Alabama’s public charter schools may soon begin receiving county education funds, according to a piece of legislation that passed amended from the Alabama Senate Thursday.
The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, would allow county educational funds typically spent in Alabama public schools to follow students who attend one of the public charter schools in Alabama.
Marsh previously filed legislation to provide parents with access to public education funds to use at public or private schools of their choice, prompting criticism from the Alabama Education Association and other public education officials. The bill has since failed to reach final passage.
“The Alabama Education Association has been involved in approving this legislation,” Marsh said on the Senate floor Tuesday, mentioning further cooperations with the Alabama Association of School Boards and the Alabama Department of Education. “All those education entities have been at the table, as we all hope when something like this takes place, to work to get that piece of legislation that works.”
Public charter schools receive state funding but operate privately as a charter.
According to the Alabama Public Charter School Commission, ten public charter schools are operating in Alabama as of 2022.
“It’s not the answer all for our problems in Alabama,” Marsh said. “But it’s one of those pieces that moves us in a momentum, if you will, to continue to do things together to fix education in this state.”
Marsh said counties with less than 40,000 residents would be exempt from this legislation’s proposed changes.
During deliberations, state Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison, D-Birmingham, raised concerns over increasing the funding to public charter school’s boards of education instead of public boards of education.
“We don’t fund adequately public education, so what are we going to do about that first,” Coleman-Madison said. “Until we fully fund public education, until we put in all of those things in our schools to provide every opportunity for success for our children, don’t ask me to go and put out somebody else’s house when mine is on fire.”
The bill passed the Senate 23-1, with Colmen-Madison and state Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, voting to abstain from the bill. It now passes to the House for consideration.