Yes, the session ended months ago. A number of these laws go into effect tomorrow, July 1. Most folks concerned with education haven’t had the time to really dig in to what new laws the Alabama legislature laid down during this year’s session. So here’s your rundown. [The full list of education-related laws we followed was provided after the session.]
Workforce development is the hot buzz word these days. One law created a new Governor-controlled/appointed Alabama Workforce Council and another gave corporations tax credits for contributing to the cost of tuition for high school students to enroll in Career-Technical programs at two-year colleges to earn high school and college credit.
The Alabama Workforce Council will be headed by Zeke Smith, Alabama Power’s executive vice president for External Affairs. As of today, only three other members are known to have been appointed. Here is an article naming two members. Here is another member. Specific advisory duties of the Council include:
- Reviewing ways to streamline and align the existing workforce development functions of the state.
- Evaluating best ways to increase awareness and educate students on available opportunities in industry sectors.
- Evaluating private/public partnerships to create industry-funded scholarship programs for community colleges, vocational programs, and dual enrollment programs.
- Evaluating standards for membership and operations of the state’s existing 10 regional workforce development councils.
- Evaluating and making recommendations to realign the counties that comprise a regional council, as required to meet the needs of employers.
Two laws were passed directed at specific health issues children face in school: allowing unlicensed, but trained persons to attend to children with diabetes and requiring schools to make injectible epinephrine for anaphylaxis immediately available.
SB57, the law allowing unlicensed, but trained, personnel to attend to children with diabetes was applauded by the American Diabetes Association, which lobbied heavily for its passage. From the American Diabetes Association advocacy web site:
Alabama law now allows school employees to volunteer to be trained to help children with diabetes with essential care tasks, including administering insulin and glucagon. The new law also ends the practice in some Alabama school districts of requiring children with diabetes to transfer to schools away from family and friends simply because they have diabetes. Now, Alabama children with diabetes can be safe at school.
The American Diabetes Association’s lobbying wasn’t the only reason the law was passed. In December 2013, the U. S. Department of Justice reported the results of their investigation into discrimination against children with diabetes to the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) and other relevant groups:
In the course of the Department’s investigation, we determined that the State and Districts discriminate against, and interfere with the rights of, students with diabetes who use insulin and Glucagon. This letter constitutes notice of our findings of fact and conclusions of law, and of the minimum steps that the State and Districts must take to bring their policies, practices, and procedures into compliance with the ADA, and to remedy past violations under the law.
Those minimum requirements are contained at the end of the findings letter. Seems that may have provided the extra oomph needed to get the law passed?
This bill, HB156, requires school districts to develop an anaphylaxis preparedness program, stating they can collaborate with a “physician to develop and maintain a protocol for emergency response that includes a supply of premeasured, autoinjectable epinephrine on each public school campus” to be implemented by the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year. The ALSDE is charged with developing the policy for local boards to follow. The Alabama State Board of Pharmacy will assist the ALSDE.
Because of the technical nature of the law, rather than repeat the details here, please take the time to read the law.
The Behavior Analyst Licensing Board was established with passage of this law. The Board will consist of seven members. Applications to become a board member were due June 2, 2014. It is unclear when licensing will begin. Click here for more information on what Behavior Analysts do.
Protecting school boards from unfunded mandates made the cut this year. A Constitutional Amendment will be on the ballot in November to provide for local boards of education to be added to the list of bodies that will no longer be subjected to unfunded mandates. This means that the legislature cannot require a local board of education to spend money on a new requirement unless it provides funding for that purpose.
Laws related to compensating personnel employed by boards of education are exempt from the exemption, meaning the legislature can still mandate raises for public school employees and not provide funding for ALL employees, only those funded through state funds.
Foundation for Local Schools Dissolved
The legislature dissolved the Foundation for Local Schools, originally founded in 1992, and will disburse remaining moneys to local schools and trust accounts before September 30, 2014. Here’s the bill. This article attempts to explain the reason for dissolving the foundation. It appears that it is no longer needed because many local school foundations have formed since that time. No information can be found as to which four school districts will receive the distribution.
The Penny Trust Fund
The way funds will be disbursed from the Penny Trust Fund (PTF) changed dramatically this year. Here’s the bill.
What is the PTF? Read this. The idea behind it was to fund public health initiatives to prevent disease by making grants made to local school systems. It was approved as a Constitutional amendment in 1990.
The revised language removed references to “disease prevention” and removed percentages and time constraints related to how funds are disbursed, allowing for more flexibility in making and disbursing grants.
In addition, membership of the board granting approval has been further delineated to include a member “appointed by the Governor from one of Alabama’s historically black colleges and universities”. Another Governor-appointed member will be appointed “from a non-profit health-related agency, organization or health-related community action agency”.
Rather than accept proposals solely from local school systems (all of that language was struck), the board will now “review and approve the proposals by the governing authority of the Department of Public Health and the State Superintendent of Education”.
Disbursements from the PTF are limited to the income the fund generates and therefore doesn’t amount to a whole lot of money, but based on the most-recently-published minutes of the PTF board, the state Treasurer hopes available funds will increase due to a change in the investment instruments.
I’ve been waiting for many months for the bill’s sponsor, Representative Mike Jones (R-Andalusia), to respond to my request for him to provide answers to questions Jones claimed to have provided to Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) prior to the February 12, 2014, Senate Judiciary Public Hearing. Ward claims he never received those responses. I have sent four requests to Jones, but he has not forwarded those responses.
Funny thing is that when I questioned members of the House prior to the Public Hearing That Wasn’t that this law was passed to allow the legislature to de-fund the liability insurance program it began in 2013, I was accused of being a conspiracy theorist. Turns out the legislature appropriated only $2.5 million, or half, of what it appropriated to the liability insurance program for FY14.
The legislature provided for the removal of personal information from required Statements of Economic Interests (SOEI). [Find your public school employees with salaries greater than $75,000 and board of education members, elected or appointed, SOEIs here.]
Private school deregulation was a high priority, given the depth and breadth of the new law. A full review of the law de-regulating private schools is here. Another law provided that a student who leaves public school to enroll in an accredited online school is not counted as a dropout for graduation purposes.
Sex offenders who have been convicted of having sex with a minor will have to notify the school’s principal prior to entering school property or attending a K-12 school activity (on- or off-campus) and must comply with all rules enacted by the principal. Local boards of education will have to adopt policies to enact this law. Many school systems have already purchased screening systems, such as this one, to identify sex offenders. Providing a way for principals to be notified could prove challenging unless principals are acutely tuned in to the need to know. Here’s the bill.
What the Next Legislative Session Holds…
Items of interest include public charter schools, virtual schools, and digital devices for all to name a few. Stay tuned.
The next Regular Session begins March 3, 2015.