On March 3, voters will be asked to make several choices during Alabama’s primary election.
One will be if the state should keep its elected state school board or go with an education commission that would be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate.
The Southeast Alabama League of Women Voters will host a community forum on Sunday, Feb. 9, at the Westgate Library in Dothan so voters can learn more about the amendment before they are asked to choose between elected and appointed state school boards.
The forum begins at 3 p.m. and will end not later than 4:30 p.m.
“One of our basic philosophies is voter education to make sure people are informed about what they’re voting on,” said Stephanie Butler, chairwoman of the Southeast Alabama League of Women Voters. “We feel responsible for preparing before we go into the booth. We look up the amendments. We see what a ‘yes’ vote means. We see what a ‘no’ vote means.
“But we know that the general public doesn’t necessarily always have the time to do it. Just for whatever reason, people don’t always choose to be informed before they go into the voting booth.”
Speakers will include state Sen. Greg Albritton, a Republican from Baldwin County, who was among the co-sponsors of the Senate bill that put the amendment on the ballot, and Larry Lee, a public education advocate who runs a website on education topics and is a regular contributor to the Alabama Political Reporter.
A “yes” vote on the amendment supports changing the State Board of Education to the Alabama Commission on Elementary and Secondary Education and for members of the commission to be appointed by the governor with confirmation by the Alabama Senate.
The state’s superintendent of education also would become the secretary of elementary and secondary education and would be appointed by the commission and approved by the Senate.
Voting “no” means the State Board of Education would continue as an elected board.
Butler said she’s heard a lot of misinformation about what the amendment will actually do. She hopes the speakers, who have opposing views, will provide a more complete picture of how moving from an elected to an appointed state board will affect public education in Alabama or what other options should be considered.
“They’re both pretty knowledgeable about education in Alabama and it would be great if it could be a larger conversation about what exactly are we going to do — elected, appointed, whatever — what are we going to do?” Butler said.