Alabama Governor Signs Charter School Law

Published April 15, 2015

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) has signed into law a bill allowing charter schools in the state.

Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur), sponsor of the School Choice and Student Opportunity Act, says the new charter law will provide additional educational options for families and an opportunity for innovation within schools. Charter schools could open as soon as fall of 2016. Bentley signed the bill into law in March.

 “There were over 2,000 students at the School Choice Rally,” Collins said, referring to a rally held at the Alabama State Capitol in January. “When asked what is important to them, the answers varied greatly. Some wanted to get away from bullying, some weren’t feeling comfortable at their current school, and some felt they weren’t being challenged enough.”

Collins says school choice is necessary for many reasons, including some students needing an environment that addresses specific educational, creative, or social needs.

Allows 50 Schools

The new law allows the creation of up to 10 schools per year for the next five years. Schools operating under a charter school contract must be open to any student in Alabama.

There will be two types of charter schools: start-ups and conversions. Start-ups will be brand new schools and conversions will be former traditional public schools in the process of converting into charter contracts.

The 11 appointed members of the Alabama Public School Committee will be responsible for monitoring the charter schools’ quality.

Opponents of the new law have expressed concerns funding for charter schools will reduce money for traditional public schools. Proponents of the new law say tax money following the student to a public charter school is not a bad thing.

More Choices for Poor

Duncan Kirkwood, state director of the Alabama Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), says the charter law is a win for parents in low-income areas because it gives them options they didn’t have before.

“Today is a proud moment in our state’s education history,” Kirkwood said. “There are countless low-income and working-class families who have been calling out for added public schooling options. The delivery of a charter schools bill to the governor’s desk is the victory parents, community members, and BAEO have been fighting for.”

Kirkwood agrees the charter law is about providing much-needed choice to Alabama families.

“The passage of the School Choice and Student Opportunity Act rings as a vivid sound of victory for those wanting to improve the educational prospects of our most vulnerable children, now,” said Kirkwood. “We applaud our state senators and representatives, in particular House Speaker Michael Hubbard, Sen. Del Marsh, and Rep. Terri Collins, for their courage and commitment to the children and families of Alabama. We look forward to … building a competent and comprehensive landscape for charter schools in Alabama to thrive.”

Diana-Ashley Krach ([email protected]) writes from Lake Worth, Florida.

Image by woodleywonderworks.