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Alabama: Governor Picks Public School Hater for State Board of Education

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Author: dianeravitch

This is an amazing story. Governor Robert Bentley of Alabama appointed to the state Board of Education a 28-year-old man named Matt Brown, who has no knowledge or experience about public education. Even more amazing is that he never attended a public school, didn’t send his own children to public schools, and is contemptuous of public schools. He is a conservative Christian who doesn’t believe in public education or “government schools.”

The story was first reported in Larry Lee’s blog. Lee has been writing about public education for many years. He did a noteworthy study of outstanding (and underfunded) rural schools in Alabama. He was shocked that the Governor would appoint someone with no knowledge of public schools to the state board. Worse, Brown led a campaign to fund a tax increase to build new schools in his district.

Larry Lee wrote:

Governor Bentley stunned Alabama educators with his July 16 announcement that he was appointing 28 year old Matt Brown of Fairhope to replace Al Thompson on the state board of education. The fact that he never attended public schools, has said his children will not attend them and has no known involvement of supporting public schools was like setting a match to dry kindling. Within two days of posting an article on this blog about the appointment I had 20,000 “hits.”

The reaction was loudest in Baldwin County, where Brown is from. And it is yet to die down along the coast. This is hardly a surprise since Brown was the face of an active effort last March to defeat a school tax vote. The campaign preceding the vote was contentious and divisive. Supporters of the measure felt that Brown and his followers were less than honest and forthright with their information. The Secretary of State’s office said the Brown troops were in violation of the Fair Campaign Practices Act.

Whereas losing candidates for office may lick their wounds for a spell after election day, then go about their business, mothers who feel that someone took aim at their child’s education hold grudges much, much longer.

The governor was aware of this. People told the governor’s staff that Brown carried too much baggage and should not be appointed. Obviously this advice was ignored.

Valerie Strauss reports on this story here. She includes a letter that Larry Lee wrote to the Governor, expressing his outrage about this outrageous appointment.

She notes that Alabama Governor Bentley–an ardent supporter of charters and vouchers– was recently appointed vice chair of the National Governors Association’s committee on education and the workforce.

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