Every two years four seats on the State Board of Education come up for election. In 2016 they will be for District 1 (southwest Alabama); District 3 (central Alabama); District 5 (the Black Belt) and District 7 (northwest Alabama).
The primary election will be on March 1 when we vote for Presidential candidates.
Matt Brown, who Governor Bentley appointed to an open seat last summer, serves District 1 and as announced that he will seek election to this spot. Long-time board member Stephanie Bell represents District 3 and plans to seek re-election. Ella Bell serves District 5 and plans to run again. Joanne Shum, longtime state director for HIPPY (Home Instruction for Parents of Pre-school Youngsters) also plans to run for this seat. Jeff Newman is the District 7 member and will run again.
While State Board races are usually very low-key, the one in District 1 (Mobile, Baldwin, Escambia, Covington, Conecuh, Butler and Crenshaw counties) promises to be an exception to the rule due to the fact that the Governor’s appointment of Matt Brown was so controversial. Brown has come under fire because he lead the effort last March to defeat a school tax vote in Baldwin County, did not attend public schools himself and has never had any involvement in supporting the public school system.
While Bob Higgins of Foley was thought to be interested in opposing Brown, he has apparently decided against running. However, Ernest Scarbrough of Spanish Fort is looking at running quite seriously.
All of this means Brown will be under very close scrutiny from now until March 1.
So how is Brown doing so far? You can see for yourself by watching this video of the Sept. 10 work session of the State Board.
I did so and must admit that I did a double-take a couple of times and said to myself, “Did he just say that?”
If you go to about the 46:30 portion of the session, you will hear Brown talk about representing one of the country’s fastest growing counties and school systems and how it is difficult to keep pace with the need for new facilities.
This is very true. But it is also true that the vote Brown worked to defeat would have provided an additional $28 million a year to the Baldwin County school system and served as collateral for a bond issue for financing to upgrade facilities.
So on March 31 you say we don’t need money, but on Sept. 10 you say we do. How does that work?