The Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Information Technology – HB456
The first, HB456, creates the Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Information Technology. This school would be structured similarly to that of the Alabama School of Fine Arts (ASFA) and the Alabama High School of Mathematics and Science (ASMS). In fact, the bill is nearly identical to the bill authorizing ASFA from 1992, with the exception of the appointing authority over the board of trustees and language described below.
The school looks very much like a charter school (in the same way that ASFA and ASMS do), giving the board of trustees authority over the operations of the school, including purchasing and leasing land, and determining admission requirements, among others.
The board of trustees would serve 4-year terms and be comprised of 15 voting and three non-voting members. Voting members would be appointed as follows:
- 4 members appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives
- 4 members appointed by the President Pro Tempore of the Alabama Senate
- 4 members appointed by the Governor
- 2 members appointed by the “board” (the state board of education, perhaps?)
- 1 member appointed by the Secretary of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency
Non-voting members would be appointed in this manner:
- 1 member appointed by the Alabama Cyber Research Consortium
- 1 member appointed by the Chancellor of the Department of Postsecondary Education
- 1 member appointed by the Adjutant General, Alabama National Guard
The Alabama Chief Technology Officer will serve as an ex officio member, but it is unclear if he will have voting rights. I looked for who that person might be, but was unable to find anyone holding that position at this time.
There are a number of interesting points in this authorizing legislation distinguishing it from the other two state-level schools, specifically:
- An advisory council will be appointed to advise the board on its curriculum and technology
- Students would be allowed to take courses offered by other school districts
- Students would be allowed to attend or take courses offered outside of Alabama and those courses would count toward graduation
- Students could be subject to a background check prior to enrollment
- Out-of-state students would be allowed to attend for a fee
- Board members would be allowed to participate in board meetings via electronic means
- The board is authorized to enter into agreements with other school districts to allow students to participate in extracurricular activities offered by those districts
While it is described as “residential and commuter”, there are no details given regarding how many students may be served, how many faculty members will be employed, or the location of the school.
Given that neither of the two sponsors, Representatives Arthur Payne, R-Trussville, and Mary Sue McClurkin, R-Indian Springs, are running for re-election in November, clues about location are tough to discern.
Huntsville City Schools’ Grissom High School made news last year (here and here) for its partnership with U.S. Army Cyber Command, the first in the nation, in creating a cyber security high school curriculum.
HB456 has been assigned to the House Education Policy committee and is listed on the web site as being on the committee’s agenda for Wednesday, February 19.
The Virtual Public Schools Act – HB479 and SB345
Companion bills HB479 (filed February 13) and SB345 (filed February 12) create the Virtual Public Schools Act, which establishes virtual schools governed by the State Board of Education (SBOE). According to the bills, “a virtual school is a public school in which the school uses technology in order to deliver a significant portion of instruction to its students via the Internet in a virtual or remote setting.”
A virtual school is a public school and will be “provided resources as any other public school in the state”. No local support of a virtual school is required unless a local board of education specifically authorizes a local appropriation to the school.
A virtual school will provide “access to a sequential curriculum that meets or exceeds the curriculum standards adopted by the State Board of Education. The sequential curriculum shall have an interactive program with significant online components.”
The same number of days and/or hours will be required as in other public schools and regular assessments will be required in language arts, math, science, and social studies.
The virtual school must maintain an office within the state. The SBOE is permitted to contract with nonprofit and for-profit entities to operate and manage the virtual school.
Any student eligible to enroll in public school in Alabama will be allowed to take some or all of their coursework through the virtual school.
Local boards of education will be allowed to charge tuition to a student “not enrolled in a public school within the local board of education district for attendance in a local board of education established virtual school”.
The SBOE is charged with evaluating a virtual school based on “the goals of its authorizing contract” as well as its academic, fiscal, and operational performance.
Representative Chad Fincher, R-Semmes, sponsored the House version and Senator Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville, filed the bill along with eight co-sponsors in the Senate. Interesting to note that neither Fincher nor Taylor are seeking re-election. Fincher was the sponsor of the Alabama Accountability Act from the 2012 session. Taylor is the author of Alabama’s ethics law.
Think Independently About What These Bills Mean
It is likely that these bills will be highly contested, considering this is an election year. Please take the time to read these bills, before the mainstream media and special interests get hold of them, to determine for yourself whether you believe these are opportunities that our children in Alabama need and deserve.
For more on virtual schools and online learning, check out this post.
Any questions? Please ask them here or on the Facebook page.