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School Flex Bill Passes Out of Senate Committee

By Susan Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY–The Local Control School Flexibility Act of 2013, SB54, was passed out of the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday. The goal of the bill is to authorize “the establishment of innovative schools and school systems in the State of Alabama.

It is designed so that the state school board could enter into a contract with local school boards across the state to allow for “programmatic flexibility and budgetary flexibility, or both, from state laws, including State Board of Education rules, regulations, and policies.”

A public hearing was held last week on this bill but the vote did not take place until Wednesday’s meeting. During the week since the public hearing the bill’s sponsor, Senator Bill Holtzclaw (R-Madison) said that he had listened to concerns about the bill from superintendents and teachers in his district. Holtzclaw brought a proposed amendment to the committee to address those concerns. He said, “The amendments we added addressed, as I laid out in the committee meeting, numerous concerns that have been articulated to me by opponents and proponents as well as teachers and board members back in my district, which is very important to me.” He said he had also discussed it with member in the StateHouse.

Items addressed in the bill included adding language to insure public hearing are to be held by the school board to make a stronger requirement that the public’s input will be included. Also addressed were local boards not being able to flex out of ethics laws, Students First Act (tenure), and pay rate language was changed (construed as the ability to “cap” teachers’ salaries).

“The way the bill was originally written it does not look like, and this was not our intent, if a flex bill was passed we could pay you less or freeze you so to speak, so we cleared that up. You can see in clear language where we cleared the tenure part up,” said Holtzclaw.

Language was added stating the the State Board of Education will be given 60 days in which to respond to a local board proposal. If a proposal is refused, the State Board must give reason. Should a proposal be refused a reason must be given, then the board can alter their plan and restart the process beginning at the public hearing level.

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Quinton Ross (D-Montgomery) was not satisfied with Holtzclaw’s amendment where it addressed the Student First Act of 2012 and added an amendment to Section 6c that would prevent school from being able to “flex out” of the Act. Holtzclaw made a motion to table the amendment but in the end the vote failed and the amendment was added.

This bill and HB84 have been viewed by many as a “backdoor” to allowing charter school. Holtzclaw added a line to the bill to address this. It reads, “No provision of this act shall be construed or shall be used to authorize the formation of a charter school.”

Holtzclaw said, “In clear language that the bill does not allow you to build charter schools.”
The bill now goes to Rules to be placed on the Senate calendar.

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