The legislature completed the 12th and 13th legislative days this week. There are 17 legislative days remaining this session. As we approach the half way point of the session, know that there are many education related bills that will be filed with less time to be thoroughly vetted.
Tuesday, April 23, we had 9 participants at CLAS Hill Day. In addition to our participants, Rep. Prouncey Robertson and Rep. David Faulkner spoke to our group about legislation they are carrying which impact education. Dr. Vic Wilson spent most of the morning speaking and answering questions on current bills moving through the legislative process.
Thursday was a big day at the Alabama State House. Two major pieces of legislation were passed. HB77 (Baker) known as the Teacher Recruitment and Retention Act passed the House with a 100-0 vote, no representative spoke in opposition to the bill. The bill now moves to the Senate, where there is work for the education community. We need to educate all Senators on the importance of this bill and how it impacts education in Alabama and educators.
TAKE ACTION - CLAS encourages you to contact YOUR State Senator and tell them why they should support HB77. The Teacher Recruitment and Retention Act is one piece that will help the education profession with the teacher shortage. To assist you with this conversation we have provided a talking point sheet and click here to find your senator.
SB220 (Albritton) Alabama General Fund Lottery passed the Senate Thursday on a 21-12 vote. SB220 is estimated to raise $167 million for Alabama. This lottery will only include participation in multi-state lottery games that are played with paper tickets, eliminates all electronic games, and would make illegal pari-mutuel wagering (dog and horse tracks) that are currently operating in the state. If the bill passes the House, the lottery will be on the ballot of the March 2020 presidential primary.
- SB311 (Marsh) Alabama School Choice and Student Opportunity Act - local revenue follows child from non-charter public to public charter school. A public hearing was held on Wednesday. Only three opponents and three proponents could address the committee. The opponents which spoke include the following: Clinton Daughtery, AEA; Ryan Hollingsworth, SSA; Vic Wilson, CLAS. The proponents were JJ Wedgeworth, University Charter School; a 7th grade student from University Charter School; and a middle school teacher from University Charter School. Senators discussed their issues with the bill after the public hearing. Senator Smitherman commented he had trouble with charter schools asking for more money when traditional public schools do not receive full funding for transportation and textbooks. He will oppose giving more money to charter schools until traditional public schools are fully funded. There was no vote taken on the bill.
- SB237 (Ward) Alabama Open Records Act - This bill would provide procedures for making and responding to requests for access to public records and would set the fees to be charged for copies. This bill would create the Office of the Public Access Counselor in the Department of Examiners of Public Accounts and would provide for the appointment of the Public Access Counselor and would provide for his or her powers and duties. This bill would establish an appeal process, administrative and judicial remedies and would provide civil penalties for noncompliance. The bill requires any who holds public records to respond to a request for public records within five days. The bill would also establish the office of public access counselor who could review appeals when there are disagreements between public agencies and requestors over the availability of records. The committee took no vote on the bill after the public hearing. The bill effects state agencies, schools, municipalities, and counties. The bill will have amendments and CLAS will be at the table during those discussions.
- HB216 (Faulkner) Computer Science, K-12 schools, phase in of computer science courses required, funding for teacher training and certification provided, State Administer position created within Dept. of Education, ACHE to create scholarships for preservice teachers, and Computer Science Education task force created. The bill received a favorable report.
- HB339 (Ledbetter) Pledge of Allegiance - be conducted at the beginning of each school day. The bill received a favorable report and awaits final passage in the Senate.
The ETF Budget is MOVING! Wednesday, Sen. Orr passed all the bills that typically follow with the ETF budget out of committee.
- SB192 (Orr) Pay Raise
- Note: important to move this along, and if there is revenue next year consider offering a pay raise again next year. Senator Orr stated; Alabama has not kept up with inflation for educator pay.
- SB195 (Orr) Supplemental Appropriations
- SB196 (Orr) Advancement in Technology Fund - $270 million split between Higher Ed and K-12. The funds can be used for repairs and deferred maintenance, classroom instructional support, insuring facilities, transportation and education technology and equipment, and safety.
- SB295 (Orr) Alabama Industry Recognized and Registered Apprenticeship Program Act
Sen. Orr said the ETF Budget will be discussed in committee Tuesday, April 30 at 1:30. The possible timeline is to discuss the budget and pass it out Tuesday; have the ETF Budget and additional budget bills on the Senate floor Thursday for final passage in the Senate.
- HB32 (Boyd) - Kyle Graddy Act - administration of single dose autoinjectable epinephrine on K-12 school campuses by students. The bill received a favorable report from House Education Policy.
- HB291 (Garrett) – Alabama Released Time Credit Act – Local boards of education to allow released time for religious education off campus for elective credit. Liability is on the student, parent, and entity that is providing the elective credit. The bill received a favorable report as amended. The amendment changed one word “shall” and replaced it with “may”. Making the bill clearly state the decision to allow religious release time credit is a local decision. A favorable was given to the bill.
- HB385 (Robertson) – School Safety Plans - This bill is to update the current “School Safety Plan” law that was passed several years ago but does not change the law. This bill will simply clarify language and update the law with newer terminology to help better communicate the security status of a school during an unusual or emergency. HB385 will replace the term “School Safety Plan” with the term “Emergency Operations Plan.” Each school is already required to have a “School Safety Plan.” Bill replaces the current term “Code Red Drills” with “Lockdown” plan/drills. Also, will add requirements for all schools to begin to standardize and use the Security Threat Level Terms approved by the State Superintendent last summer (Memo on June 27, 2018). The terms were created by the Department of Education’s Safe School Task Force. The terms are: Lock Down; secure perimeter; secure your area; heightened awareness. Many schools have already received training referencing these terms, how to use them with many school districts already using them as part of their Emergency Operation Plans. The bill received a favorable report.
- HB388 (Collins) - Alabama Literacy Act – Implements steps to improve the reading proficiency of public school kindergarten to third grade students and ensure that those students are able to read at or above grade level by the end of third grade by monitoring the progression of each students from one grade to another, in part, by his or her proficiency in reading.
A public hearing was held. SSA, CLAS, AASB, and SDE spoke in opposition. All groups agreed about the need to focus and invest in early grade reading, identifying students and providing supports, but the bill has flawed components, including a mandatory third-grade retention policy, lack of funding to make it a reality, and too much workload added to teachers. The bill received a favorable report, but Rep. Collins said she is willing to work with all stakeholders to get the bill right.