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Prefiled bill to ask for op-out of Flexible School Calendar Act

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

BIRMINGHAM—On the first day of school for Alabama’s children, two members of the state legislature are calling for a change to the Flexible School Calendar Act.

Senator Bill Holtzclaw (R-Madison) and Representative Paul DeMarco (R-Homewood) are holding press conferences today, to announce the pre-filling of a bill that would give school districts an opt-out of the controversial Flexible School Calendar Act.

“Monday, August 20, is the first day of school for all public schools in Alabama,” said Holtzclaw. “This day also marks the day our local school boards statewide lost local control of setting the school calendar, determining what best fits their community’s needs.”

According to Holtzclaw and DeMarco, their goal in filing the bill is to “allow legislators another chance to vote on this matter.”

The Holtzclaw/DeMarco bill would allow local boards of education to “opt out” through formal notification to the State Board of Education.

“This is the same amendment I offered twice in the Senate and Rep. DeMarco offered in the house and the Governor sent back to the legislature with his veto, which was later overridden,” said Holtzclaw.

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To entices legislators to vote for the Flexible School Calendar Act at sweetener was added to the bill that would have provided $22 million dollars in increased revenues for the Education Trust Fund budget.

The promised $22 million, gave reluctant legislators a reason to “hold their nose” and vote for the bill.

“Promising an extra $22 million is how this bill was sold. This is how they got AEA on board, teachers on board and so many others. But at the end off the day where is the $22 million? It was not there,” said Holtzclaw.

In June, an examination of SB318 and HB360 conducted and reported by the Alabama Political Reporter discovered that:

In the Fiscal Notes for SB318 (Regular Session 2012) on page 58, Section 5, it reads, “…the amount $22,563,277 (conditioned upon enactment of Senate Bill 547 or House Bill 360 of this Regular Session) to the State board of Education, Local Boards of Education, to reduce the divisors used for the calculation of the Foundation Program by 15.”

House Bill 360 on which the $22 million was contingent passed and became law but there is a problem there as well. A reading of the Fiscal Notes for HB360 (Regular Session 2012) finds that there is no mention of the promised millions.

An examination of the final bill that came out of conference committee, Substitute 143175-2 for SB318 (Regular Session 2012), has the $22 million not written into page 58, Section 5.

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Many legislators were surprised to learn that the promised $22 million had simply vanished into legislative smoke and mirrors.

“Now that we know the EFT budget didn’t have to rely on the $22 million,” said Holtzclaw, “we should restore local control allowing local boards to make the best decisions for their communities with regard to a school calendar.”

Supporters of the bill said that a shorter school year would help tourism, especially on the Gulf Coast. During the floor debates a study was cited that shows moving ten school days out of August would have a $330 million dollar impact on the state’s economy. It is also said that the flexible calendar could also reduce operating costs for school systems.

In June it was said that the House bill never contained the $22 million dollars, however, in the Education Trust Fund comparison sheet online at

http://www.lfo.state.al.us/pdfs/FY2013%20Budget%20Info/FY2013%20ETF/ETF%20FY%202013%20PASSED%20LEGISLATURE%205-16.pdf

on page 9, under Conditional Appropriations (near the bottom), “K-12 Foundation to Reduce Divisors” — the $22 million passed the Senate and passed the House being added to the budget. Then in the next line it was removed in the final conference committee report and still the budget balanced.

According to the provisions in the bill at the 2014 Legislative session the Fiscal Office must present the House and Senate with a report on how much money has been realized from the Flexible School Calendar Act.

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In June, Senator Holtzclaw said he is not going to wait two years to see if the act was working.

Having made good on his word he and Representative DeMarco are taking the issue back to the Statehouse.

Bill Britt
Written By

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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