Alabama K-12 schools are getting another $2 billion of federal relief funding from the President Joe Biden-pushed American Rescue Plan Act, state officials said Wednesday. That’s on top of $1.1 billion schools received from the first two rounds of federal relief.
In all, federal relief money to K-12 and higher education in Alabama will total about $4.5 billion in the three approved by Congress in the last year. About $3.2 billion of that is for K-12 alone, with much of it going directly to local school districts, according to Kirk Fulford, deputy director of the Legislative Services Agency’s Fiscal Division.
“The investment of these funds is going to be critical,” Rep. Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, said during a presentation Wednesday to the House education budget committee. Read more.
MONTGOMERY — Legislation advanced Wednesday to change how local tax dollars fund charter schools, a move proponents say is needed to make their funding more equal to that of traditional public schools.
Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, sponsored the 2015 legislation that allows charter schools in the state. “Over the last five years, we’ve learned some things we need to tweak,” Collins told Alabama Daily News. Read more.
Also in the Legislature
Samford University’s board of trustees named a new president Wednesday. Beck A. Taylor, now president of Whitworth University, will succeed Andrew Westmoreland effective July 1. Westmoreland is retiring as president, a post he has held since 2006. Taylor will be the university’s 19th president. Read more.
A bill that would delay by three years a provision to require holding back third graders who don’t read at a sufficient level received unanimous support in the Senate Education Policy Committee on Wednesday.
The provision is in the Alabama Literacy Act, which was approved by lawmakers in 2019. It aims to increase reading skills in young students. The act currently requires that, starting at the end of the 2021-2022 school year, third grade students demonstrate specific reading skills before being promoted to fourth grade. Smitherman’s bill delays that retention requirement until the 2024-2025 school year.
He said the delay is needed because the COVID-19 pandemic led to remote learning for many students, and they’re not getting the educational support they need. He also said teachers haven’t been able to get the training they need. Read more.
More from the Legislature This Week:
Education leaders in Alabama say there will be no virtual option despite COVID-19. Read more.
MONTGOMERY — A bill to require Alabama public school students to attend kindergarten or take an assessment to go directly to first grade received its first vote of approval, passing the House Education Policy Committee Wednesday.
Bill sponsor Rep. Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee, said her goal is to offer a complete education to students.
“Pre-K is not available for every child in the state of Alabama, so if there is a child who misses pre-K and kindergarten, that child is not ready for the first grade,” Warren said. “So my whole thing is in support of the student being completely ready to go into the first grade when they get there.” Read more.
Also in the Legislature Thursday
Earlier This Week
Read more on the legislative session.
The Alabama House on Thursday approved a bill to modify retirement benefits for newer teachers in the state. Advocates say more attractive benefits, including the ability to roll over sick leave and collect retirement after 30 years, will help with the state’s teacher shortage.
The bill is a scaled-back version of legislation that has previously passed the House and died in the Senate.
Rep. Alan Baker, R-Brewton, told Alabama Daily News that House Bill 93 will reduce disparity between the older Tier I and newer Tier II retirement tracks and help keep young teachers in the state.
Between the fall of 2019 and fall 2020, 59 public school systems’ enrollment grew by nearly 6,500 students.
But under the state’s current funding structure, systems have to fund most of that growth, including hiring the needed teachers, out of their local tax revenue, and state funding is slow to catch up, if it ever does, educators say. For some of the systems with the largest growth, that’s hundreds of students and millions of dollars.
Senate Bill 9 would amend the state’s Foundation Program to calculate growth so systems don’t have to wait a year for per-student funding, which this year is about $6,271. It would estimate non-virtual enrollment based on the previous years’ growth. Read more.
Amy Hubbard Marlowe is the new executive director of the Alabama Education Association, the organization’s board of directors announced this week.
Marlowe has served as interim executive director for two years and previously worked in the association’s governmental relations, public relations and research and technology branches.
The AEA’s primary legislative goal this session is a significant pay raise for educators, the press release said. Gov. Kay Ivey is expected to request in the proposed budget she sends lawmakers this week a 2% increase, ADN reported last week.
The end came earlier than expected for the Fultondale High School facility.
After the school suffered heavy damage from this week’s EF-3 tornado, Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Dr. Walter Gonsoulin announced Friday that the building would no longer be used for in-school education.
“We have been assessing the damage since Monday night. At this point, it does not appear the building will be able to be occupied again. The damage is that extensive,” Gonsoulin said in a statement sent by email and Facebook to parents and staff.