There may be a new heavyweight battle on the horizon between some powerful groups in the state of Alabama on a generally insignificant issue.
Back in May, the State Senate unanimously passed SB397, which paved the way for a vote on the 2020 primary ballot to decide if the Alabama Constitution will be amended to allow for the governor to appoint the State Board of Education rather than electing members.
Little did the legislature know that come later in the summer, a group of citizens throughout the state, led by Jim Zeigler, would come together to defeat the governor and ALDOT’s proposal to levy a toll on the I-10 bridge in South Alabama.
Zeigler now thinks this makes him a potential person of the year for Alabama, and he’s probably right.
Make no mistake, his leadership led to a group of citizens defeating the toll project, and now Zeigler has shifted his attention to a new fight: keeping the State Board of Education elected and keeping the decisions in the hand of the people.
This will ultimately pit Zeigler against a new foe: the Alabama legislature.
State Senator Sam Givhan (R-Huntsville) joined WVNN radio in Huntsville Thursday, and when asked if the legislature’s unanimous vote was an effort to advance the issue to the ballot to let the people decide, or if it was an endorsement of the idea, Givhan told host Will Hampson it was the latter.
“No, that’s an endorsement,” Givhan plainly laid out.
He continued, “[W]hen the legislature sends something to the people, I think generally it is something they want to happen. When they send it to the people it’s not like, well yeah, let’s float this out there and see what the people think.”
The argument from the legislature is clear: the system we have right now is not working.
Alabama is consistently ranked in the bottom of education nationally and has been ranked there for decades.
Other groups, such as the Alabama Policy Institute (API), have been very vocal in their support of an appointed school board. API’s Phil Williams was an outspoken supporter at ALGOP’s summer state executive committee meeting.
However, this emerging citizens group led by Zeigler has made it clear that giving the people accountability is the answer, and taking away their vote is not.
Jim Zeigler is joined on this issue by his wife Jackie, who is the SBOE District 1 representative.
Jackie Zeigler told Alabama Media Group, “As representative for State Board of Education District One, I am vehemently opposed to any attempt take away the voice of the people.”
This represents another episode in an ongoing saga that has pitted the people versus those elected to represent them.
The people of Alabama are probably not going to give up their right to vote on a position they don’t pay any attention to. Most people reading this don’t know who their Alabama Board of Education member is; this won’t change that.
I’m indifferent to the whole thing because the decisions by the state school board aren’t going to have a huge impact on my kid one way or the other. Local school boards have far more impact and few people care about that either.
If the election were today, I would vote to keep the board the way it is, but I’m open to changing my mind.
Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN