There appears to be ever-growing concern in the state education community as to who is in charge of education policy at this point in time? Is it the governor? Is it certain members of the legislature? Is it the new state superintendent of education? Or is it the state school board?
The correct answer should be the state school board. They are the only body given this authority by both the Code of Alabama and the constitution.
Here’s what Alabama Code Section 16-3-11 says:
The State Board of Education shall exercise, through the State Superintendent of Education and his professional assistants, general control and supervision over the public schools of the state, except institutions of higher learning which by law are under the general supervision and control of a board of trustees, and shall consult with and advise through its executive officer and his professional assistants, county boards of education, city and town boards of education, superintendents of schools, school trustees, attendance officers, principals, teachers, supervisors and interested citizens, and shall seek in every way to direct and develop public sentiment in support of public education.
And here is what the constitution says:
General supervision of the public schools in Alabama shall be vested in a state board of education which shall be elected in such a manner as the state legislature shall provide.
The authority and duties of the superintendent of education shall be determined by the state board of education according to such regulations as the legislature may prescribe. Salary shall be fixed by the legislature.
No money raised for the support of the public schools shall be appropriated to or used for the support of any sectarian or denominational schools
Yet state board members I talk to tell me that they are being told my legislators what the state superintendent plans to do before they know of it.
This may well be explained by the fact that superintendent Mike Sentance has never worked for a board. His only education experience came as a policy person for the governor of Massachusetts. Maybe he has yet to understand that he is now in Alabama–not in Massachusetts.
But the board knew this when they hired him. Yet it was never discussed in his interview.
The governor says Alabama “education sucks.” Which shows how out of touch he is. The legislature passed the Alabama Accountability Act and boasted about keeping it a secret from educators. And our superintendent holds no education credentials and has never worked in a classroom, a school, or a central office.
It is not a pretty picture. And 730,000 public school students in Alabama are the ones who pay the ultimate price for this confusion and uncertainty.