Alabama State Board of Education
The Alabama State Board of Education is a nine-member body which authorizes the education policy for the state of Alabama. The governor is the ex officio president of the board. As Governor he has voting privileges, although they are seldom exercised. The remaining eight members are elected to four-year terms in partisan elections from single-member districts of approximately equal population. However, most issued before the board are not necessarily considered as partisan in nature. There is no limit on the number of terms to which members may be elected. Members in Districts 1, 3, 5, and 7 are elected in the same cycle as the President of the United States, with their next election occurring in 2016. Members in Districts 2, 4, 6, and 8 are elected in the same cycle as the Governor of Alabama, with their next election occurring in 2018. The districts from which members are elected are re-apportioned by the Alabama Legislature following each di-cennial U.S. Census.
A President Pro Tem and a Vice President are chosen among the eight Board members each year to lead Board meetings in the absence of the Governor. Out of the current eight members, six are Republicans and two are Democrats, while six are female (two of which are African-American) and two are male. A state Superintendent of Education is appointed by the board to serve as its secretary and executive officer, although he has no vote on issues before the Board.
The first African-American to serve on the Alabama State Board of Education was Peyton Findley (1871-1873), he was from Lafayette in Chambers County and at his birth in 1824 was "free-born." Active in the Republican Party after the Civil War, during the Reconstruction Period, he served a single term on the State School Board. Among his contributions was the introduction of a measure to the Board to create Alabama's first institution of higher-learning for blacks. It was first located in Marion in Perry County and initially called the Lincoln Normal School. In 1887, it was re-located to Montgomery and renamed. Today, it is the nation's third oldest "historically-black" college, Alabama State University. The first African-American woman to serve on the Alabama State Board was Democrat Ethel H. Hall (1987-2011) of Fairfield, Jefferson County.
One recent Board member was Al Thompson, he was appointed to a vacancy on the Board by Governor Robert Bentley in June, 2014 but resigned in mid-2015 to take a similar position on the new governing body of the Alabama two-year college system. Governor Bentley replaced him with Matthew Brown of Fairhope in Baldwin County on July 16, 2015. Thompson and Brown successively followed board member, Tracy Roberts, who had resigned for undisclosed "personal reasons" after just one and one-half years on the board. Mr. Brown will be eligible to stand for election in 2016.
From the end of Reconstruction until 1986, no Republicans were elected to the Alabama State Board of Education. That year, Spencer Bachus (1987-1991) won 57% of the vote in District 6, dislodging a 26-year Democrat incumbent and becoming the first Republican on the Board in over 100 years. In 1998, the GOP won four of the eight elected seats and achieved a majority in 2008. Democrats no longer even contest the six Republican held seats and the GOP did not contest either of the black-majority Democrat held seats at their most recent respective elections.
Members of the board include:
- President (The Governor of Alabama) - Robert J. Bentley
- Superintendent/Secretary - Dr. Thomas R. Bice
- Board Members:
- District 1: Matthew Brown, (R) (*2015-present) (*appointed by Gov. Bentley to vacancy of Al Thompson (R), who resigned)
- District 2: Betty Peters, (R) (2003-present)
- District 3: Stephanie W. Bell, (R) (1995-present)
- District 4: Yvette Richardson, (D) (2011-present)
- District 5: Ella B. Bell, (D) (2001-present), Vice President
- District 6: Dr. Cynthia S. McCarty, (R) (2015-present)
- District 7: Jeff Newman, (R) (2013-present), President Pro Tem
- District 8: Mary Scott Hunter, (R) (2011-present)
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