Recapping important education policy decisions for you
We’re continuing our monthly series dedicated to keeping you informed about key policy discussions and decisions made by the Alabama State Board of Education and the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE). The Alabama State Board of Education meets twice yearly for a retreat, a full day work session during which they discuss important policies, procedures, and changes for Alabama’s K-12 public schools. These retreats are in addition to their regular monthly meeting and work session. You can watch them live and see old meetings here.
Here are our key takeaways from the August 24th State Board of Education retreat – and what they mean for Alabama’s students.
Dr. Eric Mackey introduced Chuck Marcum, who will start as ALSDE Chief of Staff on October 1. Marcum has served as Superintendent of Roanoke City Schools for the past 18 years.
Teacher Recruitment: Big Communications presented to the SBOE about We Teach Alabama, the teacher recruitment campaign that they created and launched for the ALSDE. If you remember the “Thank you, Alabama Teachers” campaign last year, this is the second phase of that campaign. This was originally funded by a $1 million supplemental appropriation from the Alabama Legislature in 2020.
FY 2023 Budget Discussion
Dr. Eric Mackey began to discuss plans for the SBOE’s budget proposal for the Fiscal Year 2023 Education Trust Fund. The SBOE will look at an actual draft at the September work session and then vote on it at the October Board meeting. Once the budget is approved by the SBOE, it will go to Governor Ivey, who will then make her suggestions for the next legislative session which will begin in early January 2022. Today’s discussion was an opportunity for the SBOE to ask questions about the major topics related to the budget. Overall, he expects for revenue to be robust, with the potential for a $500 million increase to be included in the FY 2023 budget. Below is a list of some of the topics discussed today:
- Raise for teachers – Dr. Mackey mentioned that many legislators and state board members have expressed interest in providing raises to teachers, but no specific amount has been presented. He noted that a 1% raise would cost $42 million.
- TEAMS Program – With a total of $100 million for TEAMS teachers, Dr. Mackey stated there will be enough to pay for the Math and Science teachers who opt into the TEAMS program, which provides an opportunity to earn up to $15,000 in additional pay each year. He also mentioned if all Math and Science teachers in the state took advantage of TEAMS, it would cost $150 million. Based on demand, the legislature will need to increase funding in next year’s budget. Many legislative leaders in education have made this program a priority.
- School-Based Mental Health – Board members continue to show concern about student mental health and the services being provided to students. There are currently two strands of work at the state level:
- Mental Health Coordinators: Since 2020, the Board has requested & the legislators have funded mental health coordinators, who coordinate with school staff to provide mental health services for students who may not need intensive support, or Tier 2. Currently, there are 101 school-based mental health coordinators, with an additional 14 in fiscal year 2022. The ultimate goal is to ensure there is a coordinator in every school district.
- School-Based Mental Health Collaborative: Tier 3 support for the most severe needs are provided through the partnerships between school districts and local mental health clinics. This work is funded through the Alabama Department of Mental Health. Currently, there are 80 sites throughout the state that provide access to school-based mental health professionals.
- Some Alabama districts are using ESSER funds to pay for their own school-based mental health professionals, which allows them to expand the number of students they are serving. Board members asked about using budget funds to provide school-based mental health professionals. Click here to read about how other states are using federal funds to provide school-based mental health services during this unprecedented time.
- Assessments – Dr. Mackey addressed the importance of continuing to fund formative assessments in reading and math. Currently, the state funds these assessments in K-3, which proved critical to assessing the impact of the pandemic on students. They are also important to the implementation of the Alabama Literacy Act, as they identify struggling readers and those with the characteristics of dyslexia. In high school, the board has also expressed an interest in adding a second opportunity for students to take the ACT. Currently, the ACT is given to all Alabama 11th graders.
Rep. Danny Garrett, recently appointed Chair of the House Education Budget Committee and Vice Chair of the Education Policy Committee, joined the SBOE for lunch. He replaces Rep. Bill Poole who was recently appointed State Finance Director by Governor Ivey. The former Trussville school board member emphasized a need to focus on underserved districts and plans to work with the SBOE on the challenges of this school year.
The Board decided to wait to discuss possible bills in the 2022 legislative session until all board members could be present. (Dr. Wayne Reynolds (District 8) and Stephanie Bell (District 3) were not in attendance; Belinda McRae (District 7) attended virtually.)
AL Ethics Law
Cynthia Raulston, General Counsel for the Alabama Ethics Commission did a presentation for the Board on Alabama Ethics Law and how it applies to State Board members.
Angela Martin, ALSDE Deputy State Superintendent, gave an update on the state’s transition to Powerschool. While it has been a challenging transition at times, 152 out of 173 of Alabama’s school districts have migrated to Powerschool since August 2.
ALSDE will preview a separate COVID dashboard going live next week, which will have a breakdown of cases per district with the potential for more specific school-level data. Schools will be required to report the total number of COVID-19 cases to ADPH and ALSDE, without disaggregating student and teacher case numbers.
Dr. Mackey shared that there are more schools that will be going remote due to a rise in COVID cases in the upcoming week and that moving forward, districts will need to report these closures to the ALSDE. The department will be relaunching their dashboard for tracking how schools are delivering instruction this year in upcoming weeks. You can find the data on instructional delivery methods in the 2021-2022 school year here.
Dr. Mackey also emphasized that schools are not required to conduct contact tracing, however local school districts are empowered to do so if they so choose.
Contact Your Board Member:
Have feedback on any of the above items – or anything else? Contact your state school board member using the resources below:
-To contact your State Board of Education Member, click here.
-To find out which district you live and/or teach in, click here. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and enter your address in the “Polling Place Search” box. Once entered, it will take you to a page that shows your polling place and the districts you live in.
-To view a map of the state school board districts, click here.