Education is the #1 Priority: 2023 State of the State Recap

The 2023 Regular Session of the Alabama Legislature officially began on Tuesday, March 7, 2023. As mandated by the Alabama Constitution, Governor Kay Ivey outlined her priorities for the session in her State of the State Address on the first evening of the session to an audience of lawmakers and state leaders in the Old House Chamber of the Alabama State Capitol. You can watch the full speech here or just watch the education segment here.

Education is Governor Ivey’s #1 Priority

As she did in her recent Inaugural Address, Governor Ivey emphasized that education is her number one priority and that her goal is to ensure that Alabama ranks in the top 30th on the NAEP at the end of her four-year term.  

 She began her address with, “We must ensure our children have the opportunity to receive a quality education no matter where they live.” 

Here are the education priorities she laid out in her speech:

Expanding the school choice we currently have: While there has been significant discussion on the topic of “school choice” this election cycle, Governor Ivey emphasized her commitment to expanding the school choice we already have in Alabama:

This begins with expanding public charter schools and the Alabama Accountability Act. While she didn’t provide any specifics on what policy updates she wanted to see in the Alabama Accountability Act, she outlined common sense updates to the Charter School law, including the addition of start-up funds for new charter schools and governance reform of the Alabama Charter School Commission to create better accountability. She wants “more charter schools to form” and to “create more choices for parents.” 

She also announced the creation of the Alabama School of Healthcare Sciences, a new “destination” magnet high school which will be located in Demopolis and will provide students with hands-on healthcare clinical opportunities. This school will be similar to the Alabama School of Fine Arts or the Alabama School of Math and Science.

Increase Teacher Salaries Significantly: Governor Ivey proposed a 2% raise for teachers in this next budget and made a new commitment to raising the starting teacher salary to the highest in the southeast by the end of her term (2026).

Effectively implement the Alabama Literacy Act and the Numeracy Act: Governor Ivey spoke about Alabama’s renewed emphasis on the fundamentals of education and reiterated her commitment to fully implementing the Alabama Literacy Act and the Alabama Numeracy Act to ensure every student has the foundational reading and math skills they need. It is critical that the state continues to invest in the implementation of both laws.

Require Kindergarten: Governor Ivey recommended that the Legislature make Kindergarten mandatory in Alabama, saying that “first-grade teachers should be preparing students for second grade, not catching them up.” There have been several attempts by legislators in recent years to ensure that all children are prepared for school when they start first grade. In addition, the ALBOE recently passed a resolution requiring local boards of education to adopt their own policies on first-grade readiness.

Increasing state investment in high-quality summer & afterschool programs: For the past few years, school districts have used federal COVID funds to support summer and afterschool programs. Because COVID recovery for students will not happen during the school day alone, high-quality summer and after-school is an important strategy to get students on track. Governor Ivey supported further investment of state funds to support high-quality summer and afterschool programs.

Addressing student achievement at our lowest-performing schools through the Governor’s Turnaround Schools Initiative: After announcing this initiative in her State of the State last year and dedicating $15 million to the effort, Governor Ivey has continued to emphasize the need to improve student achievement in Alabama’s persistently low-performing schools. This initiative supports the turnaround of fifteen schools around the state, focusing on “new personalized ways to solve old problems.”

Prioritize access to First Class Pre-K classrooms in high-poverty communities: Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program is nationally recognized for its quality and has been proven to increase student achievement in reading and math longterm. It currently serves nearly 50% of four-year-olds across the state. Governor Ivey repeated her executive order to the Dept of Early Childhood to prioritize new funding for the most challenged areas in the state.

Double funding for Computer Science Education: Governor Ivey announced that Alabama will be doubling funding for computer science education from $2 million last year to $4 million this year. Expanding access to high-quality courses will ensure students in our state are prepared for the changing workforce.

She also announced new state funding for the creation of the Saban Center in Tuscaloosa that will be an immersive STEM experience for young people from all over Alabama.

 In other non-education news, the Governor urged legislators to spend $1 billion of the $2.7 billion Education Trust Fund surplus on tax rebates for Alabamians, with $400 for individuals and $800 for families. She also announced that a special session on American Rescue Plan Act funding will begin Wednesday, March 8th to appropriate the final $1 billion in state ARPA funding.

Keep Up With Us During the Legislative Session

As always, we will update you with more information as it becomes available. Check out our new A+ Policy Portal for accessible info on student-centered, research-based education policy. Follow along with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn. We will also continue sending our weekly education news round-up, The Gist, every Friday morning with updates from the previous week. Click here to sign up.