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Opinion

Opinion: The Tyranny of the Education Status Quo

by Thomas Scovill
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It railing against SB54 and HB84, The Local Control School Flexibility Act of 2013, it seems that Representative Craig Ford, leader of the Democrat minority in the Alabama House of Representatives, is not able to distinguish between a waiver being requested and a waiver being approved. And he seems to have overlooked the role and continuing responsibilities of the Alabama State Board of Education.
 
The purpose of the bill is to encourage innovation by local school systems as a means to improve education in Alabama. School systems would be allowed to request waivers of some rules, regulations, and laws to remove obstacles that impede learning and innovation in education. Approval of the requests for waiver would have to be approved by our elected State Board of Education.
 
In his article in Alabama Political Reporter (School Flexibility Bill Must Be Fixed or It Should Be Rejected, February 11), Mr. Ford identifies a number of concerns about potentially adverse consequences if the proposed law is enacted. He writes of concerns with budget protection, teacher pay, teacher planning time, classroom supply money, leave, academic standards, teacher standards, nutritional requirements, physical education requirements, and opportunities for corruption.
 
Mr. Ford has made so many strawmen that we must now have a fire hazard.
 
I see nothing in the bill not to like. Local systems can ask for waivers and the state board can approve the good ideas and reject the bad ones. If we have a deficiency of  trust and confidence in the honesty and competence of our local systems and our state board, we have a huge problem now and it will be with us whether the School Flex Bill is enacted or not. What does Mr. Ford propose to address this deficiency of confidence? Or is he merely smearing our education establishment?
 
Although challenge by lawsuit is a standard tactic of the Alabama Education Association (AEA) as Mr. Ford suggests, the ultimate oversight of our schools and education bureaucracy rests with parents and other citizens. They have ready access to teachers, principals, superintendents, and local boards which they do not have with the State Department of Education in Montgomery. And ultimately, schools will never be any better than these citizens demand. The School Flex Bill gives local systems a tool to help them be responsive to the parents and students they are supposed to serve.  
 
The political and bureaucratic status quo can be a pernicious tyranny unless it is continually challenged. Its past time to challenge the education status quo in Alabama.
 
Alabama needs The Local Control School Flexibility Act of 2013 and I urge the legislature to enact it now.

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