The 2024 Regular Session of the Alabama Legislature officially began on Tuesday, February 6, 2024. 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 read the full speech here.
Governor Ivey began her remarks about education by saying education is the “great equalizer.” Like last year, she reiterated that ensuring every Alabama student receives a high-quality education will be her number one priority. She went on to say, “I believe in every one of our students in Alabama. When you set the bar high, these students can reach their full potential.”
Here are the education priorities she laid out in her speech:
- School Choice: As expected, the Governor announced her support for expanding school choice in Alabama by calling for the creation of state-funded education savings accounts (ESAs) to provide parents funding to send their child to a private school or homeschool. This is her number-one priority for this legislative session. She laid out the following details:
- The CHOOSE Act would create a fund of at least $100 million per year to fund the ESAs. The Governor stated that she wants to grow the fund over time to make it universal for all students. This indicates that there wouldn’t be a cap on future appropriations.
- Beginning with the 2025-26 school year, the ESAs for families would be funded in the form of an advanced refundable income tax credit to cover qualified expenses such as tuition, textbooks, etc. Each child would receive $7,000 for private schools or $2,000 for homeschool expenses.
- During the first two years, the program would be available for students from families making less than 300% of the federal poverty level. Beginning with the 2027-2028 school year, it would be open to all.
We are in the process of analyzing this bill and reviewing research on the effectiveness of this type of investment. In the meantime, we encourage the legislature to ensure that the bill includes accountability, such as testing requirements, a sustained focus on students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, and a cap on state funding for this program.
- Turnaround Schools: Gov. Ivey visited all fifteen schools from her turnaround school initiative this year. Now in its second year, the initiative targets 15 of the state’s persistently lowest-performing elementary schools. She highlighted ABC Elementary in Wilcox County, where fourth graders (who were present for the speech) had the highest reading gains in the entire state last year, which she attributed to the success of this initiative. The students received a standing ovation from the crowd. She encouraged state leaders to double down on this program to support students.
- Governor’s Commission Report: Gov. Ivey nodded to her Commission on Teaching and Learning, which released its final report in December, linked here. She shared that this report will be her administration’s education blueprint for the next three years, which included the recommendation to fully fund the Alabama Literacy Act and the Alabama Numeracy Act.
- The Alabama Numeracy Act: Gov. Ivey urged full funding of the Numeracy Act, which provides math coaches, resources, and training for math teachers to ensure every child receives a high-quality math education. She also mentioned the importance of a high-quality curriculum in this effort, saying, “With the right curriculum, they can do it!”
- No Delay of the Alabama Literacy Act: Gov. Ivey urged full funding of the Literacy Act to continue the progress being made in ensuring every child can read on grade level by the end of the 3rd grade. 2024 will be the first year with the retention provision of the Act in effect, which requires a student to repeat third grade to receive more support if they are not reading on grade level. Gov. Ivey strongly reiterated her commitment to moving forward, stating, “If you send any version of a delay to my desk, I will veto the bill.” A+ is grateful for the Governor’s strong commitment to giving every child the support they need to read.
- Teacher Salaries: Like last year, Gov. Ivey reiterated her goal of ensuring that Alabama’s starting teacher salary is the highest in the region. She encouraged legislators to prioritize and “get this done” during this legislative session.
- School Safety: Gov. Ivey called on the legislature to invest in school safety through a $100 million grant program.
- Alabama School of Healthcare Science: Gov. Ivey reiterated that one of her top priorities is establishing the Alabama School of Healthcare Science in Demopolis, which will prepare students for healthcare jobs ranging from medical assistants to physicians.
- High-quality Childcare: She briefly mentioned the need for high-quality childcare, emphasizing the importance of supporting Alabama families.
- Broadband Connectivity: One of Gov. Ivey’s priorities is ensuring our entire state has the ability to connect to high-speed internet. Yesterday, she announced 21 grants totaling $188 million, which will help to expand access. Over the next 3 years, these investments in broadband/fiber deployment will total $2 billion.
Gambling and State Lottery: The Governor announced that she supports the upcoming proposals to regulate and legalize gambling in the state. She also supported the prospect of a state lottery and reaffirmed that voters need another chance to weigh in on establishing one.
Artificial Intelligence: Gov. Ivey will be establishing an Artificial Intelligence task force to prepare the state to safely and effectively use this emerging technology to prepare for the “Alabama of tomorrow.”
Keep Up With Us During the Legislative Session
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