By Senator Bill Holtzclaw
As the 2013 legislative session draws near I wish to take this opportunity to introduce a couple of bills concerning education that I will champion with fellow legislators – the School Calendar Opt-Out bill and the Local Control School Flexibility Act.
The purpose of the School Calendar Opt-Out is to institute an “opt-out” provision, returning control of setting the start and stop date of the school year calendar to our local school boards. A law passed in the 2012 session established a mandatory state-wide start and stop date for all public schools. Legislators have received numerous emails and phone calls from parents, teachers and administrators expressing their displeasure and frustration with passage of this law.
School systems across the state are currently planning next school year’s calendar. I encourage each system to publish two calendars – one following the current law, and another reflecting what the school year calendar could look like should the legislature pass the proposed “opt-out” provision allowing local school boards to once again set the calendar.
I then encourage readers to review the two calendars once published and contact their legislators and express support or opposition of the bill as it is debated during the 2013 legislative session.
The purpose of the Local Control School Flexibility Act is to encourage innovation and flexibility in school systems across Alabama – innovation tailored to each systems unique situation. The parents and local school boards know what is best for their students and this act provides the process to enable those decisions. I view this as a very important step towards education reform in Alabama.
Briefly, the act establishes a formal process for local systems to seek a temporary waiver from state regulations and policies that they have identified as a hindrance to operating in innovative, flexible ways. The act requires local school systems to work with the State Board of Education as well as the State Superintendent, to jointly create a flexibility contract. A flexibility contract outlines the policy from which the school is seeking relief while maintaining academic standards that must be maintained in order to allow the flexibility.
The overarching goal is to enable local systems to make decisions that will improve student achievement and student outcomes in their communities.
Requirements stipulated by federal laws, laws for health and safety, and those protecting the civil rights of students or employees as well as state laws for participation in the state retirement system, health insurance plan, minimum salary and tenure laws are specifically not eligible for waiver in the act.
Again, I encourage readers to review the legislation and contact their legislators expressing support or opposition based on facts and not the spin that will undoubtedly be brought forth by those in opposition of local control in the days ahead.