Alabama Holds Hearings on Charter Schools

A hearing before the House Ways and Means Education Committee gave the public a chance to comment on a charter school bill that would allow the creation of such schools in Alabama. One of the bill’s sponsors, Phil Williams, said that the bill would offer more flexibility to school districts with failing schools.

Alabama Education Association Executive Secretary Henry Mabry argued the charter schools would take money from other schools and there is no assurance they would work. Proponents argued the schools would offer new opportunities for struggling students and would give administrators new options, like opening schools during different hours.

The project is a pre-election promise by Governor Robert Bentley. Ascendant Republicans in the Alabama legislature feel they have a strong mandate to push through reform despite opposition from teaching unions who, fearful that charter schools are mainly a vehicle to bypass tenure and other protections, want more research done nationwide before continuing the rapid expansion of the program throughout the country.

The ‘Education Options Act’ will allow charter schools to be proposed by anyone in the state and these proposals for underperforming schools would be reviewed by a commission.

Ashley Welch sends her four year-old daughter to a private school in Tuscaloosa. She attended the House Ways and Means Education Committee to make her voice on choices for her daughter.

“I’m looking for an educational system that works and provides options for me as a parent and a parental figure” Welch said.
Welch says she’s hopeful the legislation will pass to give her the chance to send her daughter to a respectable public school.

The committee did not take action on the bill at the public hearing but is expected to vote on it after the upcoming legislative recess.