Governor Robert Bentley and legislative leaders on Wednesday outlined a proposal that will give educators more local control over public education while also giving parents and students new educational opportunities.
The Education Options Act of 2012, to be filed in the Alabama Legislature this week, calls for new flexibility within local school systems, allowing educators to customize education for the needs of their students. The Act will free the systems from current restrictions in exchange for increased accountability measures for student achievement and system performance.
"We want to allow educators to move out of the one-size-fits-all structure that has traditionally been used," Governor Bentley said. "Local teachers and local school administrators know what's best for their students. This Act will give them the tools they need to best prepare students for the future."
House Speaker Mike Hubbard, who has championed education reforms, said a major benefit of the plan is its ability to reduce the state's dropout rate. Hubbard said the dropout problem is one of Alabama's greatest economic threats over the long term.
"Consider the impact on our state budgets," Speaker Hubbard said. "Consider the lost economic growth from those who cost the system rather than contribute into it. Most of all, consider all the children who lose the chance to pursue their dreams, not because they weren't smart enough, but because the system failed them. We can do better. Alabama needs to allow local school boards to cut the bureaucratic red tape and let teachers give their students the quality education they need to pursue a fulfilling career."
Examples of increased flexibility for schools include the following:
* More influence over curriculum used in their classrooms
* More opportunities to recruit experts from the community to teach in the classroom
* More input in how state education dollars are allocated
The Education Options Act of 2012 also calls for the establishment of a limited number of public charter schools.
"Public charter schools are about choice," Governor Bentley said. "They give parents and students the ability to choose a new option if they are dissatisfied with their local schools. Additionally, public charter schools allow teachers to customize education based on the needs of the students in their classrooms."
"Public charter schools are results-oriented," the Governor added. "They will be held directly accountable for how well they educate our children."
"Alabama's children are the building blocks of our future. We owe it to them to make sure each and every student across the state has access to a high-quality education and that they are prepared to succeed in the careers of tomorrow," Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said. "Governor Bentley is committed to the education of our children. The Legislature is ready to work with the Governor and Lieutenant Governor Ivey to pass this bill and give our parents more options and teachers more flexibility in the classroom."
Alabama State Superintendent of Education Dr. Tommy Bice said public charter schools and local flexibility could be important tools in giving students new opportunities.
"When making crucial decisions for the students we serve, I want all possible options at my disposal, including public charter schools," Bice said. "Within that context, I can determine the best possible solution based on the needs of the students and the community."
Senator Dick Brewbaker is the Senate sponsor of the legislation.
"In America, we don't tell you where to go to church or what to do for a living, but we do tell you where you have to send your kids to school," Senator Brewbaker said. "This bill is a great step forward because it provides options to parents in failing school districts and maintains local control of the school system."
Representative Phil Williams is the House sponsor of the legislation.
"I'm an advocate for innovative education reforms because I believe no parent should be forced to send their child to a failing school with no option to seek a better education," Rep. Williams said. "It doesn't have to be that way. We can have excellent teachers in every classroom preparing the next generation of Alabamians to be our greatest yet. This bill is a big step in that direction."