Last week was the last four days of the 2019 Legislative Session. The week was filled with anticipation as we worked, waited, worked, watched, and worked some more advocating for legislation we supported all session. The bills we were watching came down to the last day. On the last day, Friday, the ETF Conference Committee met at 9:30am to agree on the ETF Budget. Friday afternoon both houses concurred with the $7.1 billion education budget. I have linked the ETF spreadsheet and ETF budget bill (SB199).
ETF Budget was delivered to the Governor on May 31. The $7.1 billion budget is the largest in Alabama history, but if adjusted for inflation, does not restore the money put into schools in 2008, before the recession. The budget includes a 4 percent pay raise. All $35 million for CHIP will be funded in the General Fund Budget. A detailed analysis of the budget will be provided in the final legislative update, which will be provided in a couple of weeks.
Teacher Recruitment and Retention Act (Tier 3) that had been worked on by all education organization (AEA, AASB, CLAS, and SSA) since last year, which passed the House 100-0, was finally placed on the Senate Special Order calendar Friday afternoon. On the floor, Senator Marsh brought an amendment that said Tier 3 would ONLY apply to “certain certificated teachers” and to “K-12 certificated teachers providing classroom instruction.” This amendment was offered after RSA told certain Senators this amendment could not be administered. The Senate passed HB77 as amended 27-4. The bill had to go back to the House for concurrence, but RSA had to call on their contract lobbyist. Those contract lobbyists went to the House and asked that HB77 not be taken out of the basket, because it could not be administered with the Senate amendment. The bill died in the basket.
Bills Sent to the Governor for her signature:
- Alabama Literacy Act (HB388 by Collins) Delivered to the Governor on May 31. The legislation will require third graders to meet reading benchmarks before moving to fourth grade. The bill also spells out initiatives, such as requiring regional reading specialists to work with struggling students, to boost test scores.
- Kyle Graddy Act (HB32 by Boyd) Delivered to the Governor on May 31. Allow the possession and self-administration of single dose auto injectable epinephrine by students pm K-12 school campuses.
- Bathroom Bill (HB159 by Lee) Delivered to the Governor on May 29.This bill was amended to include private schools and to change “toilets” to “plumbing fixtures” giving local schools some flexibility through the plumbing code. The amended bill would decrease the costs of renovation or construction of such stadiums by an undetermined amount dependent upon the difference in (1) cost between the installation of the restroom fixtures required by the bill, and (2) the cost of the additional fixtures otherwise required by the International Building and Plumbing Codes.
- SSUT Updates (HB183 by Scott) Delivered to the Governor on May 30. Relating to simplified sellers use tax; to update the amnesty and class action provisions for eligible seller and to clarify transactions for which simplified sellers use tax cannot be collected and remitted.
- SRO Qualifications (HB209 by Pettus) Delivered to the Governor on May 31. Allows a person who was law enforcement officer and retired in good standings from a federal, state, and or local law enforcement agency with at 20 years of law enforcement be hired as school security guards or school resource officers.
- Computer Science (HB216 by Faulkner) Delivered to the Governor on May 29. This bill requires public schools to offer computer science instruction, beginning with the 2020-2021 It requires public schools that receive computer science professional learning to annually submit a computer science expansion report, which would increase the administrative obligations of the local boards of education with schools that receive this professional learning. Through the ETF budget, funds will be appropriated to the State Department of Education (SDE) to provide for computer science teacher professional learning programs to be implemented by higher education institutions physically located in the state, nonprofits, or private entities. These entities are required to apply to SDE for these funds and to annually submit a computer science expansion data report to SDE, which will be posted on SDE’s website. An appropriation of $300,000 for computer science educator training was provided in the Fiscal Year 2020 Education Trust Fund appropriation recommended by the Governor.It also requires SDE to: (1) develop, and the State Board of Education to approve, a K-12 course of study for digital literacy and computer science; and (2) create an additional certification, endorsement, and permit for computer science educator pathways. According to information provided by the Department, SDE is already undertaking these measures. The bill also allows computer science teachers in public schools to be eligible for the Alabama Math and Science Teacher Education Loan Repayment Program (AMSTEP), subject to legislative appropriations. This bill provides that (1) loan repayments for computer science teachers are limited to $3,000 per year or $1,500 per semester worked; and (2) acute shortage area supplements, in the amount of $2,500 per year or $1,250 per semester worked, shall not be available to computer science teachers, unless the Alabama Commission on Higher Education and State Department of Education concur that there is sufficient need or resources available to allow inclusion of computer science teachers into the AMSTEP program.
- Designate Code Red as School Lockdown (HB385 by Robertson) Delivered to the Governor on May 31. 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 situation. 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.” 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. Many schools have already received training referencing these terms and how to use them and many school districts are already using them as part of their Emergency Operation Plans.
- Age of Majority (HB349 by Collins) Delivered to the Governor on May 30. Makes current law consistent with how 18 or 19- year old are classified as a minor or adult. For K-12, it would require that if a child under 19 years of age is on track to graduate, a public school may not deny admission to the student.
- Career Tech Facilities (HB462 by Easterbrook) Delivered to the Governor on May 31. Authorizes a local board of education to use any available facility for career technical classes upon a finding that the available facility is better suited than those currently being used.
- Emergency Certification (HB506 by Estes) Delivered to the Governor on May 29. Teaching certificates, length of time for which emergency certificate is valid is extended from one year to two years.
- Donate Surplus Food (HB566 by Kitchens) Delivered to the Governor on May 31. Allows local boards of education to (1) donate surplus, non-expired food to certain charitable organizations; (2) store and distribute donated food; and (3) adopt a policy allowing donated food to be served at no-cost to certain students. This bill also requires the State Board of Education to adopt rules as necessary to implement these provisions.
- Apprenticeships (HB570 by Collins) Delivered to the Governor on May 31. As introduced and amended, this bill would increase the administrative obligations of state licensing authorities by requiring these authorities to grant occupational licenses to certain applicants that complete an apprenticeship program.
- Bible Elective Courses (SB14 by Melson) Delivered to the Governor on May 30. The bill allows public schools to offer elective courses focusing on the study of the Bible and religious history in grades six to 12; to allow public schools to display artifacts, monuments, symbols, and texts related to the study of the Bible and religious history if displaying these items is appropriate to the overall educational purpose of the course; and to require the State Board of Education to adopt rules and policies to implement the requirements of the bill.
- Alabama Industry Recognized and Registered Apprenticeship Program Act (SB295 by Orr) Delivered to the Governor on May 30. Provides incentives to employers who hire apprentices; to offer a nationally recognized state apprenticeship credential. Relating to the Apprenticeship Tax Credit Act of 2016; to increase the per capita apprenticeship tax credit from $1,000 to $1,250, increase the aggregate apprenticeship tax credit from $3,000,000 to $7,500,000, provide a $500 per capita incentive tax credit for hiring in school youth apprentices; to extend the apprenticeship tax credit through 2025; and to clarify that the State Department of Education shall continue to be the eligible agency to receive and administer career and technical education funding under the Perkins Act.
- Consent Minority Caucus (SB398 by Marsh) Delivered to the Governor on May 31. Requires the Governor to consult with the membership of certain minority caucuses of the Legislature when appointing minority members to the Alabama Commission on Elementary and Secondary Education