By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Wednesday, March 11, the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee gave a favorable report to S.B. 191.
The bill’s sponsor, state Senator Trip Pittman (R-Montrose), said that SB 191 is necessary to re-calibrate Alabama’s 2 year college system.
The system is currently operating under the supervision of the State Board of Education. This legislation would create a new independent board. The embattled state Board of Education would retain its authority over K-12 education.
According to the writers of the bill this is a necessary step for the welfare of the State that it provide workforce development initiatives that are responsive to industry needs from highly specialized training programs that help prepare entry level employees to meet growing demands and that the needs of the citizens, businesses, and industries of the State are best served by a unified system of institutions and programs delivering excellence in academic education, adult education, and workforce development. Pittman contends that a unified system is best supported and supervised by a board of trustees devoted solely to providing the best possible facilities, teaching, and instruction through the Alabama Community College System.
The new Board of Trustees of the Alabama Community College System will consist of: the Governor, seven members appointed by the Governor so that one member of the board is a resident of each of the seven congressional districts in the State as the districts are constituted on the effective date of this article. The Governor will also appoint one member of the State Board of Education, but that member will not have voting privileges. The governor will appoint one member from the State at large.
The bill recognizes the Alabama Community College System as a department of State government and replaces and succeed to the duties of the Department of Postsecondary Education.
No appointee will serve more than 2 terms and there will be no compensation for serving on the board.
Sen. Paul Bussman (R-Cullman) said, “I have got several concerns,” the first is going from an elected board to an appointed board and I have not been too impressed by some recent appointments. Bussman was also concerned that the initial BOT members could serve a year without Senate confirmation. He was also concerned that the BOT had too much power, “They can do whatever they want to do,” without effective oversight.
Sen. Bussman said we need to expand 2 year colleges to address the work force problem in Alabama. “I am opposed to this legislation.”
Pittman said this is my bill and is based on my experience on the higher education system in the state. Initially I was opposed to this solution, but the time has come. “I was hopeful that the changes we needed would happen. At this time I feel that this is what is needed going forward.” Bussman said that creating an additional oversight board does not necessarily fix the problem in the state. That we have no oversight over the higher education system is a bigger problem.
Sen. Dial (R-Lineville) moved to give the bill a favorable report.
Senators Bussman, Vivian Figures (D-Mobile), Quinton Ross (D-Montgomery), and Hank Sanders (D-Selma) all opposed passage.
The bill received the favorable report.
State School Board Member Mary Scott Hunter (R) opposes the new legislation. She wrote on Facebook Tuesday: “PROTECT YOUR VOICE AND YOUR VOTE in Alabama Community College Governance! Senate Bill 191 was introduced on Tuesday afternoon, March 10. The bill seeks to remove the elected State Board of Education from governance of the Community Colleges.”
Ms. Hunter wrote, “The State Board keeps tuition low and college accessible for our citizens. Because one Board governs both K12 and our Community Colleges, we can facilitate collaboration through programs like dual enrollment, and so much more! Other states are trying to achieve more collaboration in education while we build silos? Creating MORE government and bureaucracy in education which is not accountable to the people is the wrong direction.”
The bill now moves to the full Senate.