As usual, the 2023 Legislative Session was a busy time for education in the state. This year, lawmakers introduced a number of bills dealing with school choice, literacy, principal leadership, and lots of other topics. Some bills passed; others didn’t. Here’s a recap of what you need to know that happened this session:
Bills that Became Law
Education Trust Fund budget and Supplemental Budget: As required by law, legislators passed the $8.8 billion Education Trust Fund budget for Fiscal Year 2023-2024 and $2.8 billion in supplemental spending. Check out our Budget Watch to learn more about what was funded.
School Principal Leadership and Mentoring Act (SB300): Sponsored by Senator Arthur Orr and Rep. Alan Baker, this bill provides additional support and incentives to support Alabama principals. Principals can receive a stipend of $10,000 ($15,000 in hard-to-staff schools) and assistant principals can receive $5,000 ($7,500 for hard-to-staff) per year, if they successfully complete the following:
- Create a professional learning plan every year, beginning in the 2024-25 school year, and complete five additional days of approved high-quality professional learning.
- Also in the 2024-25 school year, new principals will begin working with a principal mentor for two years.
- Participate in the new evaluation system by 2027-2028
- Complete a new year-long leadership academy by 2029-2030.
The bill also requires the development of new school leadership standards. The program will be developed by a design team established in the bill.
Alabama Credential Quality and Transparency Act (HB109): Sponsored by Rep. Collins, this bill will help close the gap between Alabama’s graduation rate and college and career readiness rate by requiring that each graduate earns a college and career readiness indicator starting with the class of 2026. (The ALBOE also put into place an administrative code change that does the same in November 2022.) It also puts into law both the state’s process for ensuring the workforce credentials are high quality and ATLAS, the state’s longitudinal data system, which will give state leaders more information about the effectiveness of workforce training and education programs.
Changes to the Alabama School Choice and Student Opportunity Act (HB363): The changes to the state’s charter law passed this session by Rep. Collins would allow public charter schools to set an enrollment preference based on geography, and make a number of changes to increase the effectiveness of the state’s Charter Commission that authorizes charter schools,, including:
- Removes the ALBOE from the appointment process so commissioners are directly appointed by the Governor, Lt. Governor, and House and Senate Leadership
- Extends Commission terms from 2 to 4 years
- Allows the Commission to hire staff
Changes to the Alabama Accountability Act (SB263): The changes to the AAA passed this session will increase the scholarship amount provided to students enrolled in a priority school and increase the number of students that would qualify for a scholarship based on their household income to those at or below 250% of the federal poverty level. It also provides scholarships to students with unique needs, including students with intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, or physical disabilities. The cap for how much the state can spend on the program is raised to $40 million and can continue to grow up to $60 million if the cap is met consistently over time.
Changes to Alternative Teacher Preparation (HB342): Sponsored by Rep. DuBose, this bill sets the requirements for what organizations can be approved as alternative teacher preparation organizations in Alabama. The goal is to increase the pipeline of teacher candidates into the classroom, especially those changing mid-career from another field.
Changes to the Literacy Task Force (HB430): The Literacy Task Force, established by the Alabama Literacy Act in 2019, is a committee of expert educators that are required to vet and recommend core reading curricula, interventions, and assessments that are aligned to the science of reading and help teachers identify struggling readers and effectively teach students to read. Some members of the Legislature expressed concerns with some of the curriculum content and assessments that were recommended.
In its original form, HB430 would have had a negative impact on the implementation of the Literacy Act. It would have made significant changes to the makeup of the task force. Content would have to be reviewed for alignment with Alabama’s “core values,” which weren’t defined. It also would have returned the state to an old list of approved assessments, some of which do not fully align with the science of reading and the requirements of the Literacy Act.
After input on a compromise, HB430 was amended to require future core curriculum content to be reviewed for “age appropriateness,” instead of alignment to Alabama’s undefined core values. Instead of removing members of the Literacy Task Force,the Director of the Alabama Reading Initiative and two new members appointed by the Legislative leadership were added.. Finally, districts will be given time to transition to new assessments or allow their existing assessment vendors time to update their products to meet the requirements of the Literacy Act.
Bills that Did Not Pass
School Choice Bills: Multiple new school choice bills were introduced in this session. While the bills that made changes to the AAA law and the charter law passed, there were a number of broader school choice bills that didn’t:
- Parental Rights in Children’s Education (PRICE) Act (SB202) by Senator Stutts: This bill would have provided education savings accounts to families of $6,900 per year, with a price tag of almost $600 million by 2026.
- Students with Unique Needs (SUN) Act (HB334) by Rep. Garrett: More narrow than the PRICE Act, this bill would have provided an education savings account of approximately $6,500 per year to students with various disabilities or special needs, foster children, homeless children, and military children. This bill passed the House but not the Senate.
- Alabama Fits All Scholarship Program (HB442) by Rep. Garrett: Modeled after Utah legislation, this bill would have also provided scholarships to eligible students to attend private schools.
Divisive Concepts (HB7): This bill, brought by Rep. Oliver, is very similar to the bill he sponsored last session, which also did not pass. The bill would have, in part, banned the teaching of “divisive concepts” relating to race, gender, and sexuality in K-12 classrooms. (The ALBOE passed a resolution taking similar action as this bill, banning Critical Race Theory, in August 2021.) The bill was passed out of committee but did not make it to the House floor.
First Grade Readiness (HB43): Brought multiple years by Rep. Warren, this bill would have ensured that Alabama students entering first grade should either successfully complete kindergarten or pass a readiness assessment to ensure they are prepared. The bill passed the House, but it was met with opposition in the Senate.
Child Care Provider Tax Credit (HB368): As a way to make childcare more accessible, this bill would have provided tax credits to employers who provide childcare to employees and to childcare providers as well. Despite having numerous bipartisan co-sponsors, the bill never moved past introduction in the House or Senate.