What a night tonight! The Alabama Legislature passed the School Flexibility Bill. The original bill was something both sides of the legislature agreed with. But after a conference committee session, the bill went from 9 pages to a 28 page bill. The things that were added included added tax credits for some parents who may want to move their children to private schools and flexibility on teacher tenure. This all sounds like something politicians would do from Washington D.C. Why did the Republicans had to go behind closed doors and insert something just like that. And then turn around and pass the bill in a short amount of time. Something smells fishy here!
Many people were caught off guard by this bait and switch. Even the State Superintendent Tommy Bice said “NONE of the added language has been vetted with us at the State Department/State Board of Education, There are SIGNIFICANT negative financial implications for all of Alabama’s public schools. THIS IS NO LONGER THE BILL I GAVE MY SUPPORT TO!” While the bill was being passed in the Alabama Senate; the chamber became a shouting match and no one had control!
Sadly in my opinion; I think this bill is going to prove to be very bad! Michelle Rhee sent me a e-mail saying “We’re also pleased to see that Alabama is increasing flexibility for schools and districts. This will empower school leaders by allowing them to be innovative and to better respond to the unique needs of their students. As Alabama moves toward providing districts with increased flexibility and parents with more school choice, we hope policymakers implement strong performance standards to ensure that schools are being held accountable for student success.”
The House and Senate leadership passed a bill behind closed doors that provides a tax credit give-away to rich families zoned for failing schools to subsidize the private school tuition they are already paying. This is basically segregation through income instead of race. So does that mean the legislature has abandoned local schools in favor of private schools for the rich and supported by the poor? I hope not!
A return to history was made today, where the wealthy (white) students can attend private schools at the citizens of Alabama’s expense, while those same citizens’ children are relegated to the underfunded, inferior education meant to keep them poor and ignorant pawns. Alabama has made history before; remember when George Wallace made history when he stood in the schoolhouse door. Or when Bull Connor made history when he ordered fire hoses and attack dogs to be used against Alabama demonstrators, many of them children.
The governor says he is proud the legislature passed this “for the children of this state and especially the children who are in failing school systems and had no way out.” Are we to assume then, that private schools will now change their policies and, as public schools are required to do, accept all applicants regardless of their previous academic performance, their family’s economic status , etc.? If public schools are failing now, how will they suddenly become competitive with private schools after their funding has been cut and the students who perform better academically leave the system for private schools, as is bound to happen?
This legislation is a thinly-veiled attempt to destroy public education, no matter what sort of spin you try to put on it, and history will not look kindly upon it. Alabama is going to make national news over this story. And this will put another black eye on us! Way to go Alabama!
- Republicans Drastically Change School Flex Bill (whnt.com)
- Republicans drastically change flex bill, add tax credits for parents of children in ‘failing schools’ (updated) (al.com)