President-elect Donald Trump has nominated Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions to the position of Attorney General. The nomination is still waiting confirmation from Senate, but Sessions’ appointment has prompted scrutiny based on his tenure as Alabama’s Attorney General in the 1990s.
Critics of Sessions’ appointment say he fought equity in Alabama public schools during this time.
“He played a lead role as the state’s Attorney General in defending the state in a case that was being brought against them by advocates for financial equity in the way schools were funded,” said Former Secretary of Education Paul Reville during his appearance on BPR Wednesday.
Sessions fought to overturn a judge’s ruling meant to equalize funding for poor and rich public schools.
“There was a grossly unfair formula in Alabama,” said Reville. “The voters actually had removed the education protection from the constitution. That thereby allowed local districts to have widely disparate funding schemes for schools.”
Poorer schools received less funding. Proponents of the ruling said it would restore equality to Alabama public schools; critics, like Sessions, said it was an overstep of the judge’s authority, and would require redistribution of funds or higher taxes.
Reville voiced his concerns about the influence of Sessions on national education policy given his opposition to the equity ruling in Alabama.
“He was a defender of basically a dual class system there for a long time,” Reville said. “We have to wonder what’s going to happen to civil rights, what’s going to happen to the campaign for fair school funding in schools all across the United States now.”
Paul Reville is a professor at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education where he runs the Education Redesign Lab. To hear his full interview with Boston Public Radio, click on the audio link above.