Former State Rep. Charlotte Meadows has announced her candidacy for the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) District 3 seat.

Meadows has been out of the Alabama political sphere since losing her seat to State Rep. Phillip Ensler (D-Montgomery) in the 2022 general election. She announced her candidacy for ALSDE on Monday.

District 3 is currently held by Stephanie Bell, who has occupied the position for nearly three decades.

Meadows told 1819 News that she was running due to her passion for improving education in the state.

“My passion has always been for education in Alabama, and I feel like we can do better than we have done,” Meadows told 1819 News. “So my continued motivation is to do this on behalf of kids in our state who deserve the best education we can provide. You know, I have three children of my own, all with unique and different needs. And then I have three grandchildren, and already we can tell they are all three different and unique with their own needs. We just have to provide the resources that every child needs, and we can.”

Meadows says she will run on expanding parental rights in education and government transparency. Additionally, in what would be a relative oddity on the state board, Meadows also says she will be running on expanding school choice.

“My platform is going to be around parental rights, school choice and accountability and transparency from the state department,” she said. “I’ve been following the state department for over 15 years pretty closely, and sometimes it doesn’t feel like they focus on student achievement.”

She continued, “Most of the school choice in Alabama is public schools, and I would continue to support all public schools, whether they are the traditional public schools or some other public schools, including charter schools. But I also think there’s a place in our state for private schools and home schools. Not that the state board would have anything to say over that, but where the state goes, there goes everybody else. I mean, if we don’t focus on education, our businesses suffer, our families suffer, our children suffer.”

Meadows said she believes ALSDE has done little to improve education performances in recent years. If elected, she intends to be more publicly vocal about the “real issues” facing Alabama schools and solutions for addressing them.

“We’ve talked about it a lot,” Meadows said. “That’s been the only subject of conversation out of Montgomery now for a number of years is education. But what have we done? Leadership really matters in every area. But there hasn’t been very much strong leadership from the state board. Now, I’m not talking about the governor because I think she has shown leadership in this area, but there’s eight members of the state board who are elected by the taxpayers, and I don’t think they’re getting what they’re paying for.” 

Meadows currently serves as serves as the board chair of LEAD Academy, a Montgomery-based charter school. She is working on a transition plan as her campaign continues to the March 2024 Republican primary.

Critics of LEAD Academy’s performance in recent years have cast doubt on Meadows’ candidacy and educational performance in general.

However, Meadows said she rejects the idea that LEAD Academy is a failure, pointing to the “roughly 750 students” currently in kindergarten through ninth grade and 450 students on a waiting list. She also says the school’s most recent test scores on the state’s Alabama Comprehensive Assessment Program (ACAP) test have “universally gone up.” She says the data will show LEAD Academy outperforming all other middle schools in the County when ALSDE releases the official scores that her staff has already seen.

” Now, are they where we want them to be? No. Are any of the school grades or any of the student proficiency in the state of Alabama, with the exception of maybe one or two schools? None of the students are where we want them to be. In other words, no school has 100% proficiency in math, English and science. But our middle school students are doing the best of any middle school in Montgomery County, in the traditional schools. And that’s just going to factually come out as soon as the state department decides to release that data.”

“As far as accountability from the state department, the (ACAP) tests were given in April. The schools got the scores in either June or July. Why does it take the next four months to get those scores released? To me, that’s a lack of accountability.”

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