The 2013 Alabama legislative session opened today, and education issues are front and center. Two public hearings will be held on Wednesday: the first at 8:30 a.m. in the Senate on SB54 and the second at 1:00 p.m. in the House on HB84. These identical bills are each entitled the Local Control School Flexibility Act.
What is fascinating is the coalition of supporters of the bill, including Alabama State Superintendent of Education Dr. Tommy Bice, the Alabama Association of School Boards, the School Superintendents of Alabama, the A+ Education Partnership, the Alabama Association of School Business Officials, the Business Council of Alabama, and the Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools. The seven groups issued a joint statement in support of the Local School Control Flexibility Act, stating in part:
The Local Control School Flexibility Act (House Bill 84 and Senate Bill 54) is building upon the State Board of Education’s exciting Plan 2020 that is underway in Alabama’s K-12 schools. The State Board allows local schools to request relief from rules and regulations through its innovative schools program. This Act is a natural extension allowing local school systems to request relief from certain state statutes in exchange for greater accountability.
The Act specifically safeguards employees’ protections earned under tenure, the minimum state salary schedule, civil rights, and health and safety regulations. For any local innovation plan proposal, the bill requires public scrutiny through a strict approval process. A local superintendent must recommend, and a local school board must approve, a flexibility proposal. The proposal process requires an opportunity for extensive community input. And proposals must include identified student performance goals and increased accountability measures to justify waiving specific statutes or regulations. Proposals must be submitted to the State Department of Education and approved by the State Board of Education. The flexibility proposals must include annual accountability measures and five-year performance targets. Additionally, the flexibility contracts are subject to periodic review and revocation by the State Department of Education.
The Local Control School Flexibility Act is a critical step in furthering Alabama’s momentum in education and advancing achievement for all students. – Joint Statement on House Bill 84 and Senate Bill 54 [links added for this post]
I recall during last year’s Committee Hearings on the bill that would have legalized a limited number of charter schools in Alabama, Huntsville City Schools Superintendent Casey Wardynski demanded the same flexibility for his traditional public schools that legislators were proposing to allow for charter schools. It appears this bill may meet at least some of his demands.
This bill appears to fully institutionalize the resolution passed in 2010 by the State Board of Education to allow for Innovation School Systems. [Background on Innovation School Systems at the link. Cool idea, great idea, in fact, but only two of Alabama’s 134 school systems have signed on.]
Not every education group is pleased with this proposal, though. Somehow, without the words “charter schools” even being mentioned, the state’s largest professional educator’s association, the Alabama Education Association‘s Executive Director believes that this is “a way to back door charter schools”.
I hope that each of you reading this will take the time to read the actual legislation (not just the news reports or press releases or editorials that are bound to be published before the week is out) and form your own opinion about whether you believe this type of flexibility would be good for Alabama’s children. Please do not listen only to one group or the other: form your own opinion. This legislation is not difficult to understand. If you need help, let me know.
I will attend the 1:00 House hearing and will report what I learn on the Tales from the Meeting blog. If I have a signal, I will tweet live from the meeting. Follow me on twitter at @ALSchoolConnect.