Category: Education

Senate Votes to Scrap Elected School Board, Sends Bill to House

MONTGOMERY — A bill that would replace the elected state K-12 board of education with a new commission appointed by the governor passed unanimously out of the Senate on Thursday.

If approved in the House and then by Alabama voters, the constitutional amendment would be a monumental overhaul of public education governance in the state and end Alabama’s status as one of the few states with an elected board.

House Passes Reading Proficiency, Third Grade Holdback Bill

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama House of Representatives on Wednesday night passed a bill to require schools to hold back for another year third-grade students who are not reading on grade level.

The bill was debated for more than two hours as Democrats questioned the ability of the bill to solve reading problems in failing schools and voiced concerns about the retention component of the bill. Some also cited the expected costs as a concern. The Alabama State Department of Education estimates literacy education requirements in the bill will cost $90 million annually.

In the end, the House voted 92-3 to pass House Bill 388, sponsored by Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur. Collins consulted with the Department of Education and said the bill could see additional changes as it moves to the Senate. Read more.

Rural Counties’ Vaccination Rates Highlight Need for More Access to Care

Multiple times in the past four years, three rural Alabama counties — Perry, Pickens and Russell — have reported having students without immunization documents at more than four times the statewide rate.

Health providers say a main reason for that gap is a general lack of health care in sparsely populated areas. Those counties are short on health care providers, and county health departments are understaffed. A lack of knowledge about the need for vaccines also is a factor.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 764 cases of measles were confirmed this year across 23 states. According to the agency, that’s the highest number since 1994 — for a disease that was eradicated in the U.S. in 2000. Read more.

Higher Education Looks to Fix ‘Egregious Inequities’ in Funding for Some Universities

The record $7.1 billion education budget approved in the Alabama Senate last week contains at least 5% increases for the state’s public four-year universities, but a formula to get more money to underfunded institutions met with some concern.

“I represent an institution that feels like they were not made whole in the budget,” Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, said in a budget committee meeting last week.

His complaint was about the Alabama Commission of Higher Education’s attempt to address what it says are “the most egregious inequities in funding” at some universities.

The proposal would increase funding to some universities where the funding doesn’t match up with that of other schools across the nation that have similar missions, student bodies and degree production. Read more.

Momentum Shifts on Bill to Repeal Common Core

When it comes to student achievement in math and reading, Alabama is near the bottom of the list. If you ask state Sen. Del Marsh, he’d blame Alabama’s poor performance on standards for teaching math and language arts in public schools.

Marsh wants to repeal the nationwide academic standards known as Common Core this legislative session. But the proposal seems to have lost some momentum. Read more.

Bill Would Put Charter Funding on Par With Traditional Schools

MONTGOMERY — Legislation in the Alabama Senate would prevent local school systems from limiting the flow of per-student tax dollars to public charter schools.

Senate Bill 311 is sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, who said it clarifies that money for a child’s education stays with that child, no matter what school he or she attends. Marsh was the sponsor of the 2015 legislation that allowed for the creation of charter schools.

“It was always intended that on a local level the local funds that were allocated per child would also follow the student to the public charter school,” Marsh said this week.

Marsh said some existing public school systems have failed to cooperate with the charter school law. Read more.

In Teacher Shortage, Educators Support Bill for Non-Certified Teachers

Roanoke City Schools Superintendent Chuck Marcum needs more teachers.

Specifically, he needs more educators who are certified in the subjects they’re teaching. But during a teacher shortage that some say has reached a crisis level in parts of the state, Marcum and others hope lawmakers will let them keep non-certified educators in their classrooms longer.

“The education colleges are turning out great teachers, just not enough of them,” Marcum said Friday. “Even if we hired all of them, it wouldn’t be enough.”

Hundreds of schools each year hire educators on a one-year emergency contract. The educators must have a bachelor’s degree, but no education training or experience. After that year, the individual can’t have another emergency contract with a school anywhere in the state.

Senate Bill 304 would change the word “emergency” to “urgent” and allow the contracts for up to six years.

Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, said he sponsored the bill after watching his daughter’s high school struggle to fill a physics teaching position.

His bill would make it easier for professionals with real-world experience and ability, but not a certificate, teach for longer, Chambliss said. Read more.

Literacy Bill Focuses on Early Reading, Holding Back Third-Graders With Poor Skills

Updated — Alabama public school third-graders who don’t have sufficient reading skills will not move on to fourth grade under proposed legislation that will dedicate more time, training and financial resources to early elementary literacy.

“If a child can’t read by third grade, their chances for retention later go up, their chances of not graduating go up,” Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, told Alabama Daily News on Monday. She plans to file legislation called the Alabama Literacy Act this week. Read more.

Percentage of College Freshmen Who Need Remedial Courses Drops

A smaller portion of new high school graduates is having to take remedial classes when they first go to college, according to a PARCA report on data from the Alabama Commission on Higher Education.

The rate of students needing remediation is dropping even though high schools have pushed to raise the graduation rate and are sending more students to college than they have in recent years. Read more.

Birmingham Event Spotlights Preserving LGBTQ History, Collects Memorabilia Such as Videos, Banners, Photographs and Clothing

More than 150 scholars, archivists and historians will come to Birmingham over the weekend to discuss how to best collect, preserve and research the history of the LGBTQ community in the South.

It’s the first year for the conference, called Queer History South, but organizer Josh Burford, a historian and archivist, said there’s resounding support for the event that helps researchers facing a hard task.

“If it’s there at all, it’s hard to find,” Burford said of the materials they look for. Digging into the history of a traditionally marginalized group can be difficult, Burford said.

Speakers at the event will include representatives from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Queer History South is part of the Invisible Histories Project, of which Burford is the director of community engagement. The project is a Birmingham-based nonprofit group that connects universities and libraries with LGBTQ groups and people to help preserve their histories. Read more.