What Kay Ivey has right and wrong about Amendment 1

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Colorful Chalk at Chalkboard

I’ve held a strong opinion about Amendment 1 since the first day I heard about it. Let’s make no mistake about what this is – a power grab. This amendment would take away the voters right to elect their own member to the state board of education and instead make each commissioner a gubernatorial appointment.

Now the language is nice, fluffy and misleading as hell as it doesn’t come out and say that’s what they’re doing. They sell it as a way to get better-diversified representation, add term-limits, and rename the board, but truly I’m going to say it again. This my friends is a what? Oh yeah, a power grab.

The vote should truly be a no brainer for everyone. The answer is no. I mean, not just no, but heck no. What in the world are you people thinking? NO. Are you kidding me? For real? NO. What are you trying to say? Your constituents are too stupid to pick a good candidate themselves? Still, NO. I’ll come back to that though. We, the voters, may be partially to blame for our state’s education problems, but that’s not quite the end of the story. The buck doesn’t stop there. 

Imagine my surprise when during the State of the State speech last night Governor Kay Ivey made this point for me. Thanks, gov. No really. Thank you. 

Here’s the line from her speech: 

Ask yourself this question: Is there any high school in Alabama, much less any college or university, that would continue to keep a head coach who produced teams that were consistently dead last? Would Auburn or Alabama?

Well no, Governor. I don’t believe they would. We love our football like we love our, wait for it, kids. Which is why we should get rid of the “head coach” of the Alabama Board of Education. Let’s see, who that would be? Wait, I have an image from their website. Looking at the titles, looking at the titles, wait, who’s “President?”

Oh, yeah. Hmm. So about that head coach analogy, it doesn’t really work the way you intended it to, does it, Ivey? After all, there’s no way you would have called us voters, your constituents, the proverbial head coach or insinuated that we needed to be fired. No! You would not have dared to put it that way. Would you? But the more I think about it, it seems clear that’s exactly you’re saying there. So allow me to address that. 

What the governor and the legislators who support this amendment have said, repeatedly, is that it’s necessary to pass Amendment 1 because we have failed. In her state of the union, Ivey all but blamed us voters for the failures of our current education system and to some extent she’s right. They’re right. Let me explain. To be honest, up until the time this amendment came up in the last six years I’ve lived in Alabama, I haven’t spent a lot of time worrying about the SBOE. I was guilty of not recognizing the importance of the board. 

I think it’s because my three children are still so young, only one is of grade school age and she attends a private school. The reason for that is because the school we are zoned for is failing. Not only is it failing academically, but it is also failing in every other imaginable way, including failing in providing a safe, nurturing and engaging environment and there is no continuity in administration. So, yeah, that’s a no go. No one should be forced to send their child to a school like I’m zoned for, which is why we need school choice but I digress. 

I wasn’t paying attention to the system quite yet because I was overwhelmed by it’s failing results in my own world. Let’s take a second to read what the governor had to say in her speech:

But first, I want to, once again, level with you, the Members of the Legislature, and perhaps more importantly, with the people of Alabama. 

During last year’s session, the Legislature gave the voters of Alabama an opportunity to help move our education system in a bold, new direction, by having an opportunity to vote on AMENDMENT ONE, which will be on the March 3rd primary ballot. 

Unfortunately, we’ve gotten all-too-complacent to being at or near the bottom of national education rankings. 

Ask yourself this question: Is there any high school in Alabama, much less any college or university, that would continue to keep a head coach who produced teams that were consistently dead last? Would Auburn or Alabama? 

Sadly, too many of our third graders are not proficient in reading. In fact, according to the Nation’s Report Card, we are 49th in the nation in reading and we are 52nd in the nation in math! And it only gets worse as they get older… too many of our high school graduates simply aren’t ready for college or a career. 

Let me be abundantly clear… this isn’t the fault of our hard-working teachers, principals or local superintendents…Folks, it starts at the top. 

Alabama is one of only six states that still has an elected state school board and this board has selected 5 State Superintendents in the past 5 years. 

Very simply, Amendment One will create term limits for the State Board and no member will serve more than two six-year terms, thus bringing fresh new ideas to the commission every few years. 

Equally important, the newly constituted board will reflect the racial, gender and geographic diversity to reflect the make-up of students in our public school system. 

There’s no other way to say it but our current system isn’t working. Page 5 of 10 

For us to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s opportunities, it is time we get serious: 

It’s time for creativity. 

It’s time for accountability. 

It’s time for stability. 

It’s time to vote YES for Amendment One on March 3rd! 

She lost me when she gave the coach analogy because SHE is the coach, but then she doubled-down on her own failure saying, “Let me be abundantly clear… this isn’t the fault of our hard-working teachers, principals or local superintendents… Folks, it starts at the top.” Well so far as I can, tell you’re the top of all this, but maybe that’s just me. And before you think I’m implying Ivey should be fired because she’s the head coach in her own analogy, I’m not saying that either.

After all, when we look for who’s at fault for our current education situation, I think there’s enough blame to go around. But to say school administrators are blameless is just delusional. I just went down a rabbit trail of stories of terribly mismanaged schools from around the state in order to confirm my thoughts, and administrators are in no way without blame.

My final point is this. The appointment process isn’t a fail-safe. I don’t have anything against Ivey specifically, even though her appointment’s office has been a cluster at times. There’s the fine lady appointed to the elections registrar board who committed and was convicted of election fraud. There was the judge appointed who was constitutionally and not able to serve. Thank goodness there were reporters around to do the appointment offices job on that one. Another great appointment example I like to make is, Robert Bentley appointing his mistress’ husband to a board.

If you think for a minute the governor will listen to the people and get rid of appointees who are failing us, individuals whose time to serve at the pleasure of the governor have long since passed their serve by date, I’d like to introduce you to a man named John Cooper, the ALDOT Transportation Director. If he’s not the best example of an appointment the governor made that is contrary to the will, desire, interest of the people I don’t know who is. How and why that man has a job is simple – we the people aren’t powerful enough for the governor to give a dang about what we think of him in his position and he’s staying. Do we want our state board of education members to be that way? Nope. I think not. 

Look, we have a long way to go to fix our education system and I welcome lawmakers and the governor talking about real solutions, but Amendment 1 should not be considered a viable one because frankly, it’s not a solution it’s a… yup, you got it. It’s a power-grab and it should fail. Ivey was right and the responsibility is with the head coach and starts at the top. Which is why I’m voting no on Amendment 1, because the top isn’t recognizing the problems or proposing solutions. And if it’s not happening now, it’s not going to happen later. How many more John Cooper’s telling you how much smarter they are than you do we need in the state?

None.

No thanks, Amendment 1. I’ll keep my voice and my vote.