On the surface, the 2014 session of the Alabama Legislature was fairly uneventful, unless you were really paying attention to several bills that could have — if passed — sent Alabama’s students and teachers reeling into the past.
There were more attacks on Alabama’s College and Career Ready Standards either to repeal them or allow local systems to “opt-out” of the state academic standards. While no one disagrees with the idea of more local control, choosing to opt out of statewide standards would have created a chaotic patchwork of different expectations for students across Alabama. Fortunately for students all over Alabama (as well as those who will move here), the legislature did not repeal Alabama’s College and Career Ready Standards, and schools are continuing to implement them.
The Education Trust Fund budget experienced some tense moments of debate as legislators wrangled with increased costs of the Public Education Employees Health Insurance Plan (PEEHIP), as well as debt repayment. While the budget was been signed by the Governor on Friday, he did not rule out the possibility of calling a special session to revisit the issue of a pay raise for school employees. Fortunately, the ETF budget includes more funding for programs with proven track records at improving education in Alabama, including, among other things:
- $38.46 million for Alabama’s First Class pre-k program, which includes a $10 million increase over the 2014 budget.
- $4.27 million for Advanced Placement, which includes a $500,000 increase over the 2014 budget. This funding promotes the Advanced Placement Training and Incentive Program to expand AP and pre-AP classes across Alabama. It is managed by A+ College Ready.
- $572,193 for Teach For America, which includes an increase of $150,000. This funding is used to support TFA corps members in the Black Belt districts where the program has relationships but there are few private donors. TFA puts a premium on high-quality professional development and support for its teachers, and it raises funding specifically for this support. Results from a 2013 report conducted by the Mathematica Policy Research showed that TFA-trained teachers are often more effective than their counterparts trained by traditional teacher prep programs like colleges of education.
For more detail on the ETF budget as a whole, read Bryan Lyman’s story on the Montgomery Advertiser’s website.