Where Is Money Coming From For State School Board Races?

With the March 1 primary for four seats on the state board of education just a few days away, let’s take a close look at the candidates and their financial backing.

(As I write, it is 1 p.m on Sunday, Feb. 21 and these numbers reflect what can be found on the Secretary of State’s website as of this moment.  There will be at least one more report made prior to the election.)

District One.  Matthew Brown is incumbent seeking election to his first full term.  District includes part of Mobile County and all of Baldwin, Escambia, Conecuh, Covington, Crenshaw and Butler counties,

Matthew Brown.  Brown shows a total of $37,068.42 in contributions and in-kind contributions.  He also shows he has put $8,081.18 into his campaign.  While he has received contributions from 33 individuals and four companies, the majority of his support is from political action committees.  These include Business Council of Alabama ($36,000); Alabama Farmers Federation ($5,000); Newpac ($1,000) and Alabama Federation for Children ($25,000).

(While Brown’s own statements show only one contribution of $18,000 from BCA, the BCA statement shows that their most recent gift of $18,000 has not yet been disclosed by Brown.)

As mentioned here before, the $25,000 contribution from the Alabama Federation for Children, originated with Dick and Betsy DeVos of Michigan, longtime advocates of charter schools and school vouchers.

Adam Bourne.  Bourne is a member of the Chickasaw City Council and his wife teaches at Davidson High School and serves on the Chickasaw City school board.

He has received a total of $13,656 in contributions.  This has come from 28 individuals and seven businesses.  He got a $250 contribution from Hawk PAC of Birmingham.  (Full disclosure:  I donated $1,000 to Bourne’s campaign.)

Carl Myrick.  Myrick is a former teacher turned realtor from Foley.  His father, Tony, serves on the Baldwin County school board.

To date, the only paperwork I can locate is Myrick’s appointment of principal campaign committee.  I can not locate any financial info.  However, an article in the Feb. 17 online edition of Lagniappe states that Myrick has raised $1,100 from three individuals.  I have not been able to confirm this.

Jackie Zeigler.  Zeigler is the wife of state auditor Jim Zeigler and a retired principal from the Mobile County school system.

Info shows she received one contribution of $100 from a Birmingham company and that she and her husband have donated $2,760 to her campaign.

District Three.  Stephanie Bell of Montgomery is the incumbent and is being challenged by Justin Barkley of the Birmingham area.  This district stretches from the north side of Montgomery to the south side of Birmingham and includes all, or parts of, Elmore, Autauga, Coosa, Chilton, Bibb, Shelby and Talladega counties.

Stephanie Bell.  Bell is the longest serving member of the SBOE.

Statements show she has raised $2,840 from 14 individuals and another $4,000 from political action committees.  These include Eagle Forum PAC ($1,500) and TelPac ($2,500).

Justin Barkley.  Barkley’s campaign and Brown’s appear to be running on parallel tracks as their major funders are one and the same.  Both were endorsed by the Business Council and the Alabama Farmer’s Federation and both have gotten substantial contributions from the Alabama Federation for Children.

Barkley shows having raised $80,713, with 94 percent of it ($75,691) coming from the three groups just named.  He shows only two individual contributors, former Governor Bob Riley ($1,000) and Fred McCallum, president of AT &T Alabama ($1,000).  He also got $1,500 from Quality Correctional Health Care, a Birmingham company that works with law enforcement to privatize certain responsibilities.

District Five.  Democrat Ella Bell of Montgomery is the incumbent.  Her Democrat challenger is Joanne Shum of Montgomery, a longtime leader in the Alabama HIPPY (Home Instruction for Parents of Pre-School Youngsters) program.  This is a huge district geographically, stretching from Notasulga on the Macon-Lee County border to downtown Mobile.  It includes all or part of Pike, Bulloch, Macon, Montgomery, Lowndes, Autauga, Dallas, Perry, Wilcox, Monroe, Clarke, Marengo, Sumter, Choctaw, Washington and Mobile counties.

Ella Bell.  There is no information on the Secretary of State’s web site about Bell’s candidacy.  She has not filed a statement of Principal Campaign Committee.  This is to be filed when a candidate for a state office has raised or spent $1,000.

Joanne Shum.  Hers is primarily a self-funded effort.  She shows contributions of $347.08 from five individuals.  She and her husband have contributed $3,445.

District Seven.  Republican Jeff Newman of Lamar County is the incumbent.  He is a retired school superintendent.  He has two Republican challengers, Jim Bonner of Franlin County and Rhea Fulmer of Lauderdale County.  This district is primarily northwest Alabama.  It includes portions of Jefferson, Tuscaloosa and Limestone counties and all of Walker, Fayette, Lamar, Marion, Winston, Lawrence, Franklin, Colbert and Lauderdale counties.

Jeff Newman.  Newman currently serves as presiding board member when SBOE is in session.  He has 32 years experience as an educator and is running for his second term.  Newman has contributions of $37,880.  All but $200 is from BCA ($30,180) or Alabama Farmer’s Federation ($7,500).

Jim Bonner.  Bonner has been a candidate in the past for state senate, state house of representatives and probate judge of Franklin County.  He has not filed any paperwork in regards to his race for state school board.  However, he did file an annual report for 2015 showing that he still had $13,328 in his campaign for a race for the state house for District 17.

Rhea Fulmer.  Ms. Fulmer is a former Lauderdale County Commissioner.  Her paperwork shows she has raised $2,233.21 from nine individuals, one company and Eagle Forum PAC ($500).  She has also donated $650 to her campaign.

So what do you see?

I see that we are about to elect four people to the most important board in the state when it comes of K 12 education–and the education community is no where to be found. These candidates have raised $196,836 and 91 percent has come from the Business Council of Alabama, the Alabama Farmers Federation and the Alabama Federation for Children.

Two Michigan millionaires sent $50,000 to Alabama to elect state school board members and our own educators just watched.

I rant and rave all the time about folks who are pushing an agenda that is not in the best interests of our schools, our students and our teachers.  This does not mean I think they are bad people, I just strongly oppose what they want to do based on my countless visits to schools and classrooms and countless conversations with educators.

Folks in education can try to rationalize their inaction by hiding behind, “well, we are not political.”  Baloney.  Politics is the fiddler playing every tune education dances to and we’re not political? Isn’t that about like a wife who refuses to leave her abusive husband?

These numbers are a stark reminder of how the real world works.  It’s been that way a long time and will not soon change.  And until education awakens from its slumber and decides to become a part of the process we will continue to dance to the other guy’s tune.

4 Responses to Where Is Money Coming From For State School Board Races?

  1. Eye opening. What do the DeVos’ have to gain by financing campaigns for the Alabama SBOE? They will benefit somehow, and we need to know that answer. Are you the only person in this state willing to fight for public education? We’re in a precarious situation and it appears the only losers in the upcoming election will be teachers, students, and public education in general.

    • You ask the $64 million question. What is the end game of folks like the DeVos, Eli Broad, Bill Gates, etc? I have a hard time believing that one morning a few days ago the DeVos were sitting around the breakfast table wondering about school children in Wilcox County, AL. Yes, public education in this state is in quite a battle. Maybe we will one day realize it and push back.

  2. I intend to push back hard and sound the trumpet to let people in our state see what is happening to our schools. I am “mad as a wet hen” about some of thebought and paid for legislators that are conspiring to destroy public education. I am running for the Alabama BOE, and I am hugely complimented that none of these special interests have offered me a dime.
    Joanne Shum
    Democrat
    District 5

  3. Thanks for posting this information and I wish more voters were actively researching the candidates. These are important positions, though the majority of voters couldn’t care less, especially to stay informed. I appreciate you looking out for the children of Alabama.

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