Technically, the State Board of Education will pick ten people to serve on the newly-created Public Charter School Commission. However, since all nominees for these slots are selected by the Governor, Lt. Governor, Speaker of the House and Senate Pro Tem, some state board members see their role as nothing more than a “rubber stamp.”
According to the legislation, four appointments must come from names submitted by the Governor; one from the Lt. Governor; three from the Speaker and two from the Pro Tem.
However, there was pushback from four board members at the May 13 meeting when ballots were passed out. While three members made their picks, the other four turned in a blank ballot. (There are eight elected state board members, but presently, the District 1 seat covering Mobile and southwest Alabama is vacant, awaiting an appointment by the Governor.)
When the tabulated ballots were turned in at the end of the session, Republicans Betty Peters and Stephanie Bell and Democrats Ella Bell and Yvette Richardson minced no words in expressing their feelings. These four agreed that they felt the process was too hurried, that they had not had ample time to consider the nominees and to do due diligence on them. It was suggested that the State Board should have an opportunity to interview each of the candidates.
Ella Bell pointed out that the State Board represents the 1.2 million voters who elected them to their positions and that the legislature ignored these voters by not seeking input on the charter legislation from the board.
Stephanie Bell noted that the law says appointments are to be made by June 1 and that the board has ample time to follow a process prior to that date that will both satisfy the law and the concerns of some board members.
As they say on TV, stay tuned for further developments.