A+ Education Partnership applauds the Legislature for passing Senate Bill 45, the Alabama School Choice and Student Opportunity Act that allows the creation of public charter schools in Alabama. A+ encourages Gov. Bentley to sign this bill into law.
SB45 encompasses best practices in public charter school policy from the other 42 states that have used charter schools as an educational tool for more than 20 years. This bill will create one of the strongest public charter schools laws in the country to foster high quality schools for Alabama students.
A+ has long advocated for high quality public charter school legislation that includes research-based elements to ensure public charter schools serve students well. Those elements that are in SB45 include:
- Coupling strong accountability provisions for public charter schools with the autonomy needed to be innovative: Educators need to be free to do what works for their students. SB45 allows this freedom for public charter schools to do whatever it takes for their students, while also requiring strict accountability for performance. Under SB45, all public charter school students will participate in the state assessments just like their counterparts in traditional public schools. Additionally, all charter schools in Alabama must be non-sectarian and have an open-enrollment policy to accept any student who wishes to attend. A+ encourages the Legislature to grant this same level of autonomy with accountability to all school systems in Alabama.
- Prioritizing the educational needs of at-risk students: SB45 requires authorizers to give top priority to public charter school applications that would serve at-risk students. While public charter schools are not the answer for all students, nationwide they have proven especially effective at meeting the educational needs of low-income and minority students. This is especially relevant in Alabama, where 52% of students come from low-income homes. As a result, this bill provides another tool in the toolbox to help Alabama provide an excellent education for all students.
- Allowing both start-up public charter schools as well as conversion public charter schools: SB45 allows for 10 start-up charter schools a year for five years and an unlimited number of conversion charter schools. Start-ups can bring new ideas and energy into communities, and allowing school systems to convert existing public schools provides for more flexibility to best serve students.
- Creating multiple authorizing routes for public charter school applications: SB45 allows local school boards to serve as charter school authorizers, while also creating a state-level commission to serve as an appellate board for denied applications. Public charter schools are a tool for improving the delivery of public education, and they should not be seen as a threat to existing high-quality schools. The Alabama Public Charter School Commission will help ensure that applications to create public charter schools stay on the road to becoming a reality if they can serve children in need.
- Ensuring equitable funding for students attending public charter schools: Charter schools are public schools, and SB45 ensures that funding follows a child if he or she enrolls in a public charter school. While there is certainly a need for increased funding in Alabama’s education system, public charter schools can help us use the resources we have as effectively as possible to educate students.
Serving all of Alabama’s students well is challenging, and there will never be one solution that addresses all issues. However, public charter schools are one piece of the puzzle to ensure that every Alabama student is well prepared for college and career.