By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Tuesday, March 17, multiple sources are reporting that the Alabama House leadership is expected to bring the controversial Charter Schools bill to the House floor in the Wednesday session of the Alabama House which begins at 3:00 pm.
On Tuesday, the Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) said in a statement on Facebook, “Charter schools are public schools that have autonomy over key decisions like finance, personnel, schedule, curriculum, and instruction, and in return are held to the highest levels of accountability. The School Choice and Student Opportunity Act is a bold step towards ensuring every single child in Alabama has access to a quality education no matter where they live.”
The Alabama House Republican Caucus posted on Facebook, “Alabama is one of only eight states in the country that do not provide public charter schools as a part of their educational toolkit. Although there are no silver-bullet solutions to magically fix every problem in our schools, public charter schools have proven success in states across the country. Public charter schools give Alabama families another choice when it comes to the best education for their child.”
Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur) is carrying the School Choice and Student Opportunity Act in the House. The bill was introduced in the Senate by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and passed the Senate last week with several amendments.
The School Choice and Student Opportunity Act is part of the Republican super-majority’s “Alabama First Agenda.” The GOP Caucus wrote in a statement, “Every child in Alabama deserves access to a quality education regardless of their economic status, race, or zip code, and parents and guardians are the most qualified to make educational decisions on their behalf. As a result, House Republicans will provide additional school choice options through the creation of public charter schools and other parental empowerment tools vital to a student’s educational growth and success.”
Not everyone is convinced. House Minority Leader Craig Ford (D-Gadsden) is opposed to the charter schools legislation.
State Representative Ford wrote in a recent column for Alabama Political Reporter, “The charter school bill that came out of the Alabama Senate does not require that ‘Education Service Providers’ be non-profit organizations. What this means is that, while the organization that applies for the charter might have to report to the state, the companies that it subcontracts to do not and have no accountability to the taxpayers.”
Rep. Ford charged, “The reason charter schools are hotbeds for fraud and waste is because the for-profit companies that provide education services, such as financial and operation management, managing the facilities and even designing the curriculum, are not held accountable…Charter schools are a scam, and a bad idea. Yes, something needs to be done in some school systems. But charter schools are not the answer.”
Former Alabama State Senator John Rice (R) is also critical of the legislation. Rice wrote on Facebook, “The proposed Charter School bill pending before the Alabama House is directly connected to the same groups and people who have pushed Common Core on us.”
Rice wrote, “Why is the Republican Alabama legislature pushing charter school legislation on fast track when there’s such strong evidence of its failure? Campaigns on national and all 50 state levels have been heavily funded by organizations who will profit from this dangerous experiment with our nation’s greatest treasure – her children. Charter lobbyists flood the halls of every state legislature.”
State Rep. Ed Henry (R-Hartselle) admits the bill is controversial. Rep. Henry said on Facebook, “I have met with several Superintendents locally and around the state about the new School Choice Bill. Many of them see it as an opportunity to get out of the shackles of bureaucracy while others are scared by the prospect.”