So off to the mailbox I go this afternoon through the drizzle. And lo and behold, I find my first piece of political mail in this election season. It’s a 6 X 10 postcard from state school board candidate Justin Barkley who is trying to unseat incumbent Stephanie Bell.
Having written a lot of political messages in my time I look at it with more interest than the average voter no doubt.
The first thing I see is a picture of Ms. Bell with one of those red “do not enter” symbols. The headline says, “Status quo Stephanie Bell has to go!”
Ah yes, the good ole Status Quo that so many politicians like to throw around. Like when Speaker Mike Hubbard kept telling us the Alabama Accountability Act was all about getting rid of the status quo. Just how is that working out three years later after we have diverted $66 million from the Education Trust Fund to pay tuition for more than 1,000 students who were already attending private schools?
Or maybe Barkley is talking about the status quo of an education budget that has not been fully funded since 2008. Or could it be the status quo of a legislative majority who continue to set education policy and not ask for input from educators.
Surely he is not talking about the status quo of our high school graduation rate. After all, it is now at 89 percent which is the highest in state history.
But what really caught my eye was the statement that Bell Fought against expanding school choice for parents and students. This is followed by the number 3 directing readers to footnotes in tiny print.
And turns out the footnote says, “whnt.com, “State Board of Education fails to approve Public Charter Schools Commission members.” 5/18/15. WHNT is a Huntsville TV station and the footnote supposedly supporting the statement against Bell is dead wrong.
I was at the state broad meeting in question. The new charter school bill said that the state school board was to pick members to sit on the charter school commission from names submitted to them by political folks. Their deadline was the end of June. Several board members wanted more time to properly vet the nominees and make educated choices. This WAS NOT about fighting against charters, it was about being bullied by certain legislators to rush to judgment.
(In fact, at least one legislator threatened to rewrite the charter bill and take the state board out of the process simply because they were doing their due diligence. Her hometown newspaper said that she was trying to “bully” the state board.)
Ms. Bell stood her ground (just as I would have done), the board gave the matter more time and the deadline was met just as the law said it should be.
For Barkley to imply differently as he has attempted to do is wrong. As they say on TV, “Come On Man.”
This is a campaign to hold a seat to set policy about public education. And we’re trying to do it by pulling a trick like this? Would this kind of deception be ignored in a high school thesis? Very unlikely.
But then, Justin Barkley is not trying to get a grade in English. He is only trying to win an election.