After more than an hour of testimony March 8 from seven proponents and nine opponents, the nine members of the Senate Education & Youth Affairs committee were ready to vote on whether or not the RAISE/PREP bill would go to the full senate for consideration.
At the direction of Chairman Dick Brewbaker, the clerk began calling the roll. As chair, Brewbaker went first and voted yea. Vice chair Quinton Ross followed with a nay. The other senators were polled alphabetically. Paul Bussman was nay. Vivian Figures was nay. Del Marsh, bill sponsor, was yea. Jim McClendon was yea. Trip Pittman was yea. Hank Sanders was nay.
That left freshman Senator Shay Shelnutt to cast the deciding vote. He voted in favor of the bill, even though he is a former teacher.
However, within 48 hours the Trussville Tribune reported that Senator Shelnutt was having second thoughts about his vote.
One of the major objections to the bill from the education community is that it proposes to use the VAM (Value Added Model) process to evaluate teachers. This is a highly controversial evaluation tool as we have blogged about here and here.
What makes me scratch my head at this news is that I do not recall the good senator saying a word throughout the committee meeting. He certainly never raised any concerns about VAM.
Of course it is often said about politics to “follow the money.” So I did. And learned that between July 1, 2014 and Feb. 9, 2015 the Business Council of Alabama gave Shelnutt $26,000 in campaign contributions. He also got $1,000 for the California “education reform” group StudentsFirst. The same one that has eight lobbyists registered with the Alabama Ethics Commission.
And both were in the hearing room March 8. In fact, of the seven proponents, two were from BCA, including CEO Billy Canary.
No doubt the freshman senator heard from educators back home when they learned about his vote. It is unlikely they were thanking him. And it appears that he is facing a tough decision. Does he listen to teachers? Or look at his checkbook?
Such is the times when we peer into men’s souls..