Education Policy and Funding

LWVAL Action Priority Level II - Monitoring occurs; action dependent on opportunity and available resources.

Click a bill to see sponsor(s), synopsis, link to the bill, League action and justification for that action, and progress of the bill through the legislative process.

Legend:
thumbs_up_icon.jpg = LWVAL's support for the legislation.
thumbs_down_icon.jpg = LWVAL's opposition to the legislation.
green-right-arrow.jpg = 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.

Contact information for legislators and committees referenced in the bills below:
Representatives   Standing House Committees   Senators   Standing Senate Committees   Find my legislators
LWVAL has taken a position on these bills:

green-right-arrow.jpgthumbs_down_icon.jpgHB100 - Americans First Act, clarifying status of institutions of higher education as agencies of state under Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act and required to comply with all immigration laws or be subject to forfeiture of certain funds, Sec. 31-13-5.1 added

Sponsor(s): Representatives Williams (P) and Lee

Synopsis: Under existing law, public officials, agencies, and political subdivisions of the state are prohibited from adopting any policy or practice that limits or restricts the enforcement of certain federal immigration laws. This bill would create the Americans First Act, clarifying that two-year and four-year public institutions of higher education in the state are agencies of the state and subject to the Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act. This bill would also express the intent of the Legislature that public institutions of higher education with constitutionally created boards of trustees comply with the prohibitions of the Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act. This would prohibit a public declaration of sanctuary status for immigrants. The penalty for failure to comply by the agency or institution is forfeiture of state funding.


League Action and Justification: Oppose. From LWVUS’ Impact on Issues 2014-16 under Unauthorized Immigrants Already in the United States: “In achieving overall policy goals, the League supports a system for unauthorized immigrants already in the country to earn legal status, including citizenship, by paying taxes, learning English, studying civics and meeting other relevant criteria. While policy reforms, including a path to legal status, remain unachieved, the League does not support deporting unauthorized immigrants who have no history of criminal activity.”

Bill Progress in Legislature:
02/07/2017: First Read and referred to House committee on State Government (SG)

02/09/2017:
2nd Read and placed on the calendar; pending 3rd Read and favorable from SG

green-right-arrow.jpgthumbs_up_icon.jpgSB88 - Education, gifted or talented children, grants for educational programs provided by State Department of Education, local match required

Sponsor(s): Senator Orr

Synopsis: This bill would authorize the State Department of Education, pending available funds, to offer certain grants to public schools for the purpose of developing new advanced educational and specialized programs for gifted or talented children; to require the department to adopt rules providing for the evaluation of applications for grants; to provide public access to applicant scoring; and to require local boards of education to match awarded grant funds.


League Action and Justification: Support. League positions support efforts to increase funding to public schools.

Bill Progress in Legislature:
02/07/2017:
First Read and referred to Senate committee on Finance and Taxation Education (F&TE)
LWVAL is monitoring these bills:

SB32 - Education, civics test, requirement for graduation from high school

Sponsor(s): Senator Orr

Synopsis: Beginning in the 2018-19 school year, students would be required to pass a civics test in order to graduate from high school or receive a graduation equivalency certificate. The language of the bill indicates the test will be identical to that given as the U.S. Citizenship test. (Link to test questions on citizenship test 100 Citizenship questions for the US Naturalization test with answers | Civics Questions). Special education students who are not obtaining the general education diploma would not be required to pass the test.

There is no discussion of the cost of implementing this bill included in the draft of the bill. Local board of education would determine the method and manner in which to administer the civics test to students. Would this mean the local boards of education would be required to absorb the cost of the test? This is an unknown. A student who did not obtain a passing score on the civics test would retake the test until he or she obtains a passing score.

Students are currently mandated to pass a semester each of government and economics in their 12th grade year. These tests include comprehensive final exams unless schools have an exam exemption policy as an attendance incentive. It may be redundant and costly to ask for a separate test. It also adds to the current array of tests students are currently taking, and they are over-tested already. However, testing of selected subject areas (English and Math) has de-emphasized government and social studies in the school curriculum for many years, especially at the elementary level.


League Action and Justification: Monitor for now to assess movement and information on funding.

Bill Progress in Legislature:
02/07/2017:
First Read and assigned to Senate committee on Finance and Taxation Education (F&TE)

green-right-arrow.jpgSB92 - Schools, dual enrollment, high school students taking college courses, authorized

Sponsor(s): Senator Orr

Synopsis: Under existing law, a high school student may take college courses if it fits into his or her schedule. This bill would establish a program allowing eligible 11th and 12th grade students admitted unconditionally to an eligible Alabama public post-secondary institution to take all courses at the eligible public institution and receive high school credit for the coursework with the goal of completing graduation and high school diploma requirements. This bill would authorize the Department of Education to pay an institution of higher learning for courses taken pursuant to the program through appropriation of state Education Trust funds.

League Action and Justification: Monitor. LWVAL has a general position on education that does not include anything this specific.

Analysis suggests the following Costs and Benefits of this legislation:

Costs
  1. This further erodes public education by removing the most capable students from the 11th and 12th grade student population.
  2. Funding for the tuition, fees, and supplies would be taken from local school system funding.
  3. Local schools would need to have staff allocated to manage the program. This would most likely be given to the already over-extended school counselors who are already struggling with the requirements of the newly implemented virtual schools legislation.

Benefits
  1. Students receive college credits and high school credits for two years of school at state expense with successful completion of their coursework.
  2. State colleges would receive a significant influx of students' and payment of their tuition, books, and fees.

Other Concerns

Most students at the secondary school level are not prepared for the rigor and requirements of college in 12th grade, and most definitely not in 11th grade. Developmentally, they often are not mature enough to manage their time and resources to be successful. Unsuccessful completion of their courses is not addressed in the legislation and will delay their graduation. Current law allows them to experiment with one or at most two courses at the time, which is a more manageable schedule that allows them to grow into the responsibilities associated with attending college.


Bill Progress in Legislature:
02/07/2017: First Read and referred to Senate committee on Finance and Taxation Education (F&TE)


green-right-arrow.jpgSB123 - Accountability Act of 2013, cap on income tax credits increased, credit against utility gross receipts tax liability for donations to scholarship granting organizations created, audits of scholarship granting entities required, Secs. 16-6D-3, 16-6D-4, 16-6D-6, 16-6D-8, 16-6D-9 am'd.

Sponsor(s): Senators Marsh, McClendon, Glover, Whatley, Waggoner, Shelnutt, Pittman, Dial, Allen, Williams, Albritton and Melson

Synopsis: This bill would amend the Alabama Accountability Act of 2013. The bill would:
  1. provide further for definitions [e.g., underperforming school);
  2. made income tax credits available to trusts and estates;
  3. increase the cap on income tax credits for donations to scholarship granting organizations;
  4. create a credit against utility gross receipts tax liability for donations to scholarship granting organizations as the funding mechanism for the scholarships;
  5. establish procedures for claiming a credit against the utility gross receipts tax;
  6. authorize scholarship granting organizations to assist eligible students with qualifying expenses; and
  7. require scholarship granting organizations to obtain audited financial statements annually;
  8. require the Department of Revenue, or its agent, to perform an audit of each scholarship granting organization at least triennially.
Failing school references in the law are changed to refer to underperforming schools.

League Action and Justification: Monitor. League positions support, oppose or are silent on differing aspects of this legislation.

Bill Progress in Legislature:
02/09/2017: First Read and referred to Senate committee on Finance and Taxation Education (F&TE)



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