Another week almost gone. There are four days left in the legislative session. So what got done legislatively this week in the world of K-12 education?
Sixteen bills saw movement. Two were enacted, a few more waiting on the Governor’s signature, other made progress through their committees and/or full house.
The ETF Budget and School District Spending
The Senate passed their version of the Education Trust Fund (ETF) budget as well. Check out this post for more details. The high point of the budget for Alabama’s K-12 school community is that a $300 classroom instructional supply appropriation was included. Also, the split between K-12 and postsecondary moved a little farther in favor of the K-12 community this year.
HB781 and its companion in the Senate, SB580 have been introduced, calling for the transfer of funds designated to repay the Rainy Day Account (which was emptied in 2009 to make up for revenue shortfalls in the ETF) to instead be moved to the General Fund. Neither has made it through their respective committees to date. The General Fund (which pays for pretty much everything outside of education) is in dire need of funding.
HB734 (the substitute, not the original version), provides a $40 million appropriation from the ETF to the Budget Stabilization Fund (created last year as a result of passage of the Rolling Reserve Act).
HB504 allows for national cooperative purchasing programs to be exempted from the bid process, passed the House, received approval from its Senate committee and awaits discussion in the full Senate.
HB 588, which calls for the Alabama State Department of Education to create and implement a grading system to allow the school community to better understand how successful their local school is. It has passed the House and received a favorable report from its Senate committee. It awaits debate in the full Senate.
Within the ETF budget, the Senate established a $1,000,000 digital textbook pilot program for School Board District 2. The budget awaits discussion in the House, currently sitting in committee.
HB165, which provides for digital textbooks and a pen-enabled tablet for all of Alabama’s schoolchildren in grades 9-12, has passed the House and received a favorable report from a Senate committee. Teachers of those students will receive a pen-enabled tablet as well. The bill provides for a $100 million bond sale to finance the purchase of the tablets among other expenses associated with the bill. That bill awaits discussion in the full Senate.
SB548 establishes the Virtual Instruction Program as a part of the Alabama State Department of Education. This would allow for online distance learning for grades K-12 and will be “modeled after a program that has been proven successful in another state”. It was introduced April 19 and has received a favorable report from its Committee. It awaits debate in the full Senate.
The School Calendar
The Senate approved final passage of HB360, the Flexible School Calendar Act of 2012, which mandates a start and end date for school systems and allows for a 1,080-hour instructional school year instead of a 180-day school year, which technically allows school districts more flexibility in the length of a school day. See this post for more details.
Mandatory School Age
SB28 lowers the mandatory school entrance age from 7 to 6. It gives parents an opt-out provision. It has passed both houses and awaits the Governor’s signature.
Teachers and School Employees
The House approved final passage of SB143, which restores the $5,000 annual bonus for teachers who have earned certification under the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, commonly referred to as NBCT or board-certified teachers.
Students’ Health and Welfare
HB308, which specifies conditions for students to return to athletic activity after suffering a concussion, has passed both houses and awaits the Governor’s signature.
HB670, entitled the Farm-to-School Procurement Act, passed the House and awaits consideration in a Senate committee.
Still Much to be Accomplished
There is still much to consider. The final passage of some sort of Charter Schools bill is what is noticeably absent. Consideration of a bill that would prohibit seniority in reduction-in-force layoff decisions may not have enough time to gain passage. Consensus on how to modify ethics legislation to allow teachers to receive appropriate gifts from students is awaiting a conference committee to rectify differences in the House and Senate versions. And of course, final passage of the ETF budget by the House.
It appears that enacting stiffer requirements for schools to protect students from bullies will most likely not happen this legislative session.
Stay tuned. Four more days and we can take a good look at the priorities of our elected representatives.