By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Tuesday, March 11 the Alabama House of Representative passed Senate Bill 38, which clarifies a 1977 law about the authority of the State Department of Education and its relationship with private schools.
The bill was sponsored by Senator Dick Brewbaker (R) from Montgomery and was carried in the House by state Representative Joe Hubbard (R) from Montgomery.
Rep. Hubbard said that SB 38 bill would codify the current practice.
The bill prevents two year colleges, four year colleges, and technical skills from discriminating in favor of public school graduates over private and parochial schools on admissions.
Rep. Artis A.J McCampbell (D) from Livingston said, “My concern with this bill is that we are also debating common core. As I read this bill I am concerned that we are setting up different standards.” “How are we addressing that here?” “I am for private industry and private enterprise but there are certain things you should have to achieve.”
Rep. Hubbard said, “This bill was never intended to address common core. If it was I wouldn’t be standing here. This protects that ability of 2 year and 4 year colleges to set standards on the basis of test scores and other objective measures. “We wanted to protect that ability in the 2 year and 4 year standards.”
Representative Mary Moore (D) from Montgomery said, “You are opening up the door for the argument,” that a child who does not get accepted into some school was not accepted because they went to private school.
Rep. Hubbard said the post secondary schools are in favor of this legislation because it gives them something to point to too prove that your child was not admitted it was not due to discrimination.
Representative Mary Sue McClurkin (R) from Indian Springs introduced an amendment to the bill based on recommendations in wording by the Alabama Department of Education.
Rep. Hubbard said, “We will accept the amendment.”
Rep. Christopher John England asked if private schools are required to go through a certification process.
Rep. Hubbard said, “No.” “This codifies what is already established.”
Rep. Pebblin Warren (D) from Tuskegee asked to carry the bill over so that she could hold discussions with the State Department on establishing standards for Alabama’s private schools.
Rep. Hubbard said the amendment, “Is a state department amendment and I defer to their judgment. The state has never accredited private schools.”
Rep. Warren said that you are opening the door to more people coming into the state and starting up private schools.
Rep. Hubbard said, “We are not changing the law here.” There is no statute authorizing the process of the state accrediting private schools in Alabama. “It has never been done.”
Rep. Warren said, “Everybody has a watchdog. We are removing a watchdog. We are putting an entity in place where there is not a watchdog.”
Rep. Hubbard said, “We are not changing the law. That watchdog has never been there.”
Rep. Warren said, “This is the best example of a Democrat going over on a Democrat. It is all about the children.” Warren admitted, “All of my education came from a private education,” but warned “We should be concerned about the choices that we allow our constituents.”
Rep. John Knight (D) from Montgomery asked Hubbard whose bill is this?
Rep. Hubbard said, “This is not my amendment. I am carrying this bill for Senator Brewbaker. I am going to allow this amendment.”
The amendment was approved on a 66 to 28 vote.
Rep. Mary Moore (D) from Montgomery said that private schools had no accountability to anyone. “Over time what this bill does is it forces higher ed. standards to lower their standards. Moore complained that private schools don’t come under the authority of the state department of education.
Rep. Hubbard said, “It has always been that way in Alabama.”
Rep. Moore said, “What I am telling you is that Alabama is already at the bottom of the totem pole.”
Rep. Hubbard said that this bill resolves some inconsistency in the code. That is the primary purpose of this bill.
Rep. Hubbard said, “If the body deems to come back later and try to figure out what standards should be set for independent schools that is another bill.” “We have no direct control over those independent schools.” “We have to trust that those independent schools can regulate themselves.”
The bill passed by a vote of 65 to 25.
Over the summer the Superintendent of Education Tommy Bice announced plans to inspect, license and regulate private schools and charge them a licensing fee to pay for the new found regulatory authority. Supt. Bice cited a unique interpretation of this 1977 law to justify these new found powers and authority for his office. Parochial, religious, and independent school systems strongly objected to this proclamation and Bice was forced to back down by Governor Robert Bentley (R) and threats from legislators.
SB 38 fixes that rather unique interpretation of the 1977 statute.
Rep. Joe Hubbard is surrendering his seat in the legislature and instead is running as a Democrat for attorney general against incumbent AG Luther Strange (R).