Gov. Kay Ivey and education leaders are stressing the importance of expanding summer learning throughout the state as educators seek to help students recover from learning loss sustained during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ivey on Wednesday toured a program that is funded by Summer Adventures in Learning and helps pair community organizations with schools to create high-quality summer learning programs.
Jim Wooten, chair of Sail, said Sail aims to reimagine what summer school can look like. He said easily 75% of Alabama students could benefit from summer learning. Read more.
MONTGOMERY — Alabama’s K-12 schools have about $2.02 billion coming in from the American Rescue Plan Act that schools will be able to spend over the next three years, making it one of the largest single investments Alabama has ever seen for public education.
In three rounds of COVID-19 federal relief funding since last year, K-12 schools are getting more than $3.1 billion. That’s more than four years’ worth of annual federal Title I money targeted at helping low-income learners.
“We’ve never had an influx of money like this before and we’re excited about the possibilities,” State Superintendent Eric Mackey told Alabama Daily News. Read more.
MONTGOMERY — State Superintendent Eric Mackey on Friday said there will be no push from the state department to require students or staff to wear masks when schools resume next month.
Mackey told Alabama Daily News it will be up to local schools to approach mask-wearing and social distancing.
“Local school districts have the authority if they want to do something with requirements, but we are not going to do any guidance from the state level on that,” Mackey said. Read more.
MONTGOMERY — Alabama leaders say 45% of the state’s workforce now has an educational certificate or degree beyond high school, representing progress in the goal of adding 500,000 newly credentialed people to the workforce by 2025 despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ed Castile, deputy secretary of the Workforce Development Division in the Alabama Department of Commerce, told Alabama Daily News the pandemic has even helped in some respects in reaching the half million goal.
“Oddly enough, it hurt us, but then it helped us,” Castile said. “The sad news is a lot of people lost their jobs, but that helped us a little bit by getting people into programs to give them a credential which added them to our numbers. But it also got them a job that could also not be so affected by something like the pandemic.”
Revenue at Alabama’s higher education institutions in 2020 was greater than the national per-student average and ranked seventh in the nation, but students’ tuition dollars made up significantly more of that total than the national average.
About 67% of Alabama’s higher education’s total revenue came from tuition, according to information from the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. In 2008, the “student share” of total revenue was 41.7%, according to a report from the association.
“The hard part is 67% of our total revenue is dependent on tuition, which means parents and families have a bigger share of that,” Alabama Commission on Higher Education Executive Director Jim Purcell told commission members at their quarterly board meeting this month.
“Alabama has a lot of low-income people, but our tuition revenue is twice the national average,” Purcell said. Read more.
Alabama GOP leaders are following a national trend to block the teaching in public schools of what they call divisive concepts related to race.
The Alabama State Board of Education on Thursday discussed proposed resolutions against instruction of “critical race theory,” and at least one state lawmaker wants to see a prohibition made into law.
One of the resolutions given to the board originated with the help of Gov. Kay Ivey’s office, state Superintendent Eric Mackey said.
A spokeswoman for Ivey, who is the head of the state school board, told Alabama Daily News that critical race theory is not in Alabama’s current curriculum.
A recent Alabama Supreme Court ruling will mean millions of dollars in online sales tax revenue for Morgan County schools and is a win for schools statewide, supporters say.
Some expect more local legislation similar to the north Alabama county’s in the next legislative session.
The court earlier this month upheld the constitutionality of a 2019 local law, sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, that directed the bulk of revenue from online sales tax, referred to as SSUT, received by the county commission to the county’s public schools.
Orr said the local bill mirrored that of the county’s existing bricks-and-mortar sales tax distribution — revenue that has dipped as more people shop online.
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
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:
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.