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House carries over charter school funding bill

The bill to allow some local school tax dollars to follow children to a public charter school was carried over.

(STOCK)

State Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, asked that her House Bill 487 dealing with charter school funding be carried over on Thursday. Collins took a moment of personal privilege at the start of Thursday’s session of the Alabama House of Representatives to explain her decision to ask that her bill be carried over.

“I want you to vote on the bill and not what people have said about the bill,” Collins told the body. Collins chairs the House Education Policy Committee, which gave a favorable report to the bill. Collins said that she has worked with the school superintendents and other parties to address their concerns.

HB487 would allow some local tax dollars to follow a child to a public charter school.

Collins explained when the bill was in committee: “I am not against public education. All three of my children went through public schools. … First of all, a charter is a public school,” adding: “These are public charter schools. A charter school is a tool.”

Collins explained that the first ten mills of local property taxes would stay with the neighborhood public school system and that portions above that to address long-term debt service would also stay with the neighborhood school that the child is zoned to.

Proponents of the bill say that it has been subject to a disinformation campaign.

Opponents suggest that allowing state tax dollars to follow the student would hurt the legacy public school systems.

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“I am not interested in taking any more money from public education,” Rep. Barbara Drummond, D-Mobile, said when the bill was in committee.

Collins argues that public charter schools “Are just one tool in the toolbox” and that achieving the best educational outcome for the students should be the goal of the legislature.

Collins said that she is willing to continue to work with members concerns about the bill.

Even though Republicans have had a commanding supermajority in both Houses of the Alabama Legislature since 2010, most Alabama families still do not have access to school choice as to what school they sent their children. Children who are zoned to the worst performing schools in the state have the option of applying for a scholarship;; that would allow them to leave their failing public school and transfer to a private school and there are a handful of charter schools that have been approved in the state. Most students in the state remain trapped in their local public school, even though Republicans control state government and the Alabama public schools regularly test among the worst in the nation, including dead last in math according to one recent assessment.

HB487 is expected to come back before the House at some point.

The decision to holdover HB487 removed the most controversial item from a busy Thursday House agenda.

Thursday was day 18 of the 2021 Alabama regular Legislative Session. The legislature is limited to a maximum of thirty days in a session. The Legislature will meet next on Tuesday, April 6.

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

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