts of out-of-state money ended up in campaigns for BESE for incumbents and newcomers who support these efforts.
As Danielle Dreilinger of Nola.com points out in this article, as much as $3.5 million in out-of-state funds were spent on the BESE races. And apparently it had an impact as the pro corporate reform folks maintained their majority on the state board.
We have eight elected members of the Alabama State Board of Education. Four run every two years. In 2016, seats up for election are District 1 in southwest Alabama where Governor Bentley’s appointee Matt Brown has qualified to run; District 3 where longtime incumbent Stephanie Bell of Montgomery has drawn a primary opponent, District 5 where incumbent Ella Bell is expected to run again and has a primary opponent in Joanne Shum of Montgomery; and District 7 in northwest Alabama where incumbent Jeff Newman is so far unopposed.
It will be interesting to see who funds these campaigns. We know that outside interests have already found Alabama because StudentsFirst of Sacremento, CA has 10 lobbyists registered with the Ethics Commission and spent $200,000 on state legislative and school board races in 2014. (Since this group does not file info with the Alabama Secretary of State, you can not determine their source of funds.)
Also the new group, Alabama Federation for Children, raised and spent $350,000 on elections in Alabama in 2014. And we know that all of this money came from millionaires in Michigan, Arkansas and California.
Will be interesting to watch as we roll toward the March 1, 2016 primary. And I would say that the chances of out-of-state money bypassing Alabama are slim and none.