While the Business Council of Alabama and the Alabama Federation for Children is pumping thousands of dollars into the State School Board campaign of Matt Brown in District One, they are doing the same for Justin Barkley of Birmingham in District Three. In fact, 94 percent of the $80,713 Barkley has raised comes BCA, AFC and FarmPAC, the PAC of the Alabama Farmers Federation.
(This district includes parts or all of Montgomery, Autauga, Elmore, Coosa, Chilton, Bibb, Shelby, Jefferson and Talladega counties. It is represented by long time incumbent Stephanie Bell of Montgomery.)
Barkley’s financial disclosure info on the Secretary of State website shows that he has only two contribution’s from individuals. This is $1,000 from former Governor Bob Riley and $1,000 from Fred McCallum, president of AT&T Alabama. He also got $1,000 from a PAC operated by Birmingham attorney Ted Hosp, one time legal counsel to Governor Riley.
And while the Alabama Federation for Children routed $25,000 from Michigan millionaires Dick and Betsy DeVos to Brown, Barkley only got $22,936 from Michigan. Dick DeVos is reported to be worth $5 billion and ranks in the top 100 richest people in the U.S. He and his wife are noted for their efforts to promote privatization of public schools through efforts to support charter schools, vouchers, etc. Betsy DeVos is chair of the American Federation for Children. Alabama Federation for Children is an affiliate of the national organization.
For a extensive review of how money from folks like Dick and Betsy DeVos is being used in a massive effort to remake our public schools, go here.
You quickly learn that Alabama is not the war, it is just one of many battlegrounds where huge amounts of money are being spent on candidates like Brown and Barkley to drive an ideology that neither research or common sense supports. When you do your homework you find that what is going on now in Alabama is anything but a grassroots ever, instead it is being driven by a handful of folks who are linked in various ways.
For instance, Matt Brown got a $250 contribution from Partners in Patient Education LLC at 4284 Lomac St, Montgomery. This is the office address for Dr. Allen Meadows, husband of Charlotte Meadows, a lobbyist for the Sacramento-based StudentsFirst group, another huge supporter of charter schools and vouchers. Charlotte Meadows’ twin sister lives in Decatur, AL. This is the home of State Representative Terri Collins, who chairs the House Education Policy Committee.
When Collins is in Montgomery, she stays with Charlotte Meadows. In Collins’ 2014 campaign for re-election, she got $8,348 from StudentsFirst and $12,747 from the Alabama Federation for Children. Charlotte Meadows recently hosted a Montgomery talk show and interviewed Justin Barkley about his state school board race.
Collins has been a steadfast supporter of the Alabama Accountability Act, voting for it in both 2013 and 2015.
I have dug through hundreds and hundreds of financial forms during the last 40 years. You often find they tell an entirely different story than the candidate wants you to believe. For example, both Brown and Barkley are running to serve on the State Board of Education. However, I can not find a single contributor to either one I recognize as being involved in education in this state. (Though you do find that Barkley got $1,500 from a company by the name of Quality Correctional Health Care that is involved in privatizing services provided to law enforcement.)
And one has to wonder why candidates who want to sit on the state board that sets education policy are taking money from Michigan millionaires while not being supported financially by Alabamians involved in running our schools and teaching our kids.