Here are a few more interesting pieces of legislation this session. If you have an opinion about how you’d like your legislator to vote on any of these, Raise Your Voice (see the place on the home page where you can enter your ZIP code to be given an easy way to send something directly to your state legislator)!
Here’s what we are exploring today: the Teacher and Education Employee Protection Act, which allows the state to offer education employees liability insurance; the Anti-Common Core Standards bills; the Tim Tebow Act, which allows those not enrolled in public schools to participate in athletics at public schools; and a bill to reduce the amount of time a job must be posted when a vacancy becomes available during the school year.
Teacher and Education Employee Protection Act (SB166)
This bill would create professional liability insurance, administered by the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) and the Department of Finance, for teachers and other education professionals. The exact same bill was introduced last year, but didn’t get anywhere. The same bill made headlines in the 2011 legislative session and while it made it out of a House committee, it never made it to the full House for consideration. The following organizations offer teacher liability insurance. This may not be an exhaustive list, but it is all that I could find:
- Alabama Education Association (AEA)
- Alabama Federation of Teachers
- Alabama Assocation of American Educators
- Alabama Conference of Educators
This pair of bills made headlines last week when a public hearing was held at the State House. I posted this the day before the hearings. The short version goes like this: these bills would outlaw Alabama’s State Board of Education from using any of the Common Core State Standards in the standards prescribed for Alabama’s students (which would throw the math curriculum back to the 2003 curriculum), and creates four conditions for any standards to be updated:
- Public hearings must be held in each of Alabama’s 7 Congressional districts.
- The State Board of Education solicits input from educators, content experts, parents, and other members of the community during an open comment period of one year.
- Joint open hearings are held before the Senate Education Policy Committee and the House of Representatives Education Policy Committee.
- The standard receives a majority vote of the Alabama Legislature.
This process, while open and transparent, appears to be extremely cumbersome. Not to mention that it would allow the Alabama legislature to dictate educational standards, which are currently the domain of the State Board of Education.
Here is a list of folks who authored the Common Core State Standards.
One only needs to look at No Child Left Behind (NCLB) which is six years overdue for reauthorization in Congress, to envision the problems with leaving educational policy changes to an elected body the size of the legislature. Because they have been unable to take up NCLB in Congress, the basis for NCLB is still in effect. What if the Alabama legislature is unable to agree, and thus produce a majority vote, on changing a standard? The ability for our state to adapt to changes in education is severely hampered by the parameters contained in this bill.
This bill has made a yearly reappearance since the 2007 session. It has received a favorable report from the Senate committee, with an amendment allowing a superintendent to require proof of proficiency. What’s different about this year’s version is that it only allows homeschooled or private-schooled students to participate in athletic activities, not in all extracurricular activities.
Here is a database of all states that currently allow homeschooled and/or privately-schooled students to participate in extracurricular activities. It appears that 32 states, as of November 2012, allowed nonpublic school students to participate in athletic and/or other extracurricular activities at a public school. The laws are very different from state to state, and some of the 32 don’t actually have laws, but allow school districts to make their own decisions on a case-by-case basis.
Virginia had a bill moving through the legislature (approved by their House, but killed by their Senate), and Georgia is considering a similar bill this year.
Reduced Time for Posting Job Vacancies When School Is in Session (HB285)
From the bill (with strikethrough added to reflect the House committee’s amendment):
“This bill would decrease the time that personnel vacancies are required to be posted by a local board of education when school is in session from not less than seven to not less than three
calendar school days before the position is to be filled, and for all vacancies involving jobs which are supervisory, managerial, or otherwise newly created positions from at least to at least seven calendar school days before the position is to be filled.”
This bill calls to mind a situation from last year in Hoover City Schools: a principal at one of Hoover’s two high schools was suddenly named “Director of Planning” at Hoover’s Central Office in February 2012. The job of Director of Planning had been open for a year, after the person holding the office announced his intent to resign mid-year in February 2011. At that time, the superintendent said the position would not be filled but rather “the responsibilities that [the person resigning] assumed over the years probably would be dispersed among others rather than assigning one person to take over the job.” But in the article announcing the movement of the high school principal to the Central Office, the superintendent said: “There are a lot of short term needs and most of next year’s planning is taking place right now. We are fortunate to have so many talented and versatile people who are willing to go where they are needed. That is something many school systems don’t have.”
The article stated that more than 20 people applied, but the superintendent basically stated that the principal was “willing to go where” he was needed. So was the job ever actually available to those other 19 people who applied? Who knows. [The crucial Planning Director position was vacated at the end of the school year when the Principal/Planning Director was hired as a high school principal in Georgia. It has not been filled.]
This is where it gets really interesting. Only a little more than a year earlier, a football coach from the same high school was “moved” to a “newly-created position” of assistant athletic director at the Central Office as part of a settlement. [The “assistant athletics director” position at the Central Office remains unfilled after the coach took a new coaching position in a neighboring system in Alabama.] It is unclear whether the assistant athletic director position was ever posted. Though the Code of Alabama clearly indicates that it should have been. It should be noted here that these positions in a district’s Central Office are generally paid for with local, as opposed to state or federal, money.
But this does raise the question of why there is a need to shorten the period of time from 14 to 7, or 7 to 3 school days for posting a position when it appears school districts have great freedom in moving people around. I suppose it would take a lawsuit from a disgruntled job applicant to force a district’s hand on this.
Trying to keep these posts manageable, word-wise, so I’ll stop here for now. But…..
Coming Soon….Part 3, including:
Second Adult Mandated on Buses When Children Are Being Transported (HB291)
A Closer Look at School Safety Legislation
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