LWVAL Action Priority Level I (Highest) - Monitoring and action of highest priority. Major area for resource expenditures.
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:
SB101/HB424 - Common Core Curriculum Standards, terminated, prior courses of study to be implemented
Sponsor(s): SB101 - Senators Glover, Reed, Melson, Allen, Brewbaker, Hightower, Albritton, Bussman, Stutts, Smith, Shelnutt and Sanford HB424 - Representatives Fincher, Mooney, Fridy, Hanes, Whorton (R), Ledbetter, Harbison, Holmes (M), Wingo, Drake, Williams (JW), Shedd, Hurst, Millican, Johnson (R), Polizos, Ingram, Beckman, Davis, Whorton (I), Greer, Pettus, Butler and McMillan. Summary/Synopsis [As written in the bill]: Under existing law, the State Board of Education is required to establish curriculum standards for all K-12 public schools. This bill would re-establish control of education in Alabama to state and local agencies. To accomplish this, this bill would terminate the adoption and implementation of the standards commonly known as the Common Core Standards, also known as the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards (ACCRS). This bill would direct the State Board of Education to replace the Common Core Standards for Math and English Language Arts with the courses of study for Math and English Language Arts in place immediately prior to adoption of the Common Core Standards. This bill would further protect state and local control of education by restricting the State Board of Education from adopting or implementing any other national standards from any source or requiring the use of any assessments aligned with them.
League believes that curriculum requirements should be determined by those directly responsible for and knowledgeable about education such as the Alabama Department of Education, State Board of Education, accreditation agencies, etc.
The bill misrepresents the decision-making process that was used in relation to Common Core (and other curriculum decisions).
Currently, curriculum is written by a large committee of approximately 50 people, some who are nominated by the Governor, some selected by local boards of education, and some who are selected due to their participation in organizations that further education in that subject area, and others that are selected from administrators and education professors statewide. We already write the standards with local, state, and national organizations' input. The Career Ready standards were written by a similar group, and don't represent a change in the way this has been done before. The charge that there is some sort of control by entities or others outside the usual groups is exaggerated and misleading.
The bill suggests it will give BACK control to the state and local Boards, yet later states that it would restrict the State Board of Education from adopting the use of any national standards if it was deemed important to utilize. This would prevent the use of any standards, including those written by subject area experts like the National Council for Social Studies or National Science Foundation, etc.
Both the Scholastic Aptitude Test SAT and the ACT are similar to the standards in the Common Core and Career Ready. In fact the test now given to our students is the ACT and all juniors take the test.
Rejection of standards collectively written by knowledgeable subject area experts will handicap Alabama's students who have to compete with students from other states more accommodating to the use of the national standards.
In addition to the philosophical reasons for opposition already mentioned, Alabama schools could lose federal dollars and/or program waivers if this legislation is passed. Since we depend in large part on federal dollars to run our schools, we will only hurt our students if this legislation is passed. Bill Progress in Legislature: SB101:
Note: The Amendment states: “As part of the transition to an improved Alabama standards process, the board shall replace the current Common Core Standards, also known as the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards, with the courses of study for Math in place until May 2011, and for English Language Arts in place until May 2012, both of which were used in classrooms immediately prior to implementation of the Common Core Standards. These standards shall be known as the Transition Standards and shall remain in effect for the 2015-2016 school year.”
SB54 - Public education, civics instruction required in grades 7-12 as part of existing courses
Sponsor(s): Senators Pittman, Orr, Glover, Dial and Whatley
Summary/Synopsis: Under existing law [according to the bill summary on ALISON], instruction in civics is not required in the public school curriculum. This bill would require the State Board of Education to implement instructional programs in civics in grades seven to 12, inclusive.
04/02/2015: 2nd Reading and place on the Calendar; pending 3rd Read and Favorable from E&YA
06/03/2015: Indefinitely postponed
SB161 - Education, civics test, requirement for graduation from high school
Sponsor(s): Senators Orr, Allen and Brewbaker (Combines sponsorship of two separate but identical bills: SB105 and SB141)
Summary/Synopsis: Under existing law, the core curriculum in Alabama for students in grades K-12 includes instruction in social studies. This bill would require, beginning with the 2016-2017 school year, students to successfully pass a civics test identical to the civics portion of the naturalization test used by the United States citizenship and immigration services to graduate from high school or obtain a high school equivalency diploma.
To pass, the student must successfully answer at least 60 of the 100 questions listed.
A student who does not obtain a passing score may retake the test until he or she obtains a passing score.
A special education student is not required to achieve a passing score on the civics test in order to graduate from high school unless he or she is learning at a level appropriate for his or her grade level in a specific academic area and unless a passing score on the civics test is specifically required in a specific academic area by the individualized education program of the student, if the student is at least 18 years of age.
League Action and Justification: Oppose. Although League believes in informed participation in all aspects of civic participation including voting, it also believes that curriculum requirements should be determined by those directly responsible for and knowledgeable about education such as the Alabama Department of Education, State Board of Education, accreditation agencies, etc.
League Action and Justification: Support 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.
League believes the law enabled by the Alabama Accountability Act of 2013 weakens public education rather than taking steps to improve it.
SB317 - Education, charter schools, established in the state prohibited from being virtual schools
Sponsor(s): Senators Bussman and Holtzclaw.
Summary/Synopsis: This bill prohibits any charter school from being a virtual school. A “virtual school” is an on-line school. It appears to address some concerns about charter schools that were voiced during the discussions of SB45.
Although we neither nor oppose charter schools, we do support specific characteristics that should be part of the legislative decisions made. League believes that charter school legislation should prohibit virtual schools from creating or managing charter schools.
HB469 - Textbooks, purchasing of by boards of education, use of qualified depository for textbooks established, Secs. 16-36-60.1, 16-36-71 added; Secs. 16-36-62, 16-36-64, 16-36-65 am'd.
Sponsor(s): Representatives Greer, Pettus, Henry and Butler Summary/Synopsis: Relating to the purchase of school textbooks: to establish qualified depositories for textbooks, which would be facilities that receive textbook orders from boards of education, store sufficient quantities of textbooks, and distribute textbooks to local school systems. This bill would also prohibit a qualified depository for textbooks from charging a board of education for its services, but would authorize it to charge a publisher a fee for its services. The price of any textbook may not exceed the costs already prescribed by law. Textbooks include digital textbooks for the purposes of public school textbook purchasing. Note: Though establishing the use of Official Depositories the Board of Education is given increased control over the process of buying and distributing textbooks. Publishers may not refuse to sell though a qualified depository and must maintain an adequate supply for distribution or sufficient ability to provide access to digital textbooks. Publishers who sell directly to local Boards of Education without using the Official Depositories may not charge prices in excess of the prices prescribed by law for the Depositories.
League Action and Justification: Support. This bill fits LWVAL’s Education Position that textbooks should be provided on a non-profit basis as part of meeting the total needs of public schools. Although the current law outlines a complex and careful procedure, this bill seems to close a potential loophole for publishers to evade the process. Bill Progress in Legislature: 04/09/2015: First Reading and referred to the House Committee on Education Policy (EP). 04/30/2015: 2nd Read and placed on the Calendar; pending 3rd Read and favorable from EP
06/03/2015: Indefinitely postponed
LWVAL is monitoring these bills:
SB45/HB192 - School Choice and Student Opportunity Act, creation of public charter schools authorized, Alabama Public Charter School Commission created, application, accountability, operation, funding, and autonomy provided
Sponsor(s): SB45: Senator Marsh HB192: Representatives Johnson (K), Henry, Williams (P), Shiver, Gaston, Weaver, Fridy, Davis, Brown, Hammon, Greer, Wood, Rowe, Butler, Fincher, Tuggle and Hubbard
Summary/Synopsis: This bill would:
create Alabama School Choice and Student Opportunity Act;
create the Alabama Public Charter School Commission and provide for its membership, powers, duties, and liabilities;
provide for the application process for establishing public charter schools and conversion charter schools
provide for charter terms, charter contracts, and preopening requirements and conditions
provide for accountability of charter schools pursuant to a performance framework, ongoing oversight and corrective action, and renewal, revocation, and nonrenewal of charters;
provide for the operation and autonomy of public charter schools;
League has no position on Charter Schools but has established guides it believes are important to consider. The initial bill and the Senate committee substitute are under examination.
Bill Progress in the Legislature: SB45
In the Senate... 03/03/2015: First reading and referred to the Senate Committee on Education and Youth Affairs (E&YA). 3/05/2015: 2nd Reading and placed on the calendar with 1 Substitute (165119-2); 2nd Substitute offered [not in ALISON]; pending 3rd Reading and Favorable from E&YA with 1 Substitute
03/10/2015: Third Reading Passed; E& 1ST Substitute (165119-2) Offered; E&YA 2nd Substitute (not on ALISON) Offered; Marsh Motion to Adopt adopted; Marsh Amendment (165433-3) Offered; Marsh motion to Adopt adopted; Smitherman Amendment (165364-2) Offered; Smitherman motion to Adopt Lost Roll Call; Smitherman Amendment (165362-1) Offered; Smitherman motion to Adopt Lost Roll Call; Marsh Amendment (165550-1) Offered; Marsh motion to Adopt adopted by Roll Call; Coleman Amendment (165480-1) Offered; Coleman motion to Adopt lost Roll Call; Coleman Amendment (165502-1) Offered; Marsh motion to Table adopted by Voice Vote; Figures Amendment (165575-1) Offered; Figures Motion to Adopt Lost Roll Call; Sanders Amendment (165508-1) Offered; Sander Motion to Adopt Lost Roll Call; Sanders Amendment (165385-1) Offered; Sanders Motion to Adopt Lost Roll Call; Sanders Amendment (165518-1) Offered; Sanders Motion to Adopt Lost Roll Call; Singleton Amendment (165388-1) Offered; Singleton Motion to Adopt Lost Roll Call; Singleton Amendment (165384-1) Offered; Singleton Motion to Adopt Lost Roll Call; Holtzclaw Amendment (165559-1) Offered; Holtclaw motion to Adopt adopted by Roll Call; Motion to Read a 3rd Time and Pass adopted by Roll Call; Marsh motion to Reconsider and Table adopted Voice Vote; Engrossed
SB45 in the House:
03/10/2015: Read of the first time and referred to the House Committee on Education Policy (EP).; 2nd Reading and placed on the Calendar with 1 EP Substitute (165751-5) Offered; Pending 3rd Reading and Favorable from EP with 1 Substitute
03/18/2015: 3rd Reading Passed; EP 1st Substitute (165751-5) Offered; Motion to Adopt adopted by Roll Call; Drummond Amendment (165871-1) Offered; Collins motion to Table adopted by Roll Call; Warren Amendment (166242-1) Offered; Collins motion to Table adopted by Roll Call; Knight Amendment (166287-1) Offered; Motion to Adopt adopted by Roll Call; Melton Amendment (165961-1) Offered: Collins motion to Table adopted by Roll Call; Coleman-Evans 1st Amendment (15\66277-1) Offered; Collins motion to Table adopted Roll Call; Coleman-Evans 2nd Amendment (166280-1) Offered; Motion to Adopt adopted Roll Call; M. Moore Amendment (165924-1) Offered; Collins motion to Table adopted Roll Call; Collins Amendment (166105-3) Offered; Motion to Adopt adopted Roll Call; Alexander intended to vote "Yea"; Motion to Read a Third Time and Pass adopted by Roll Call (58-41-3); Treadaway intended to vote “Nay”; Concurrence requested Engrossed
SENATE: 03/19/2015: Marsh motion to Concur In and Adopt adopted Roll Call (24-11-0); Concurred in Second House Amendment; Assigned Act No. 2015-3 on 03/19/2015.
HB107 - Virtual Public Schools Act, providing alternative virtual public schools through state, Department of Postsecondary Education, or local boards of education, providing for funding, annual evaluation by State Department of Education, and providing for promulgation of rules
Sponsor(s): Representatives Tuggle, Williams (P) and Butler
Summary/Synopsis: This bill would establish the Virtual Public Schools Act. This bill would provide families with an alternative choice to access educational resources via the Internet in a virtual or remote setting.
SB72 - Education, local boards of education, adopt policy providing virtual school option, eligible students in grades 9 to 12
Sponsor(s): Senator Brewbaker
Summary/Synopsis: This bill requires each local school board to adopt a policy for providing the option for a virtual (on-line) high school (grades 9-12). It exempts virtual schools from laws and regulations pertaining to the traditional delivery of instruction and establishes a legislative task force to make recommendations for realigning the state department’s current on-line instructional program (ACCESS).
League Action and Justification: Monitor League has no position per se about virtual schools; additionally the funding and administration of these entities seem problematic.
Bill Progress in Legislature:
03/03/2015: First reading and referred to the Senate Committee on Education & Youth Affairs (E&YA) 03/18/2015: Education and Youth Affairs first Amendment (165982-2) Offered ; Read for the second time and placed on the calendar 1 amendment; Pending 2rd Reading and Favorable from E&YA; 03/31/2015: 3rd Reading Passed; E&YA Amendment (165982-2) Offered; Motion to Adopt adopted by Roll Call Vote; Bussman Amendment (166633-2) Offered; Motion to Adopt adopted by Roll Call Vote; Motion to Read a Third Time and Pass adopted by Roll Call Vote
Summary/Synopsis: This bill establishes a universal pre-school program for the state. While some districts currently have programs, all districts do not. In addition, the existing pre-school programs are not state-regulated and are varied in quality. SB 99 also attempts to direct funding for these programs in an organized fashion.
League Action and Justification: Monitor While this appears to be a worthy effort, the LWVAL does not have a position on pre-school education. We do support universal public kindergartens and this enabling legislation for pre-schools is consideration. In the interest of fairness, it is hard to justify supporting pre-schools without first making attendance in kindergarten mandatory. Currently the mandatory age for school attendance is 7 years old.
HB310 (Constitutional Amendment) - Superintendents of education, term of office not to extend beyond December 31, 2020, local board of education to appoint superintendent, const. amend.
Sponsor(s): Representatives McMillan and McCutcheon
Summary/Synopsis: This bill requires all city and county school superintendents to be appointed by the boards of education of their districts. Currently 38 school superintendents are elected by the voters in their school districts and 97 are appointed by the elected school boards.
League Action and Justification: Monitor for informational purposes. League has no specific position on this issue. Interestingly enough, this bill is sponsored by a house member from a district that elects its superintendent and there seems to be a consensus of opinion among the legislative delegation there that the superintendent needs to be appointed and not elected, according to an article from al.com in June 2014. The reasons usually given for an appointed superintendent include a wider range of candidates and less of a political selection process. In addition if voters elect members of their school board (which would appoint the superintendent) , there is some public involvement in the decisional process.
HB317 - Education, State Board of, intervention in educational operations of local boards of education, conditions warranting intervention revised, Sec. 16-6E-4 am'd.
Sponsor(s): Representative Beech
Summary/Synopsis: This bill tweaks the process for the state board of education to intervene in the educational operations of a local school board. Basically, it updates some terms and makes the criteria for intervention broader ("materially non-compliant with statutes, rules, or regulations" is used as a standard).
This bill also adds a another new criterion for intervention ("a majority of the district's students failed to meet the state approved benchmark for state standards or the system has been notified of disciplinary action taken against it from the accrediting agency recognized by the state board of education").
League Action and Justification: Monitor for informational purposes.
League has no specific position on school improvement. School "take-overs" are controversial since they also remove tenure protection and establish state standards which may be lower than some local standards (especially in the area of class sizes). Funding issues are also involved.
SB331 - Education, internal public charter school pilot program, established
Sponsor(s): Senators Sanford, Marsh, Reed, Shelnutt, and Holtzclaw.
Summary/Synopsis: This bill expands the charter school legislation with a 5-year pilot program creating optional “Internal Public Charter Schools”—public schools selected by the local school board to become charter schools within the local public school system. This looks like an attempt to make charter schools more palatable to traditional school people. These experimental charter schools would be under the supervision of the local school system and funded to the same extent as local public non-charter schools but exempted from many of the state education department’s regulations (especially teacher-student ratios and tenure protection for school staff).
Bill Progress in Legislature: 04/02/2015: First Reading and referred to the Senate Committee on Education and Youth Affairs (E&YA). ALISON lists SB331 reported as Favorable from E&YA but gives no date. No other action report since day of introduction. 04/28/2015: 2nd Read and place on the calendar; pending 3rd read and favorable from E&YA
06/03/2015: Indefinitely postponed
SB329 - Education, Accountability Act, definition of failing school altered, Sec. 16-6D-4 am'd.
Summary/Synopsis: This bill’s purpose is to improve the Accountability Act of 2013 by addressing the problem most often cited, an unclear definition of Failing School. It defines its aim to “define further” a failing school and to alter the “definitional phrases” of the act. The bill consists of 14 definitions of words explaining the various steps in the process which is now in the bill: In addition to FAILING SCHOOL and QUALIFYING SCHOOL, the ten other terms include Eligible Student, Flexibility Contract (which seems to permit local schools to secure exemptions from rules of State School Board, as did the original bill that was totally changed), Innovation Plan, Local Board of Education, Local School System, Local School System, Low-Income Eligible Student, Nonpublic School, Parent, Scholarship Granting Organization. Some of these reforms might lead to improvement, such as school innovation plans with accountability devices. None modifies the original plan to use state education money for scholarships to leave local public schools and give large tax deductions for those who contribute to organizations that fund these scholarships. The criteria for failing schools and qualifying schools attempt to use any existing means of evaluation. They also list many more alternatives if no evaluation can be found.
HB434 - Superintendent of Education, county board of education to appoint
Sponsor(s): Representative McMillan
Summary/Synopsis: This bill requires all county school superintendents to be appointed by the county boards of education (and not elected by citizens of the county). It differs from HB 310 (introduced in mid-March) which is in the form of a constitutional amendment and must be accepted by a majority of voters in the state. In addition, this bill is referred to a different committee from HB 310’s assignment.
04/23/2015: 2nd Read and placed on the calendar with 1 Amendment (168050-2); Pending 3rd Reading and Favorable from C&MG with 1 Amendment; First C&MG Amendment Offered.
06/03/2015: Indefinitely postponed
Note: The amendment states: “If, upon the expiration of the term of office of an elected county superintendent, the county board of education wishes to continue the services of the superintendent, the board may appoint and enter into a contract with the superintendent for an additional term without following the posting and selecting procedures required…’ In this case the superintendent must be notified by June 1 of the Board’s intention.
HB464 - Education, county boards of education and county superintendents of education elected, by qualified electors outside of areas of county with city boards of education and city superintendents of education, Secs. 16-9-2, 16-9-5, 16-9-6 am'd.
Summary/Synopsis: This is another bill pertaining to the selection of school superintendents. In counties that elect a school superintendent and that contain both county and city school districts, city residents are barred from voting in the election for county school superintendent.
04/23/2015: 2nd Read and placed on the calendar; pending 3rd Read and Favorable from EP
05/14/2015: 3rd Reading Passed; Ford amendment (169297-1) Offered; Ford motion to withdraw his amendment adopted by Voice Vote; Wadsworth Amendment (169301-1) Offered; Pettus motion to Table adopted by Roll Call; Black Amendment (169302-1) Offered; Pettus motion to Table adopted by Roll Call; Motion to Read a 3rd Time and Pass adopted by Roll Call
SB383 - Textbooks, purchasing of by boards of education, use of qualified depository for textbooks established, Secs. 16-36-60.1, 16-36-71 added; Secs. 16-36-62, 16-36-64, 16-36-65 am'd.
Sponsor(s): Senator Brewbaker
Summary/Synopsis: This bill amends the existing law pertaining to the distribution of textbooks to public schools to establish textbook depositories and requires textbook publishers to use them if the local school board requests.
The League’s position is that the state should provide free textbooks for public schools; however, there is no position on how these textbooks are distributed. Bill Progress in Legislature: 04/16/2015: First reading and referred to the Senate Committee on Education and Youth Affairs (E&YA). Implied date is 04/14: Acted on by F&TG as Favorable with 1 Amendment (168045-2); F&TG first Amendment Offered.
04/28/2015: 2nd Read and placed on the calendar; 3rd Read passed; Motion to Read a 3rd Time and Pass adopted by roll call