They’re allowed to meet for 30 legislative days.
So what did they do where K-12 education is concerned? Simply put, a lot.
Of the 700 House bills introduced, 163 have been enacted, and another 45 are awaiting the Governor’s signature.
Of the 509 Senate bills introduced, 109 have been enacted, and another 40 are awaiting the Governor’s signature.
The Alabama School Connection tracked 137 bills during the session, though some of these were “companion” bills, meaning identical versions were introduced in the House and Senate.
Where’d they originate? 76 started in the House, and 61 started in the Senate.
Twenty-three of these bills became law. Twelve of those originated in the Senate (including the Education Trust Fund budget). Eleven originated in the House.
Eleven of the 137 bills were within one step of becoming law. More on what didn’t happen in another article. [Here are those steps.]
What Became Law
A $6 billion Education Trust Fund budget, of which $3.8 billion was appropriated for the Foundation Program, and another $196.6 million appropriated for the Alabama State Department of Education.
For those keeping track, the split was 69.4% for K-12, 25.5% for higher education and 5.1% for “other”.
If you look at only the amount appropriated for K-12 and higher education, the split was 73.1% and 26.9%, respectively.
The good news is that for the first time since FY08, there is money in the budget for classroom instructional support, which goes directly into Alabama’s classrooms. Here are those details.
Alabama became the 43rd state to allow public charter schools. The details are few, other than there is an initial cap of ten startup charters per year for the first five years. There is no limit on the number of conversion charters. Here’s that law.
The State Board of Education is set to approve initial regulations for the authorization and operation of public charter schools at Thursday’s regular board meeting.
No public charter schools are expected to begin operation until the 2016-2017 school year.
The Alabama Accountability Act was modified, and the tax credit scholarship portion was radically transformed. Lots more regulations for the scholarship granting organizations (SGOs) and a number of additional reports were added. Here’s more. And here’s that law.
The two-year college system was removed from the State Board of Education’s governance and passed to a board appointed by the Governor. That was kind of a big deal. The State Board of Education has not said much about it since it happened, but they have re-worked their meeting schedule to hold their meeting and work session on the same day. Here’s that law.
Every board of education must create policy governing the ability for students in grades 9 through 12 to earn a high school diploma through a virtual school beginning with the 2016-2017 school year. Here’s more on virtual schools. Here’s that law.
A law to clear up confusion about what constitutes “nepotism” for school-based hiring passed on the next-to-last day of the session. The law defines a relative as “the spouse, a dependent, an adult child or his or her spouse, a parent, a spouse’s parent, or a sibling or his or her spouse, of another person”. Further, the law states that no person can be hired if the applicant’s immediate supervisor is a relative. Here’s that law. (More on this soon.)
Erin’s Law was passed on the final day of the session. It established The Governor’s Task Force on Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children which will determine how to educate children in pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade on child sexual abuse prevention. Here’s that law.
The Flexible School Calendar Act also made it through in the final days of the session. It allows local boards of education the flexibility to set their own school calendars with no mandatory start or end date. The calendar must include 180 instructional days or the hourly equivalent, calculated to be 1080 hours. Teachers’ salaries must be paid according to the state minimum salary schedule regardless of the actual number of days in the calendar. Here’s that law.
The amount that a retiree participating in the Teachers Retirement System (TRS) can earn working for an employer participating in the TRS was raised to $30,000. Annual increases based on the Consumer Price Index will continue as before. The only stipulation is that the retiree cannot be employed in a full-time capacity. Here’s that law.
The Alabama Student Religious Liberties Act was passed early in the session. It protects a student’s right to express a religious viewpoint in the same way that a secular viewpoint can be expressed. It specifically authorizes “see you at the pole” activities where students gather to pray before school. It also requires local boards of education to adopt a policy governing voluntary religious expression in its schools. Here is that law.
Here are a couple more:
SB383 – Created a textbook repository: “Publishers shall be required to use a qualified depository in Alabama for distribution of state or local adopted textbooks if requested to do so by the local board of education and shall have a sufficient supply of the adopted textbooks on deposit at a qualified depository for distribution or sufficient ability to provide access to digital textbooks as ordered through a qualified depository.” (Still figuring this one out.)
SB157 – Established the Fostering Hope Scholarship: Beginning with the 2016-2017 school year, persons currently or formerly in the state foster care program, including children adopted from the program at the age of 14 or older will have the opportunity to attend a two- or four-year public college or university with full tuition paid. The scholarship can also be used for “job training courses or skill certifications that are offered by any public two-year or four-year institution of higher education in the state or other publicly funded training programs in the state, and not considered an associate’s degree, if the courses or certifications are first approved by the department.”
The remaining four are related to K-12 education, and (arguably) won’t necessarily directly affect what happens in Alabama’s classrooms next year.
For the record, they are:
- HB264 – Regarding competitive bidding (and how to get around certain provisions of the current law),
- HB331 – Regarding reconstruction of schools with materials superior to original materials,
- HB336 – Regarding impeachment; applies to State Board of Education and other elected officials, and
- SB160 – Requiring state agencies who receive federal funding to report amounts to Joint Committee prior to October 31 each year, including requirement for ALSDE to report amounts for all public schools.