State Senate Passes Weakened Flexibility/Charter Schools Bill

The Alabama Senate on Wednesday passed SB513, a version of the Education Options Act sponsored by Sen. Dick Brewbaker.

The Education Options Act, first introduced by Gov. Bentley and the Legislative leadership in March and filed in the House, is meant to offer flexibility for traditional schools and allow for the creation of public charter schools for students not well served by traditional public schools.

“We are sending a clear message that failure in our schools is no longer an option,” Brewbaker said in the Associated Press story after SB513 passed.

Committee and floor amendments added to SB513 as it progressed through the Senate require unanimous consent from local legislators to create a charter school, and effectively limit the bill to only allowing conversion charter schools in the four major metropolitan areas.

The Alabama Education Association, which has fought against allowing charter schools through lobbying efforts as well as media campaigns under its own name and its sponsored organization, Sound Options for Academic Reform, was pleased with SB513 as passed by the Senate.

“It will be very difficult to have any kind of charter school in Alabama.” said AEA head Henry Mabry in the AP story.

Through the political process, the provisions allowing flexibility for traditional schools were limited. Originally, legislators sought to give traditional public schools charter school-like flexibility to become more innovative. Under the version that passed the Senate, the allowed flexibility is similar to what is already allowed under the State Board of Education’s May 27, 20120 Innovation Resolution. That resolution was passed in the wake of then-Gov. Bob Riley’s push for charter schools in the run up to Race to the Top.

SB513 now moves to the House. Todd Stacy, spokesman for Speaker Mike Hubbard, indicated on that the House will make some changes to the bill. “We don’t want to create a process that makes it difficult for charter schools to be successful, so some changes will be necessary to ensure that,” Stacy said.