Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh is still trying to figure out how much of the RAISE Act he may be able to salvage in the upcoming legislative session. He told AL.com that the bill will include “significant changes” from the draft that educators around the state have objected to vigorously.
But what got my attention in the same article is Marsh saying that Republicans have gotten “a bad rap” by being characterized as not supportive of public education. However, he failed to tell us why he thinks this is unwarranted.
(Full disclosure: the only elected position I have ever held was as a member of the Jefferson County Republican Executive Committee many years ago when “moderation” and “tolerance” were still part of the GOP vocabulary and before anyone ever heard of Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck.)
The good senator could have explained how well the Alabama Accountability Act is working. You know, the one he sponsored in 2013. The one that came to the senate floor after it mysteriously surfaced in conference committee. The one that he later boasted had not been shown to educators prior to being introduced because they might have opposed it. The one that the public was told was all about helping “poor kids stuck in failing schools by their zip codes.”
The same bill that was amended in 2015 to change the intent from helping failing schools to school choice. The same bill that has now diverted $66.8 million from the Education Trust Fund to give scholarships to private schools that do not have to be accredited. The same bill that has given scholarships to at least 1,000 students who were already attending a private school when they got a scholarship. The same bill that was amended to allow an increase in diversion from ETF of $25 million a year to $30 million.
The same bill that was passed in 2013 with 51 white Republican votes in the house and 22 white Republican votes in the senate. Apparently no Democrats realized how much the accountability act would help public schools.
Senator Marsh might have told us how the charter school bill he sponsored in 2015 will help public education by diverting money from local school systems and by creating a politically-appointed state commission that can over-ride local school boards. The same bill that created a new state bureaucracy to set up rules and regulations for local school systems to abide by.
Or he might have even explained why Alabama educators where not consulted before the RAISE Act was drafted.
I’m sorry, but I have a hard time agreeing with Senator Marsh about his party being wrongly accused. Especially after looking at who funded his 2014 re-election campaign. He got $116,000 from the Business Council of Alabama, the same group that created the Business Education Alliance whose head recently bragged about how great the accountability act is. He took $15,494 from the Alabama Federation of Children, the group that received $350,000 from out-of-state millionaires to spend on Alabama legislative races in 2014. StudentsFirst, the group from Sacremento, CA formed by the once Washington D.C. school system chancellor Michelle Rhee, give the senator $20,000.
And former Governor Bob Riley chipped in with $10,678 from his own checkbook and his political action committee. The same Bob Riley who created the largest scholarship granting organization in Alabama.
Spend a few minutes with any school superintendent in Alabama and I have serious reservations that any of them consider BCA, Alabama Federation for Children, StudentsFirst or Bob Riley to be a friend of public schools.
I have met Senator March, but I do not know him. Like me, he is graduate of Auburn University and he was a very successful businessman in the Anniston area.
And I would remind him that after his 2014 election he said, “We want to work with the education community to establish good education policies.” However, well into his fifth term in office, we’re still waiting on him to keep his word.