Public Charter School Discussion Continues

Discussion of education options continues in the Alabama Legislature, with both House and the Senate committees passing bills that deal with allowing school flexibility and public charter schools in Alabama.

On April 10, the House Ways and Means Education Committee passed a “clean” version of the Education Options Act with the new number of HB650 to incorporate all of the amendments offered in committee. These amendments satisfied concerns of the Alabama Association of School Boards, which withdrew its objection to the bill.

Yesterday, the Senate Education Committee passed its version of the Education Options Act, SB513 following a public hearing on Tuesday during which numerous people spoke in favor of the bill. “The biggest issue with me is choice,” said Troy Towns, a Montgomery resident whose three children attend Montgomery public schools. “We have to do something for these children. We have to do something for these parents stuck in failing schools. Choice, in my opinion, brings about progress,” Towns added, according to a Montgomery Advertiser story.

Eric Mackey, executive director of the School Superintendents Association, noted that his organization has also withdrawn opposition. “We’re talking about a small number of schools statewide, but those are schools that fail year after year after year,” he said during the public hearing, according to the Advertiser.

The bills will now advance to the full Senate and House.

The Business Council of Alabama has released a fact sheet outlining the potential impact of public charter schools on funding for local systems where charter schools may be located. It makes the case that charter schools could help systems with declining enrollment retain funding–rather than continuing to lose state funds as is currently the case.

And in Birmingham, the Over the Mountain Democrats gathered Tuesday evening for a panel discussion on public charter schools that included Birmingham City Schools Superintendent Craig Witherspoon; Alabama Rep. Patricia Todd, (D-Birmingham); State Board of Education member Yvette Richardson; Gov. Robert Bentley’s Education Policy Director Emily Schultz and Sally Howell, executive director of the Alabama Association of School Boards. For more on that discussion, check out the Birmingham News coverage.