School flexibility bill passes Senate

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The Alabama Senate passed a school flexibility bill Thursday afternoon.

A bill that would allow school districts to apply for waivers from certain state laws passed the Senate Thursday afternoon 26 to 7.

The bill was amended on the floor of the Senate to explicitly provide protections for tenure and teachers’ benefits.  The House voted to non-concur in the changes 61 to 31 Thursday afternoon; the bill goes to conference committee.

Rep. Chad Fincher, R-Semmes, the sponsor of the legislation, said the changes would prevent a school district from giving teachers the option to pursue a non-tenure track position.

School districts can currently apply for waivers from rules and regulations promulgated by the State Department of Education.  The legislation would extend that ability to laws, such as those governing teacher certification.  All applications would have to first go through a public hearing phase before being submitted to the State Superintendent of Schools for review.  If the superintendent approved, the plan would be sent to the State Board of Education for final approval.

Supporters of the legislation, including the Alabama Association of School Boards, say it will allow school districts to pursue new and innovative approaches to teaching children.  Opponents, including the Alabama Education Association, expressed concern the measure would gut teachers’ tenure rights.

Senate Republicans moved quickly to end debate on the measure late Thursday morning.  Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said further debate would have been “ridiculous.”

“We agreed on the amendment,” he said.  “It’s all about delay, delay, delay.”

Sen. Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery, said extended debate would have possibly revealed points worth discussing.

“They had all the numbers, and that’s what happens when you’re in the supermajority,” he said.

– posted by Brian Lyman

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