By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
The Alabama Senate has passed the Alabama Accountability Act on Thursday. The School Flexibility Act was one of the proposals that made up the House Republican Caucus’s “We Dare Defend Our Rights” Agenda.
Senator Paul Bussman (R) from Cullman said on Facebook, “Senate just passed the school flexibility bill. THERE IS ALOT OF MISINFORMATION BEING SPREAD ABOUT THIS BILL ALREADY!!! Teachers tenure IS protected, teachers pay, benefits, etc. ARE protected. Teachers cannot be terminated outside the existing process. School systems cannot waive requirements imposed by federal law. There is no authorization to form Charter schools. It allows children in chronically failing schools to go to better schools. This bill will allow local systems with approval from the State BOE to modify their system to better educate their local children. It also allows the state to fix the failing schools so kids are not stuck in a poor situation outside their control. There will be a tremendous amount of discussion on this bill over the next few weeks. I hope that facts are used, not fear tactics. We are fortunate in my district to have only 2 individual schools (not systems) in 3 counties that are under-performing. Again, teachers have not lost any tenure or pay/benefits, even in under-performing schools. If there is a failing school, it will be fixed. If not failing, your school will not see any issues with this bill.”
Alabama State Representative Phil Williams (R) from Huntsville said, “The Senate is melting down. It is the sound of freedom that will bring school choice to Alabama. I always wondered what it would sound like.”
Speaker of the Alabama House Mike Hubbard (R) from Auburn said, “Passage of this law provides school systems across the state with the tools they need to implement innovative ideas and escape from the tired, cookie-cutter approach that has plagued education in Alabama for decades. More importantly, it gives administrators and teachers in failing systems the flexibility they need to improve their performance, and it provides students trapped in these systems a lifeline to access the education opportunities they deserve.”
Alabama State Representative Chad Fincher (R) said, “I ran for the Legislature in order to make meaningful, long-lasting improvements in the lives of my fellow Alabamians, and today, we did just that. Schoolchildren who woke up this morning with little opportunity and few hopes for success now have a clearly lit path to a quality education and a brighter future.” Fincher was the sponsor of the bill in the Alabama House.
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R) from Anniston said, “It’s critical that we not only provide innovative flexibility to teachers and administrators, but also to parents and children trapped in failing schools. Too often parents and children get lost in these legislative discussions.”
Senator Bill Holtzclaw (R) from Madison said, “As a public school parent in this state, I couldn’t be more proud to have been a part of this process. Not only does this bill give local school systems the ability to meet their needs, but it provides students and parents in failing schools with the option to receive a quality education.” Holtzclaw sponsored the bill in the Alabama Senate.
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley said, “I appreciate the hard work of the legislative leadership, the bill’s sponsors and everyone who worked together to give our schools and families greater flexibility. Students will benefit as a direct result of the legislation approved tonight.”
Rep. Fincher said, “For the first time, school systems have true local control over the decisions they make and the methods they use, and failing schools have the ability to fix the inherent problems that ail them. Alabama’s public education system has been literally begging for reform, and it was pulled firmly into the 21st Century today.”
Speaker Hubbard said, “The Legislature served notice today that mediocrity in public education will no longer be tolerated because Alabama’s students, parents and teachers deserve better.”
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R) from Anniston said, “What we’ve done here today unlocks the doors of choice for parents in failing schools. Who better to decide what’s best for children than the ones who raise them?”
The Alabama Accountability Act gives school boards the ability to ask the state for flexibility from the restrictions of some existing state laws with the purpose of improving education for their students. This was in the School Flexibility Act which has been discussed this many weeks. A substitute bill was introduced and passed by the Conference Committee. The new bill will provide income tax credits for families with students in a failing school to attend a non-failing school. Individuals and businesses can make donations to a nonprofit that provides scholarships for students to attend a non-failing school. Donor will receive tax credits. Alabama has some excellent schools and some that are truly horrible by any measure of a school’s performance. The Alabama Accountability Act will allow schools to apply for changes to improve their performance. For poor performing schools, parents will have the option of sending their children to a school where there is hope.
The bill now goes to the Governor for his signature. Gov. Robert Bentley (R) has already announced that he will sign the new bill into law. The Republican victory is a defeat for the Alabama Education Association (AEA).
Last year efforts by conservatives to pass a modest charter school bill (which passed in the House) were sabotaged in the Alabama Senate largely through the lobbying efforts of the powerful AEA. This time AEA’s efforts appear to have been mostly ignored by the Republican supermajority.