You can get the list on the Current Legislation page, but I thought it might be helpful to describe a few of the more interesting bills being offered. (Yea, the new table tool is a lot friendlier to the eye, eh? Courtesy of Websimon Tables, a WordPress plugin.)
These are some of the ones that caught my eye, but in no way is this an exhaustive list. Again, look at the Current Legislation page for a full list of bills being considered in our Alabama state legislature.
Career Tech Bond Issue, a.k.a., The 21st Century Workforce Act (HB102)
This bill provides for $50 million of bonds to be sold “to provide new equipment purchases for career and technical education programs in local boards of education in order to ensure that programs meet current business and industry standards to provide students with the training and skills necessary to provide a workforce for new, existing, or expanding jobs.” And while State Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice stated that proceeds would be granted to local school districts only after an application process that ensures local boards have a plan and are partnering with local career and technical groups in their area, this bill provides for only $20 million of the proceeds to be placed into that 21st Century Workforce Fund that will be overseen by the 21st Century Workforce Grant Committee, headed by Bice. The other $30 million will be distributed to local school boards based on the number of Career Tech units currently in place (the 2012-2013 school year) and the number of students enrolled in those Career Tech units this year.
Online School Attendees Not Considered “Dropouts” (HB128)
This bill would keep students who withdraw from a public, private or church school in order to attend an accredited online school from being classified as “dropouts” for graduation rate reporting purposes. This raised the question as to what type of accreditation is acceptable. Apparently the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement (SACS CASI), a.k.a. AdvancEd, does accredit online schools. Having heard Bice, in a board work session, direct his staff to begin exploring virtual, or online, schools, this could be viewed as a first step to validating the existence of virtual schools. Georgia has state department-sanctioned virtual schools, as does Florida.
Education Lottery (HB172 and HB308)
These bills differ a bit, but both establish a lottery where all or portions of the proceeds would be placed into the Education Trust Fund (ETF), the main source of monies for K-12 public education in Alabama. HB172 specifies that monies from the lottery would be used for “classroom instructional supplies, resource officers and scholarships”. HB308 states that 40% of the proceeds would be placed into the ETF, 40% into the General Fund, and 20% would be appropriated to the Alabama Department of Corrections (prisons). HB308 does not specify how the monies placed into the ETF would have to be spent. HB308 also allows the lottery to exist for only ten years. Both would require an amendment to the Consitution, meaning they would be placed on the ballot and voters would choose Yes or No.
Raises for Teachers – (HB173, SB209, SB213)
Three versions of raises have been proposed. HB173 proposes 5% for FY14, 2.5% for FY15, and 2.5% for FY16. SB209 proposes a 5% increase for FY14 and a 5% increase for FY15. SB213 ties the raise to “the percentage amount reflecting the cost-of-living adjustment indicated by the Consumer Price Index for the preceding index year.”
School Safety – Lots of These
The best way to view all of these bills is to look at the School Safety legislation page. But suffice to say there are various bills that range from requiring districts to hold a certain number of Code Red safety drills, to allowing certain trained personnel to carry pistols or stun guns while on campus, to allowing for warrantless arrests for persons trespassing on school property, to mandating a second adult be present on all buses while children are on board. If you’re interested in how school officials are keeping our children safe, check out this post.
Class Size Limits (HB209)
This bill would require that, beginning with the 2017-2018 school year, class size limits be maintained at 15 students per teacher for grades kindergarten to third, at 22 students per teacher for grades four to eight, and at 25 students per teacher for grades nine to 12, The limits would be implemented on a graduated basis beginning with the FY14. This bill would also provide that any costs associated with maintaining these class sizes would be the responsibility of the state and not local school systems. No mention is made of how much this might cost.
Mandatory School Attendance Age Raised to 18 (HB211 and HB219)
These two bills differ a little, with HB211 being specific to say that a child is mandated to attend school until age 18 or until they graduate high school (which allows for late-in-the-year birthdays), while HB219 fails to make that distinction. You will recall that the mandatory attendance age was lowered to age 6 (from age 7) in last year’s legislative session.
Educational Accountability and Intervention Act (SB60)
This bill would clarify the authority of the State Board of Education, through the State Superintendent of Education, to exercise direct control over the decision making and operational functions of city and county boards of education when such boards are placed under educational intervention by action of the State Board of Education. Some of you may be aware of a federal lawsuit filed last week by members of the Birmingham City Board of Education (along with a member of the Alabama Education Association) that challenges the state’s authority to usurp decision-making authority from an elected board. My guess is that if this bill had become law before now, the question of who has authority over whom might be less likely to be asked.
Unfunded Mandates Prohibited (SB47 and SB67)
Both bills propose a Constitutional amendment to keep local boards of education from having to expend monies in excess of $50,000 on anything resulting from a law, executive order, etc., unless proper funding is attached to the mandate or if it passes by a 2/3 vote of both houses of the legislature.
So Stay Tuned for Part 2 (scroll down to see what’s coming next)
The absolutely most tailored way to watch bills in which you are interested is to create your own personal list on ALISON. It’s fairly self-explanatory. Create an account and add bills to your list. Then you can look at only those bills that are on your list. Conversely, keep track of them here on the ASC’s Current Legislation page.
And as always, if you have a strong opinion about a bill, take the time to contact your legislator and let them know what your thoughts are on the bill. Here’s how.