Category: Education

Proposal Changing Charter School Funding Has Potential Bipartisan Support

MONTGOMERY — As advocates for public charter schools push for more equal funding in the Alabama Legislature this year, an unlikely ally has emerged signaling potential bi-partisan support for the proposal.

Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D- Birmingham, a prominent voice in the state’s minority party, recently filed Senate Bill 387, similar to House Bill 487, sponsored by Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, earlier this session.

These bills would make changes to the Alabama School Choice and Student Opportunity Act and allow for some local tax dollars to follow students to charter schools similar to how they would to any other school. Currently, both state and federal dollars follow students who leave traditional schools and enroll in charter schools, but local dollars do not.

“Many of these people are constituents and so they asked for some help in those areas, and that’s what the objective was, just to help them to provide them with some funds so that they could ease the burden on the students,” Smitherman told Alabama Daily News.

Alabama Democrats have historically been against expanding charter schools in the state and fought against the broad 2015 school choice legislation, arguing it would undermine traditional schools. Read more.

Bill Would Create Scholarships for Rural Teachers

MONTGOMERY — Legislation in the Alabama Senate would give scholarships to students seeking to be STEM or special education teachers in Alabama if they agree to teach in rural areas. Read more.

More from the Legislature this week:

Teacher Retirement Bill Advances

ADOC Reporting, Sexual Assault Victim Bills Advance, Grand Jury Bill Delayed

Bill Would Change State’s Grand Jury Secrecy Laws, Free Witnesses to Talk About Testimony

Governor Signs Alcohol Delivery Bill

Read complete legislative coverage.

Senate Approves Delay of Literacy Act Student Holdback Requirement

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Senate on Tuesday voted to delay by two years the requirement that third graders who don’t read at set levels be held back in school, as described in the Alabama Literacy Act, despite opposition from some chamber leaders.

Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, sponsored Senate Bill 94. It passed by a vote of 23-9.

The 2019 law currently requires that, starting at the end of the 2021-2022 school year, third grade students demonstrate sufficient reading skills before being promoted to fourth grade. Smitherman and others argued that COVID-19-caused learning loss would lead to more students being held back next year if lawmakers didn’t act. Read more.

More from the Legislature this week:

Bill Would Change State’s Grand Jury Secrecy Laws, Free Witnesses to Talk About Testimony

Governor Signs Alcohol Delivery Bill

Read complete legislative coverage.

Open Enrollment School Bill Advances

MONTGOMERY — A bill to require Alabama school systems to adopt open enrollment policies to accept students outside their districts cleared its first vote on Tuesday.

Some education groups spoke against Senate Bill 365 by Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, who pledged to work with them as the bill moves forward. Marsh, a school choice advocate, said the state has to provide more educational options for families. He said 47 states have open enrollment policies.

“It basically says you’re not limited by your ZIP code where you’re going to school,” Marsh told the Senate Education Policy Committee. Read more.

More from the Legislature this week:
Legislature Sends Alcohol Delivery Bill to Governor

House Passes CA Prohibiting Legislative Changes Within Six Months of Elections

Distracted Driving Bill Fails

Bill Increases Tax Credit Limit for Accountability Act Donors

Bill Would Let K-12 Students Enroll in Any School in the State — For a Fee.

Senate Bill 365 by Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, says that starting in the 2022-2023 school year, students from outside a system can enroll in its schools. A student enrolling in a school outside of his or her district of residence “shall pay the enrolling school district an amount that is equal to the per student share of the net local tax revenue” as determined by the State Department of Education.

Local school boards would be required to adopt application processes and “shall consider” giving low-performing students from failing schools, as determined by the Alabama Accountability Act, enrollment priority.

Marsh filed the bill, called the Open Schools Act, on Thursday. It’s been assigned to the Senate Education Policy Committee, and a public hearing is set for 10:45 a.m.Tuesday. Read more.

More from the Legislature this week:

Bill Increases Tax Credit Limit for Accountability Act Donors

Bill Increases Tax Credit Limit for Accountability Act Donors

Legislation in the Alabama State House would increase the allowable tax credit for individuals and corporations that donate to private school scholarships through the Alabama Accountability Act.

The 2013 law allows for tax credit-funded scholarships for families leaving the state’s lowest-performing public schools. There also is a separate $30 million-per-year scholarship fund for private school tuition. Businesses and individuals who donate to the fund receive income tax credits — money that would otherwise go to the state education budget. Scholarship granting organizations, or SGOs, collect and distribute the money to low-income families. Those students are not required to come from failing schools.

House Bill 559 by Rep. Charlotte Meadows, R-Montgomery, does not change that $30 million cap but expands the allowable credit from 50% of an individual’s tax burden to 75%, capped at $75,000. Read more.

Advancement and Technology Fund Could Send $282M to K-12, Higher Ed

Alabama K-12 schools and colleges could receive about $282 million this year separate from the state education budget or any federal relief money flowing to them.

Senate Bill 193 would allocate money through the state’s Advancement and Technology Fund, which can be spent on one-time purchases in tech, capital improvements and a few other select expenses. The proposal that passed the Senate distributes nearly $76.3 million to higher education institutions and nearly $206 million to K-12.

For the smallest school systems, it’s several hundred thousand dollars. Mobile County, the state’s largest K-12 system, would get $14.8 million. Every school’s proposed allocation is listed in the bill approved by the Senate and now in the House. Schools would receive the money this summer. Read more.

$7.6B Education Budget Moves to House

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Senate on Thursday unanimously approved a record-setting $7.6 billion education budget for 2022.

The proposal includes a 2% across-the-board cost of living pay increase for K-12 and community college employees and two other more targeted pay increases for teachers. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives.

The Senate also approved Senate Bill 327 to create a program to offer increased pay to middle and high school math and science teachers who meet certain qualifications. Additional money would also be available to those teachers who work in hard-to-staff schools. Read more.

Read complete legislative coverage