Legislative Report


Challenges to the Alabama College & Career Ready Standards

A total of five bills have been introduced in the Legislature that, if passed, would repeal Alabama’s College & Career Ready Standards (CCRS). The State Board of Education adopted these standards in 2010, and schools began implementation of the math standards this year. Teachers are preparing now to implement the English language arts standards this fall.

Those pushing for repealing Alabama’s standards oppose them primarily because they are based on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which have been adopted by 45 states and the Department of Defense. A consortium of states led by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers, which include Alabama’s governor and state superintendent, respectively, developed the CCSS. Despite this, opposition to the standards is based on fear of federal intrusion into Alabama’s education system, and the collection and sharing of personal student data to entities outside of the state.

A broad coalition of statewide leaders has steadily voiced opposition to the bills, (SB190, SB404, SB403, HB254 and HB565). This coalition includes parents, business leaders, military families and leaders, teachers, superintendents, and many others. Many constituents and organizations sent letters to legislators asking them to vote “no” on the bills and support the standards, and A+ provided factual information, helping debunk the myths being circulated by isolated groups—many of which are based outside Alabama.

SB190 was “carried over indefinitely,” and the HB254 went to a subcommittee, which voted to give the bill “an unfavorable report.” While it is unlikely that either bill will be brought back up for discussion, the Senate Education Committee passed an almost identical Senate bill, SB403. This prompted the Alabama State Department of Education to hold a news conference to provide a publicly united front of state educators, business leaders and the military community voicing opposition to the bill. Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh issued a statement following the news conference stating that no bills regarding Alabama’s College and Career Ready Standards and/or Common Core State Standards would be voted on during this legislative session.

However, opposition to the standards by a far-right element of the Republican Party still threatens to derail the progress being made in their implementation. HB565 could still be brought up in the House before the end of the session.  With very similar language, the bill is intended to prohibit the implementation of Common Core State Standards, prohibit any student data collection and sharing, and to override the State Board of Education.

A+ will continue to inform you on any developments.

Flexibility Act

The “Local Control School Flexibility” bill, which was supported by the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) and many education groups including A+, was dramatically altered in the conference committee meeting after the House and Senate passed different versions. After adding about 20 pages of additional language and changing its name to the “School Accountability Act,” the revised bill included tax credits to families of students living in a failing school zone to help offset the cost of transferring them to a non-failing public school or a private school.

Democrats were caught off-guard by the major revisions to the bill, and protested the fast-tracking methods that limited their time to study revisions. But despite protests of some legislators, it passed both the House and Senate.

A legal injunction temporarily postponed the signing of the bill, but the courts allowed it to move forward. As soon as Gov. Bentley signed the bill into law, the Alabama Education Association filed a lawsuit questioning the legality of the bill and the legislative procedure used to pass it.

Public discussion of the bill has helped to identify several gray areas in the law that the Legislature is now trying to address, but it’s unclear if a “fix” bill for the AAA will pass before the end of the session. Various definitions of what constitutes a failing school and a lack of clarity surrounding who is eligible for a tax credit, among other issues are under consideration. Additionally, Rep. Paul DeMarco of Homewood wants language added that would explicitly allow non-failing public schools and private schools to reject students who attempt to transfer from failing schools.