LWVAL Action Priority Level III - Issues identified by LWVAL Advocacy Committee and/or State Board or Local Leagues.
Click a bill to see sponsor(s), summary (including link to full text), League action and justification for that action, and progress of the bill through the legislative process.
Legend: = LWVAL's support for the legislation. = LWVAL's opposition to the legislation. = new bill activity; change from previous week's report such as new progress in the legislature and/or League action. Bill may be one newly added to the report. These updates are in green font.
LWVAL has taken a position on these bills: [none at this time]
LWVAL is monitoring these bills.
SB301 - Income tax, credit provided for qualifying educational expenses of students enrolled in nonpublic private and church schools
Sponsor(s): Senators Allen and Beason
Summary/Synposis: This bill would provide an income tax credit for certain qualifying educational expenses incurred by the parents or guardians of students enrolled in qualified nonpublic private schools or church schools in the state for tax years beginning January 1, 2012; to limit the tax credits to those households with total annual adjusted gross income of $60,800 or less; to specify the obligations of the Commissioner of Revenue and the Department of Revenue in implementing this act.
Key elements of the act include:
Eligible Student Defined: A student who is five years of age on or before September 1 and who may not turn 19 years of age on or after September 1, except for special education students who shall be three years of age on or before September 1 and may not turn 21 years of age on or before September 1. Additionally, the student shall be in grade 9, 10, 11, or 12 and shall be making progress toward graduation with his or her class, with the exception of special education students. Commencing in 2013, students in grade 8 shall be eligible for the credit and, each year following, students in another grade level, in descending order, shall be added until all qualifying students in grades 1-12, inclusive, are eligible for the credit.
Low Income Defined: Where the total adjusted gross income of all taxpayers in a household does not exceed 175 percent of the federal poverty level. On the effective date of this act, low income for a family of four is thirty-nine thousand one hundred thirty-five dollars ($39,135).
Qualified School Defined: A private school or church school as defined in Section 16-28-1, Code of Alabama 1975, that satisfies the compulsory attendance requirements provided in Sections 16-28-3 and 16-28-7, Code of Alabama 1975. A qualified school shall be accredited by one of the six regional agencies, the American Association of Christian Schools, the Alabama Independent School Association, or a member of the National Council for Private School Accreditation or, if not so accredited, shall satisfy all of the following conditions: a. Be in existence for at least three years. b. Have average daily attendance of at least 85 percent over a two-year time period. c. Have a minimum 178-day school year. d. Have a school day length of at least six and one-half hours. e. Require all students in grades K to 11 to take the Stanford Achievement Test or its equivalent. f. Require all candidates for graduation to take the American College Test (ACT) before graduation. g. Have at least one teacher employed for every 20 students enrolled. h. Require students in high school grades 9 to 12 to earn a minimum of 24 Carnegie credits before graduating, including 16 credits in core subjects and additional requirements in health and physical education, fine arts, computer studies, and foreign language. i. Not subject special education students to the same testing or curricular requirements as regular education students. j. Maintain a current website that describes the school and the instructional program of the school.
Qualifying Educational Expenses Defined: Tuition paid to a nonpublic school that is necessary for required academic instruction.
Allowable Deduction Limits: For Alabama tax years commencing January 1, 2012, a taxpayer shall be allowed a nonrefundable credit against any tax levied pursuant to Section 40-18-2, Code of Alabama 1975, for up to 75 percent of the qualifying educational expenses incurred during the tax year on behalf of each eligible student for which he or she is the guardian and who is enrolled in a qualified school. A taxpayer who is a member of a low income household may claim the credit for up to 100 percent of the qualifying educational expenses incurred. If the amount of the allowable tax credit exceeds the tax imposed on the taxpayer for the taxable year, the excess may be carried over for credit imposed on the taxpayer in the two succeeding taxable years until the total amount of the tax credit has been taken. Amounts claimed under this section may not also be itemized as deductions for the same tax year when computing Alabama taxable income. The tax credit allowed per eligible child enrolled in a qualified school shall be limited for any taxpayer who is not a member of a low income household as follows: (1) For the 2012 tax year, a maximum credit of $500 per child, not exceeding $650 per household. (2) For the 2013 tax year, a maximum credit of $600 per child, not exceeding $750 per household. For following tax years, the State Department of Revenue shall adjust the maximum credit allowed to account for inflation. The members of a household where the total adjusted gross income of all taxpayers in the household is $60,800 per year may not claim the tax credit provided by this act.
Legislative Intent: That the tax credits authorized by this act not result in any additional regulation of nonpublic schools or affect the decisions of any taxpayer regarding the education of his or her dependent children, except to the minimal extent necessary to provide for the efficient administration of the tax credit.
League Action and Justification:LWVAL is monitoring SB301. “The League of Women Voters of Alabama supports maintaining and improving a system of free public schools in Alabama based on the belief that a free public education which provides equal opportunity for all its citizens is an investment in the future.” Furthermore, the League supports: “Legislation that will assure adequate financing for the total needs of Alabama public schools. Such legislation should create a long term program for quality education.” (Education Position, League of Women Voters of Alabama Program 2011-2013)
No Fiscal Note is currently available with this bill, making it impossible to determine the impact of such payments on revenues collected and therefore on the Education Trust Fund. Personal and corporate income tax revenues usually make up more than 50% of the monies in the ETF.
Bill Progress in Legislature: 02/14/2012: First reading and referred to the
Summary/Synopsis: This bill would establish the Alabama School Flexibility Act of 2012. This bill would authorize the establishment of innovative schools and school systems in the State of Alabama. It would allow the State Board of Education to enter into a school flexibility contract with a local school system to allow for programmatic flexibility or budgetary flexibility, or both, from state laws, including State Board of Education rules, regulations, and policies in exchange for academic and associated goals for students that focus on college and career readiness. This bill would require the local board of education to submit a document of assurance that the board shall provide consistency in leadership and a commitment to the standards, assessments, and academic rigor expected in Alabama. This bill would require the local school system to submit a proposed innovation plan recommended by the local superintendent of education and approved by the local board of education to the State Superintendent of Education in order to qualify for innovation status. It would authorize the State Board of Education to promulgate any necessary rules and regulations as required for implementation.
League Action and Justification: LWVAL is monitoring SB365.“The League of Women Voters of Alabama supports maintaining and improving a system of free public schools in Alabama based on the belief that a free public education which provides equal opportunity for all its citizens is an investment in the future.”
Bill Progress in Legislature: 02/23/2012: First reading and referred to the
League Action and Justification: LWVAL is monitoring HB214.The League has been informally monitoring this bill, but is now formally listing it as monitored in order to make members aware of the variety of bills related to education reform.
Bill Action in Legislature: 02/07/2012: First reading and referred to the
HB541/HB650 - Education Options Act; provides for establishment of innovative schools and school systems via flexibility contracts with State Department of Education, authorizes establishment of public charter schools as part of public education system
Sponsor(s): HB541 - Representatives Williams (P), Fincher, McClurkin, Ison, Love, Hubbard (M) and McClendon HB650 - Representatives Williams (P), Fincher, Love, McClurkin, Ison, McMillan and M. Hubbard Summary/Synopsis: This bill would establish the Education Options Act of 2012. This bill authorizes the establishment of innovative schools and school systems in this state by creating a process whereby school systems may enter into a school flexibility contract with the State Department of Education that allows for flexibility from state laws, including State Board of Education rules, regulations, and policies, in exchange for academic and associated goals. This bill also authorizes the establishment of public charter schools in this state and specifically provides that any public charter school established pursuant to this bill is part of the state's public education system. Further, this bill provides that only nonprofit, nonreligious organizations may apply to receive a charter.
Note: The Act contains the clearest statements in support of pubic education for all that has come from the legislature in many years,
Some of the key provisions of the Act include: 1. Allows for establishment of “innovative schools and school systems” as well as “public charter schools.” 2. All public charter schools in the state established under this act are public schools and are part of the public education system of the state. 3. States that: “This act should be interpreted liberally to support the findings and purposes of this act and to advance the continued commitment of the state to the mission, goals, and diversity of public education.” 4. Contains a positive statement in support of quality public education, parents and educators as important elements in insuring quality, and adds: “Students of all backgrounds are entitled to equal access to a high quality education.” 5. At risk students are defined as those at “an economic or academic disadvantage that requires special services and assistance to succeed in educational programs. The term includes, but is not limited to, students who are members of economically disadvantaged families, students who are identified as having special educational needs, students who are limited in English proficiency, students who are at risk of dropping out of high school, and students who do not meet minimum standards of academic proficiency.” 6. Identifies the following characteristics of a pubic charter school:     a. “Has autonomy over key decisions including, but not limited to, decisions concerning finance, personnel, scheduling, curriculum, instruction, and procurement.     b. Is governed by an independent governing board.     c. Is established and operated under the terms of a charter contract between the local school board and its authorizer . . .     d. Is a school to which parents choose to send their children.     e. Is a school that admits students on the basis of a random selection process if more students attempt to enroll for admission than can be accommodated.     f. Provides a program of education that:        1. Includes any grade or grades from prekindergarten to 12th grade, inclusive.        2. May include a focus on students with special needs, such as at-risk students.        3. May include a specific academic approach or theme, including, but not limited to, vocational and technical training; natural resources and the environment; foreign language and culture; visual and performing arts; liberal arts and classical education; or science, mathematics, and technology.     g. Operates in pursuit of a specific set of educational objectives as defined in its charter contract.     h. Operates under the oversight of its authorizer in accordance with its charter contract.” 7. Creates the Charter School Application Review Council, sets up requirements for membership and appointment procedures, and outlines Council powers in detail. 8. Local school boards authorize creation of charter schools but if they deny a charter, an appeal may be taken to the Review Council which may grant or deny the charter. 9. Outlines responsibilities of all key decision-making groups.
Summary/Synopsis Update 4/09/2012 League has evaluated the amended Substitute for HB541 in light of the new LWVAL Charter School Position adopted on March 31, 2012 and finds the following:
The House Ways and Means Substitute for HB541 along with the amendments to it have improved upon the original document. It still contains the school flexibility options as well as charter school material.
The new legislation determines the number of charter schools based on public school performance measures and thereby limits the number to priority local school systems which contain a priority local school defined as:
“A non-charter public school labeled as persistently low-performing by the State Department of Education, in the then-most recent United States Department of Education School Improvement Grant application, or, if no such application is submitted, a non-charter public school listed in the lowest 5 percent of non-charter public schools on the state accountability plan." The bill contains many of the provisions that the LWVAL Charter School position lists as minimum requirements for such a bill including:        1. An explicit statement that all charter schools are public schools;        2. Explicit statements that charter schools are under the authority of the enabling legislation, rules and regulations created under that legislation’s authority, and appropriate federal law.        3. Names local school boards as the main charter granting authority;        4. States nonprofit, nonreligious organizations are eligible for charters.        5. Lists explicit evaluation criteria for reviewing a charter application and charter renewal;        6. Allows flexibility in hiring;        7. Allows flexibility in curriculum approaches.        8. Sets the term of the charter at 5 years and renewal terms at 5 years, but allows renewal for 10 in cases of exceptional documented performance.        9. Provides rules related to financing, including handling of funds for special education students; and        10. Guarantees equal access to charter school regardless of social, economic race, sex, , or ethnic background. League positions not covered in the charter school section include:        1. No barring of on-line schools.        2. For profit entities are not barred from contracting with charter schools to provide management services. The items in the school flexibility section are uncovered by League positions.
03/21/2012: Public hearing by W&ME in Room 617, 9:00 a.m. 4/05/2012: Read for the 2nd time and placed on the calendar with 1 Substitute (139862-5) and with 1 Amendment (140284-2) to the Substitute; pending 3rd reading and favorable from Ways & Means Education with 1 Substitute and 1 Amendment to the Substitute.
5/09/2012: Indefinitely postponed.
HB650: 4/5/2012: Read for the 1st time and referred to the
4/10/2012: Read for the 2nd time and placed on the calendar; pending 3rd reading and favorable from Ways and Means Education 5/09/2012: Indefinitely postponed.
Notes: This is the bill supported by the governor. The House Speaker and the Chair of W&M E are among the cosponsors of the legislation.
SB513 - Education Options Act; provides for establishment of innovative schools and school systems via flexibility contracts with State Department of Education, authorizes establishment of public charter schools as part of public education system
Sponsor(s): Senators Brewbaker and Holtzclaw
Summary/Synopsis: This bill would establish the Education Options Act of 2012. This bill authorizes the establishment of innovative schools and school systems in this state by creating a process whereby school systems may enter into a school flexibility contract with the State Department of Education that allows for flexibility from state laws, including State Board of Education rules, regulations, and policies, in exchange for academic and associated goals. This bill also authorizes the establishment of public charter schools in priority local school systems and specifically provides that any public charter school established pursuant to this bill is part of the state's public education system. Further, this bill provides that only nonprofit, nonreligious organizations may apply to receive a charter.
4/19/2012: Education 1st Amendment (141117-3) Offered; Education 2nd Amendment (141206-2) Offered; Education 3rd Amendment (141207-2) Offered; Education 4th Amendment (141018-3) Offered; Education 5th Amendment (141208-2) Offered; Education 6th Amendment (141278-2 ) Offered; Education 7th Amendment (141283-1) Offered; Read for the second time and placed on the calendar with 7 amendments; pending 3rd reading and favorable from Education. 5/2/2012: 3rd Reading passed; Each of the 7 Amendments offered followed by Brewbaker motions to Table; all motions to Table adopted by Voice Vote. Brewbaker 1st Substitute (141425-6) offered; Brewbaker Motion to Adopt adopted (23-9-0). Ross Amendment (142411-1) Offered; Ross motion to Adopt adopted (22-9-1). Motion to Read a 3rd Time and Pass adopted (23-12-0). Engrossed.
Note: The Brewbaker substitute appears to be similar to the substitute of HB541/HB650 as amended. However, the changes limit charter schools to poorly performing schools in four large population counties, give charter schools only 1 year to prove themselves, and vary in other ways from what the League position supports. The Ross Amendment reads: “A local law authorizing the establishment of a public charter school or a conversion public charter school in a local school system shall be approved by unanimous consent of the members of the local legislative delegation representing the geographical area where the local school system is located before the applicable local legislation is introduced.”
5/2/2012: House – Read for the first time in House and referred to the
HB639/SB514 - Jobs and Education Reform Act of 2012, mandatory school improvement plan for priority schools that need additional resources in academics, finance, and discipline, flexibility provided to State and local boards of education and mechanism for improving career and technical education programs provided, Chapter 6C, Title 16, Secs. 16-6C-1 to 16-6C-14, inclusive, added; Secs. 16-37-3, 16-37-4, 16-37-5, 16-37-6, 16-37-8 am'd; Secs. 16-37-8.1 to 16-37-8.4, inclusive, added
Sponsor(s): HB639 - Representative Black SB514 - Senator Ross
Summary/Synopsis: This bill is the Jobs and Education Reform Act of 2012. This bill would establish a means for improving public elementary and secondary education, in the state, by implementing a mandatory school improvement plan for schools identified as priority schools that need additional resources in the areas of academics, finance, and discipline. This bill would provide for the mandatory implementation of the Torchbearer Model of school transformation for only those schools identified as priority schools in need of improvement. This bill would provide flexibility to the State Department of Education and local educational systems. This bill would also provide a mechanism to improve career and technical education programs thereby improving the workforce in the state.