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.
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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.
Education leaders in Alabama say there will be no virtual option despite COVID-19. Read more.
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.
Mental health support in Alabama schools has improved since the Alabama Legislatures appropriated $4.5 million toward the effort last year, but education leaders say more help is needed.
Education and mental health leaders held a joint press conference in the State House Wednesday, announcing a renewed push for more funding from the Legislature.
“I think we have made major impacts, particularly under the situation right now with COVID, but I think there is still a dire need for services, collaboratives, as well as tools for these people to have,” Kay Warfield, the Alabama State Department of Education’s education administrator, said.
The continuing spread of COVID-19 throughout the state of Alabama has raised questions about how schools plan to go into this 2021 spring semester, which begins Tuesday.
Several schools have altered their plans from their fall semester operations, while some are continuing with the same conditions they had before the holiday.
Particularly given the new, more infectious strain of COVID-19 that has made its way into the United States, safety precautions and social distancing measures are a top priority. Read more and see list of school systems.