Friday, the Alabama House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 397, which replaces the elected state school board with an appointed commission. The Senate had already passed the bill. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) praised the Legislature’s decision.
“Today, because of strong, bipartisan efforts, the future for Alabama’s education system is extremely promising,” Ivey said. “Every Alabama voter will now have a chance to drastically change the structure for education governance in our state. It is time that bureaucracy no longer stands in the way of our educators, and most importantly, our students.”
“When our voters have the opportunity to support this constitutional amendment on their March 2020 ballots, they will be setting a positive tone for education in Alabama,” Ivey said. “Our current system is simply not working. Statistics prove that. However, through this bold change, I am confident that Alabama will have a system that will work more effectively for our students.“
SB397 was sponsored by State Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston.
“I commend Sen. Del Marsh for his leadership and dedication to finding solutions for Alabama’s education system,” Ivey added. “Additionally, I applaud Speaker (Mac) McCutcheon and the Alabama Legislature for supporting this piece of legislation and showing their willingness to make real, impactful changes. It’s time for Alabama to take the lead in education. I look forward to finding more ways to improve our education system in Alabama.”
“This is a great day for education in Alabama,” Marsh said. “In the spring, the voters will have the opportunity to fundamentally reform education in this state unlike we have seen at any point in the past 50 years and move to a system that has proven to work in the states who are top ranked in education across the country. For far too long our children and our teachers have been held hostage and used as a bargaining chip, and we have seen the sad results — last in the country in education.”
“Next March, the voters will have the chance to send a strong message that enough is enough,” Marsh added. “We want a school board that is capable of making decisions in the best interests of our schools, a school board that has the interests of our teachers and students at heart and a school board this resembles the face of education in this state.”
“I believe our students learn best when innovation is allowed to take place in the classroom,” Marsh continued. “That is not happening with our current system. If we have a school board that is made up of qualified individuals, we can increase local control and significantly reduce the amount of time the Legislature spends on education reform and put the power back where it belongs, in the hands of educators.”
“Finally, the voters will have the opportunity to remove the last vestiges of the failed common core standards,” Marsh said. “Like many, I wanted to give common core a chance to work, but it is beyond obvious to anyone paying attention that it has not been a success. Repeal and replacing this failed system with strong standards, put forward by a reasonable school board, will only improve the quality of education for our students and put Alabama back on the right track of making our education system competitive on a national level.”
“I want to thank everybody in the Legislature who supported this bold reform,” Marsh concluded. “Change is never easy, yet members of the House and the Senate supported this legislation regardless of political party, economic status, race or gender. Every member of the Legislature who voted for this showed that they believe our children and their education come first, and I thank them all for their support. I also want to thank Gov. Ivey. As I have stated in the past, there is nobody else in the state who could have built such a broad coalition of support. I truly believe that this is a watershed moment for education in Alabama, and I thank her for her leadership.”
SB397 was carried in the House of Representatives by State Rep. Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa.
Poole is also the chairman of the House Ways and Means Education Committee, which writes the education budget along with the Senate and the governor. The state education trust fund budget that was passed on Friday is the largest in state history.
Poole said money alone will not solve the problems in Alabama’s schools.
“The status quo is not working,” Poole said. “This legislation gives the voters the choice to make a course change in the direction of education in Alabama.”
The voters will decide whether they want to replace the State Board of Education and the Common Core standards on March 3.
Friday was the last day of the 2019 Alabama Legislative Session.