Charter school bill passes committee

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Educators and lawmakers are going head-to-head about the best way to teach Alabama students moving forward.  Charter schools are one step closer to becoming a reality in Alabama.

Supporters say if this passes it means parents who aren’t happy with a public school can get together and start their own school. However, opponents say it also means someone else can take over your school whether you like it or not.

A substitute version of Senate Bill 45 passed the Senate Education and Youth Affairs Committee Wednesday morning.

According to the National Education Association, charter schools are privately managed taxpayer-funded schools that don’t have to follow all the same rules as other public schools.

The goal is to foster innovation and offer an alternative to dissatisfied families.

Opponents say charter schools may use their autonomy to hire uncertified teachers while drawing money from public school classrooms.

Under the proposed legislation, AEA spokesperson Tracee Binion says if a school board denies a charter school application, the petitioner can appeal to a state commission which can override the local board and grant the request.

That would allow charter schools to circumnavigate local educators and arrange an agreement, a charter, with the state commission.

“The local school board does not necessarily retain control of these charter schools,” said Binion.

Former Alabama State Senator Scott Beason is a big proponent of charter schools.

Beason says the new legislation won’t cost taxpayers any more but will allow the funding allotted for each student to travel with that student if they change schools. He also argues that going it alone in the name of innovation might be a good thing.

“One part of this legislation is the ability to convert a public school, so it’s entirely possible that a local school system could say, ‘Look, we don’t want all the bureaucracy. We don’t like all the top-down approach and that’s coming from the state. We want to do our own thing in our own community,’” Beason said. “And my feeling is that the more people that are out there experimenting and trying to do new things because they’re focused on education is a plus because that’s how you find out what the breakthroughs are. But if everybody’s doing a one-size-fits-all if you make Poor decisions everybody is locked in to that. So I’m really excited about these options and opportunities.”

Most Birmingham parents WIAT spoke with said they didn’t know enough about charter schools to comment, but those who did were on the fence about charter schools.

“Well, I have mixed emotions, but my daughter was a student at the school of fine arts and I feel like that being in a special environment that met her needs,” said Donna Whitlock. “As far as different activities, things that appealed to her, I think it has a lot to offer student. But I also think that schools in the neighborhood, we need to reclaim them. Parents need to get involved. We need to get those back. So I have mixed emotions.”

The bill will now go to the full Alabama Senate for a vote, according to the Office of Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh. Marsh is the sponsor of the bill.

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