House Approves School Flexibility Bill

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By Jessica Gertler

School districts are one step closer to what lawmakers say will give them more freedom and control. After hours of debate, today the House approved the school flexibility bill.

Lawmakers who backed this bill say right now, the state's education system has a "one size fits all" mentality. But they say this bill will change that.

"It is yet again a rouse. A cover-up,. A mask for something else," says Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Jefferson Co.

A fire storm hit the house floor as many Democrats picked apart the school flexibility bill sponsored by Rep. Chad Fincher, R-Mobile.

"I hope we can stop playing politics with education," says Fincher.

But after hours of debate, a cloture vote was called, and the bill passed.

"I am very excited about it. Today, we broke the status quo when it came to education," says Fincher.

An amendment drafted by Fincher also passed. Fincher says the amendment clarified that employee health and retirement benefits are protected, teachers can opt out of tenure if the school system creates another option, and the bill can not be used to create charter schools. But the amendment nor the bill defines what a charter school is.

"It's pretty broad," says House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Lee County. "Saying no charter schools, that pretty much incorporates any type of charter school."

The reason many Democrats, like State Representative Alvin Holmes of Montgomery, voted against the bill is because they say it was deceitful.

"This bill is a back-door to get charter schools in the state of Alabama, and particularly a way to do away with teachers' tenure," says Holmes. "I don't support that, the Democrats don't support that, and the people in the state of Alabama don't support that."

State School Superintendent Tommy Bice says he supports this bill. He says it will bring more creativity to the classroom.

The Alabama Education Association opposed the school flexibility bill saying it is a back-door approach to charter schools.

A Senate committee approved the bill yesterday adding an amendment  similar to Fincher's.

The Senate hopes to vote on the bill in the near future, and Governor Bentley has indicated his support for it.
 



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