Advocate for Schools
AFS 2018-02-16 SFA Fix Goes to the Governor
AASB’s bill S.28 (Pittman) sailed through the Senate and hit rocky waters in the House before final passage by a 75-0 vote. S.28 (Pittman) would repeal an obsolete criminal code provision and allow school boards to proceed with discipline hearings for education employees charged with the crime of sexual contact with a student
SFA Fix Goes to the Governor; ETF Budget Advances
AASB’s bill S.28 (Pittman) sailed through the Senate and hit rocky waters in the House before final passage by a 75-0 vote. S.28 (Pittman) would repeal an obsolete criminal code provision and allow school boards to proceed with discipline hearings for education employees charged with the crime of sexual contact with a student.
House sponsor Rep. Alan Baker said without this bill, the school board might have to stop the administrative discipline process if an employee is charged with the specific crime of sexual contact with a student. The bill removes moot language in the criminal code and ensures every employee is treated the same under the Students First Act. The bill is on the governor’s desk and becomes effective upon her signature. Kudos to Sen. Trip Pittman and Rep. Alan Baker for supporting school boards and quickly bringing a fix for the SFA.
Senate now has the ETF budget
House members unanimously approved a $6.6 billion FY19 education budget Tuesday that provides a pay raise and increases funding for the K-12 Foundation Program.Local school leaders thank Chairman Bill Poole and House members for supporting a strong budget for public education.The bills:
H.174 (Poole)would provide a 2.5 percent raise for education employees.
H.179 (Poole)would allow K-12 schools to receive $41 million in funding from the Advancement & Technology Fund as a supplemental appropriation this year. Those funds may not be accessed without authorizing legislation.
Chairman Bill Poole supports local systems being able to use these funds to the full extent allowed by law which includes: repairs and deferred maintenance; classroom instructional support; insurance for facilities; transportation; or acquisition or purchase of technology.
The Senate Finance & Taxation Education Committee will next consider the budget and accompanying legislation.The committee will revise the budget to reflect Senate priorities.
AASB and local school leaders ask lawmakers to protect the strong support for K-12 public schools currently proposed in the House-approved budget.
Don’t cut days to force mandatory school start dates
After a few years’ hiatus, the effort to force local school systems to adhere to a start date restriction is back, now with a proposed reduction to student instructional days.H.396 (Ford)would reduce the school year from 180 instructional days to the equivalent to 175 days (1,050 instructional hours.)Under the bill, school systems could not begin the school year earlier than the Monday two calendar weeks before Labor Day.
For those new to the debate, the premise that longer summers equal more vacations and tourism dollars failed after a two-year pilot ended in 2014.A Legislative Fiscal Office report debunked claims that state budgets would benefit. The new effort is worse because it also reduces student learning time.
Before lawmakers invested significant dollars to bring the state to the national average of 180 days, Alabama’s 175 day school year was one of the shortest in the nation. The tourism and camp industries now realize that the only way to end the school year by Memorial Day, keep traditional breaks within semesters and lengthen the summer is to cut instructional days. The effort is an affront to the practical learning needs and best interest of students.Decades of research shows students lose knowledge over the summer break, particularly in math. American students already lag behind international peers who average a 200-day school year. And cutting days also costs the state a portion of its reimbursement from the federal government for critical school breakfast and lunch programs.
Local school leaders work closely each year to align learning goals with community holiday preferences, staff breaks and training, local college schedules and unique community needs.Local school leaders are in the best position to set the school calendar.With so much pressure on student learning, growth and achievement, all efforts should target the best learning environment and policies to maximize instruction.
AASB opposes both the reduction of student instructional days and the mandatory restricted school-year start date proposed in the bill:
OPPOSE H.396 (Ford).
Stop city school systems?
AASB Executive Director Sally Smith addressed Senate Education & Youth Affairs Committee members and asked why the state would want to stand in the way of a community willing to better itself by forming a city school system?S.44 (Coleman-Madison)would change the population requirement from 5,000 to 25,0000 before a city could form a local school system.AASB and local school leaders fully support efforts to ensure financial viability before a school system forms, but object to a significant and arbitrary increase to the population requirement which restricts local efforts to improve education options.
Smith provided the committee with a list of the 72 existing city school systems, explaining only 17 could have been formed under the new population requirements. Some of Alabama’s flagship school systems are among those city school systems where communities provide significant resources to their schools.
Also speaking in opposition at the public hearing were School Superintendents of Alabama (SSA), Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools (CLAS), Alabama League of Municipalities and local leaders from Gulf Shores and Gardendale.The state Department of Education spoke in support of the financial safeguards and did not address the population requirement.Jefferson County Superintendent Craig Pouncey spoke in support of the bill.The committee did not vote on the bill following the public hearing. AASB opposes S.44 (Coleman-Madison).
School bus funding needs fix
S.202 (Bussman) would remove the current 10-year limit and allow school systems to receive fleet renewal funding until the bus reaches 200,000 miles. The House Ways and Means Education Committee did not meet this week and the bill remains pending committee consideration.
School leaders object to the Senate floor amendment that would reduce fleet renewal to 70 percent once a school bus is paid off.That provision hurts systems that use local dollars to pay the cost of school buses in full or finance for short time frames to save money on interest. As amended, systems would recognize no immediate benefit because the expanded funding would only apply to buses ten years or newer and under 200,000 miles as of the effective date.
Education bill updates
H.228 (Standridge) — In God we trust motto — would permit display of the national motto in public buildings, including public schools.Scheduled in Senate Committee Wednesday.
H.166 (Davis) — Marriage and family therapy — Would specify marriage and family therapists may practice in school systems; expands the practice of a marriage and family therapist to include the diagnosis of mental and emotional disorders.Public hearing continues in Senate committee Wednesday.
S.26 (Chambliss)— Annalyn’s Law — would require school boards to implement a policy for the supervision and monitoring of students identified as juvenile sex offenders. Senate approved the bill 28-0.
S.269 (Whatley) — Sex health education — would revise language in public school curriculum regarding sex health education and remove language pertaining to homosexuality in the law.Approved by Senate committee.
H.405 (Moore) — Character education time — would require 40 minutes per day of a comprehensive character education program in grades K-12.Introduced.
S.14 (Dial) — 30-day notice — would require 30-day notice to schools when a teacher resigns.Signed by governor:Act 2018-83.
AASB Director of Governmental Relations