Nine times out of ten, politics is pretty simple. It’s all about the Golden Rule. He who has the gold rules.
And a great example will probably unfold this week in Montgomery. Last week the State Board of Education refused to go along with the legislature’s demand that they select members of the new Public Charter School Commission because they felt the process was too rushed and they needed more time for due diligence. This brought immediate reaction from Rep. Terri Collins who heads the House Education Policy Committee and from Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh.
Collins promised to introduce a bill in her committee this week that will re-write the new charter school bill and remove the state board from the selection process. Marsh indicated that he is prepared to introduce legislation to switch the state board from elected to appointed. In other words, both have said that if the eight elected members of the state board will not act like the legislature intends for them to, they will get even.
Not everyone sees the threats of Collins and Marsh as sterling examples of how legislators should go about their business. In fact, the Decatur Daily, the hometown newspaper for Collins editorialized that she is acting like a school-yard bully.
But if the lady from Morgan County does carry through, don’t bet against her prevailing because she is playing with a stacked deck.
There are 13 members of the House Education Policy Committee, nine Republicans and four democrats. Both Collins and vice chairperson, Kerry Rich, are Republicans. Advantage Republicans. But the real advantage is the one involving the Golden Rule.
Three of the strongest backers of charter schools are former governor Bob Riley, Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard and the head of the Business Council of Alabama, Billy Canary. Each had a political action committee heavily engaged in 2014 legislative races. Together they doled out $5.1 million to support candidates, including some on the House Education Policy Committee. In all, these three PACs put $555,271 into campaigns of committee members. All but $10,000 went to Republicans.
In addition, the California-based group StudentsFirst added $27,848 and the Alabama Federation for Children, backed by out-of-state millionaires kicked in $39,738. If you are keeping score, that’s a total of $610,857 for Republicans and $12,000 for Democrats. (StudentsFirst gave $2,000 to one Democrat.)
In baseball, the term “hitting for the cycle” means someone hits a single, double, triple and homerun in the same game. In this little game of handing out campaign funds, batting for the cycle would mean getting support not only from Riley, Hubbard and Canary, but from StudentsFirst and AFC as well. Both Collins and Rep. Ed Henry pulled this off. But Rep. Barry Moore and Rep. Mack Butler did better overall than any other committee members. Moore got $187,418 and Butler got $166,155.
But none of this should come as a surprise to anyone. After all, the Alabama charter movement is more about money than anything else. How else do you explain the sudden interest in Alabama’s school kids by a group in California with ten lobbyists registered with the Ethics Commission and by a millionaire in San Francisco? Does anyone really believe that the millionaire woke up one morning, told his wife he didn’t sleep well because he was worried about kids in Wilcox County and wrote a check for $100,000 out of the goodness of his heart?
Seems a bit far-fetched for me.