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Alabama may see charter schools this year

The 2015 legislative session may lead to the year when Alabama gets a charter school law.

John Hill, a senior research analyst at the Alabama Policy Institute, says the political climate is optimal for the Legislature to pass a law allowing charter schools in Alabama.

“We think charter schools legislation has the best chance of passage that we’ve seen in a long time,” he said.

Charter schools are schools that are publicly funded but operate independently of the school district where it is located. In practice, they provide greater flexibility in terms of policies and practices than traditional schools and a greater level of local control. The very first American charter schools were established in Minnesota in the early 90s.

“We believe that by introducing an element of competition into the public school environment it will encourage traditional public schools to improve the quality of the education they provide,” Hill said.

Alabama is one of just eight states that does not have charter schools.

Hill said resistance by the Alabama Education Association prevented previous attempts to pass charter school legislation. The 2010 election that ended control of the Legislature by Democrats – traditional allies of the AEA – sapped the organization’s ability to block charter school legislation.

Charter school legislation varies greatly from state to state. Some differences include caps on the number of charter schools allowed in a state or the level of flexibility afforded to decision makers at charter schools.

Tommy Bice, Alabama school superintendent, said he hopes the Legislature will take the following points into consideration should it pass a charter school bill:

  • Meeting the needs of students that are currently unmet through existing public school options and internal innovative programs/choices – another option for innovation.
  • That the decision to create a charter school originate at the local level based on the needs of their student and with broad community support.
  • That there be no negative financial impact on an existing school or school system as a result of the creation of a start- up or conversion charter school while the foundation program (state funding for public schools) remains partially funded.

Emily Schultz, director of the Alabama Coalition for Public Charter Schools, said that getting the enabling legislation for charter school right is a key issue.

“I think having a cap on the number of public charter schools to start with and getting the authorization right – that is whoever has the authority to start a charter school on the local level – is important,” she said. “We want a high level of accountability for charter schools.”


Source: by Jim Cook

View more articles about Alabama charter schools


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This entry was posted on February 10, 2015 by in Alabama, Charter Schools, States.


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