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Charter Schools Bill defeated in the House

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Thursday, May 4, 2017, a bipartisan majority of the Alabama House of Representatives rejected changes to the State’s Charter Schools bill in House Bill 245.

HB245 was sponsored by State Representative Terri Collins (R-Decatur) who chairs the House Education Policy Committee.

The bill was passed out of the Education Policy Committee, but was soundly defeated on the Budget Isolation Resolution (BIR) so never even got to a vote for final passage.

State Representative Isaac Whorton (R-Valley) said on social media: “Pocket calendar and the first bill up makes changes to the charter school legislation that was passed two years ago. This bill further reduces local control over whether a charter may start in an area and what kind of charter it will be. These decisions should remain local decisions. I do not believe that a commission in Montgomery knows what is best for our area. I am a no on this one.”

A pair of charter applicants were both denied by the Birmingham City School Board. They are appealing that decision.

Many in the Jefferson County Legislative delegation think that this bill was targeting public school systems there.

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House Minority Leader State Representative Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville) said, “We are disappointed with the Charter Schools bill and we are concerned that this bill is targeting Jefferson County. I would not want anyone doing that to my county.”

The bill would have amended the Alabama School Choice and Student Opportunity Act. HB245 would have allowed a charter school applicant to apply directly to the Public Charter School Commission without having to apply to the local school board first. The bill would also make the State Department of Education publish a list of registered local authorizers of public charter schools. The bill would also have entitled a charter school to receive a share of local school dollars.

The BIR failed on a 32 to 48 vote. A three fifths vote is necessary for a bill to be considered by the House when it might affect the budget and the budgets have not been passed yet.

This is the seventh year that Republicans have held a supermajority in both Houses of the Alabama Legislature; but the Legislature has failed to substantially increase school choice for most Alabama parents. The Alabama Accountability Act does allow children who are trapped in Alabama’s worst performing schools to accept a scholarship to transfer to a private school or another public school that accepts transfers. The Legislature has also passed a limited charter schools bill; but as of yet it has not translated into charter schools being approved.

Last year’s testing showed that Alabama’s fourth graders were the worst performing in the entire country in their ability to do math.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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