By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Last week Alabama State Superintendent of Education Tommy Bice announced that the state was imposing new rules on Alabama’s many private and church schools, reportedly including a $300 per school licensing fee that even religiously affiliated schools were ordered to pay to the state.
Angry Churches and private school officials made their objections heard at the highest levels of Alabama government. At the urging of Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R), the embattled state superintendent released a statement to announce that he was rescinding the controversial rules that he had implemented earlier this month and that the state would spend the year reviewing the laws pertaining to education.
Superintendent Bice said in a statement, “Based on feedback regarding the State Department’s proposed revisions to the current Rules and Regulations for Private Schools and Church Schools, currently posted for review and comment on the State Department of Education web site, I met this week with Governor Bentley in his role as President of the State Board of Education. We discussed concerns and feedback I had assimilated to date. Also, Governor Bentley shared with me his concerns that these regulations could place an undue burden on private schools and church schools. As a result of our discussion, we have decided it is best to place the regulatory revisions on hold.”
The controversial rules and the burden that they placed on private schools had already drawn criticism from state legislators.
Rep. Jack Williams said on Facebook, “I am looking into the proposed regulations that would result in private schools having to pay the State Board of Ed for “oversight.”. I will be in touch with the department and the board to voice my opposition to this move. Hopefully they will reconsider before the legislature has to intervene.”
After Bice’s first statement, the President of the Alabama Federation of Republican Women Elois Zeanah said on Facebook,
“THE LATEST ON WHAT ALABAMA SUPERINTENDENT DR. TOMMY BICE IS DOING TO PRIVATE SCHOOLS: In addition to taxing private schools $500 for a “Certificate of Exemption” every three years, Dr. Bice plans to oversee/approve private school programs and curriculum. Now we know why he proposes to set up a new “Office of Non-Public Schools”. Are our legislators going to sit by and allow this? It’s getting time to make noise!”
After the decision to reconsider state Senator Bill Holtzclaw (R) from Madison said on Facebook, “Earlier this week I commented on FB and Twitter about concerns with developing “Non Public School Requirements in Alabama” and stated that I would investigate and provide feedback ASAP.”
Sen. Holtzclaw posted Bice’s statement on Facebook. “I will continue to monitor and address any attempts to change current policies that govern Private Schools, Church Schools and Home School Programs. ..
Semper Fi – Bill.”
Bice wrote, “We have concluded that not only do the regulations need revision, there is also a need for a thorough review of the current statute governing this matter. We will conduct a review of the existing statute and make any needed recommendations for changes to the Alabama Legislature for consideration during the 2014 legislative session. In the meantime, current laws and regulations remain in place. Those laws and regulations can be referenced through the Alabama Administrative Code, Chapter 290-3-5, and the Code of Alabama, 1975, Title 16, Chapter 46.”
Conservative critics claim that Bice is claiming power and authority over private education that no other State Superintendent has ever exercised.