Two Alabama reporters, Mary Sell of the Decatur Daily and John Sharp of AL.com, have revealed that state school board member Matt Brown of Fairhope appointed a campaign supporter, Ryan Cantrell, to an important state education committee.
But Cantrell, who runs the Alabama Federation for Children, is not just any supporter. He contributed $49,522 through AFC to Brown’s election effort earlier this year. (Brown lost decisively to Jackie Zeigler in the April 12 GOP runoff election.)
Info on the Secretary of State’s web site shows that AFC gave Brown $8,000 as an in-kind contribution on April 7 and $16,522 in-kind on April 6. They also gave him $25,000 on Feb. 12.
Congress replaced the No Child Left Behind act last December with the new Every Student Succeeds Act. In March the governor executed Executive Order 16 to create a statewide committee to work with the state department of education to create Alabama’s plan of compliance with the new federal law.
Each state school board member had two appointments to this committee. Brown appointed Hope Zeanah, assistant superintendent in Baldwin County and Cantrell.
I do not know Cantrell, however, I can not find anything in his background that indicates experience in education. The Alabama Federation for Children came to life in early 2014. Their political action committee filed paperwork with the Secretary of State on April 2, 2014. They supported a number of legislative candidates in 2014.
All of the funding for the PAC has come from five out-of-state billionaires. Alice Walton and Jim Walton of Arkansas, Betty DeVos and Dick DeVos from Michigansas and William Oberndorf from California. Together they contributed $450,000.
Brown told AL.com in February that he was proud to take money from out-of-state contributors.
Brown said that he picked Cantrell because it was hard to find people to appoint. There are 13 school systems in District 1. There are hundreds of principals and thousands of classroom teachers in these systems. And he could not find ONE who would serve on this important committee?
He also says the campaign contributions and the appointment were not related. Isn’t this the same argument Richard Scrushy and Don Siegelman used in their trial?