The Senate passed a substitute version of SB513 with an amendment, and it now sits in the House for passage. Here is the link to the Substituted bill. Here is a link to the Ross Amendment.
Major changes from SB513 when it was introduced to the SB513 Substitute include:
- “Instructional Services” is now defined. It is defined as “The act of teaching students. This does not include books, computer hardware, software other than software that purports to replace a teacher, school supplies, supplemental tutoring, curricular materials, staff training, or other items or services routinely purchased in the non-charter public schools of this state.”
- Gives the state department of education the right to assume decision-making responsibilities on behalf of priority schools if the administrator or local board does not act to provide an appropriate intervention to address the needs of the priority schools at the end of the first year of priority status. In the original version, the state assumed that responsibility after the third year of priority status.
- Language regarding founding members’ children’s ability to obtain priority enrollment in a charter school is deleted. In this version, there are no start-up charters, only conversions, so there will be no “founding members’ children” whose enrollment must be considered.
- The Charter Application Review Council cannot authorize a public charter school in any county that does not contain a Class 3, or larger, municipality. A Class 3 municipality is one that contains at least 100,000 people.
- Language giving authorizers permission to establish an expedited process for public charter school applicants seeking to replicate high-performing public charter schools they already operate has been deleted. No expedited process is possible.
- Education service providers are specifically prohibited from subcontracting with or affiliating in any way with any for-profit entity for the management or operation of any of the following types of services: instructional, transportation, janitorial or health services.
- An education service provider must be a nonprofit entity.
- An education service provider must be “organized under the laws of the United States, with a citizen of the United States serving as chief executive officer and with the board of directors being comprised solely of United States citizens”. [This probably excludes the Gulen charter schools from operating in Alabama, which has been a concern of some due to the controversy surrounding the movement.]
- Public charter school applications must include a “statement of assurance” that any and all employees working in the school or affiliated with the school shall be subject to “verification of immigration status and a criminal background check”.
- Public charter schools must acquire real property for use as its facility “at or below fair market value”.
- Teachers and other employees in public charter schools must be allowed the option to participate in the Alabama Teachers’ Retirement Program and the Public Education Employees ‘ Health Plan. Under the bill that was introduced, public charter schools had been given an option as to whether to offer retirement and health insurance to employees. That option was removed.
The Ross Amendment adds the following language: ”A local law authorizing the establishment of a public charter school or a conversion public charter school in a local school system shall be approved by unanimous consent of the members of the local legislative delegation representing the geographical area where the local school system is located before the applicable local legislation is introduced.”
All of this means that the only public charter schools that can be created will be conversions of persistently low-performing schools. And those conversions must first be recommended by the superintendent, and then a local law must be established to allow the conversion of that public non-charter to a public charter, but the law must be unanimously approved by all of the members of the local legislative delegation from that area. And all of this will only be possible in counties where there is a city with a population over 100,000 people.
However, it adds a provision that any school that is labeled persistently low-performing has exactly one year to get rid of that label. If it does not, the state department of education will assume decision-making responsibility for that school at the end of that first year if the school is not turned around within a year.
Also, teachers and employees in public charter schools will now have the same benefits offered to them (retirement and health insurance) that teachers and employees in current public schools have.
See the Education Options Act of 2012 Analysis page for more information about the history of this bill and the House version.