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BCA President and CEO Testifies in Support of School Choice Bill

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Senate Education and Youth Affairs Committee today favorably reported the public charter school bill known as the School Choice and Student Opportunity Act that is supported by the Business Council of Alabama.

In House committee action, House Bill 38 that would appropriate $5 million for dual-enrollment, career-tech scholarships was carried over in order for it to travel with the education budget.

The 4-3 vote in the Senate Education and Youth Affairs Committee for a substitute charter school bill – Senate Bill 45 – was along party lines. The bill goes to the Senate where it could get a second reading as early as Thursday and be in position for full Senate consideration on Tuesday.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, the bill’s sponsor, and Republican Sens. Dick Brewbaker of Pike Road, Paul Bussman of Cullman, and Shay Shelnutt of Trussville, voted to favorably report the bill. Democratic Sens. Vivian Figures of Mobile, Quinton Ross of Montgomery, and Hank Sanders of Selma, voted no.

BCA President and CEO William J. Canary testified in support of the School Choice and Student Opportunity Act, which would authorize up to 10 public charter schools for five years.

“We believe that public charter schools will be another tool to use as we strive for education excellence that will prepare our children for a fulfilling future,” Canary said. “Like publicly funded magnet schools that draw students from within districts, charter schools can be an attractive alternative to parents of children who, due to geography, are locked into a situation where they cannot reach their full potential.”

The BCA’s 2015 State Legislative Agenda includes support for education and workforce development, Canary said. “We pledge to work actively to fully implement recommendations and conclusions of the Business Education Alliance of Alabama’s 2014 report that calls for pursuing the goal of attaining a 90 percent high school graduation rate by the year 2020. 

“We at the BCA are dedicated to doing our part to improve public education because that is where we will get the next generation of our employees and leaders,” Canary said.

BEA Chairman and President Dr. Joe Morton, testifying for the public charter school bill, said Alabama has had the benefit of years of other charter school experiences to draw on. “This is one of the best if not the best charter school bill in the nation,” said Morton, a former state school superintendent.

Canary said the BCA’s 2015 State Legislative Agenda includes support for fully implementing the Alabama Board of Education’s PLAN 2020 and support for sustaining appropriate funding for proven educational initiatives.

“In Alabama we now have the opportunity to expand education choice with public charter schools that can be flexible but which must meet established performance benchmarks,” Canary said.

In a statement, Canary said the BCA supports a proposed $5 million appropriation in the new fiscal year for dual-enrollment, career-tech scholarships. The appropriation is contained in HB 38 sponsored by Rep. Alan Baker, R-Brewton. The bill was carried over by the House Ways and Means Education Committee.

The Alabama Future Workforce Initiative passed last year sets up dual-enrollment and career-tech scholarships. The legislation authorizes limited tax credits for personal or corporate donations to a dual-enrollment scholarship program for high school students who take skill training or academic courses in two-year schools.

“The success of Alabama’s business community largely depends on a public education system that produces graduates with skills that the 21st century workplace demands,” Canary said. “Creating a scholarship program to increase the number of Alabama students who can participate in dual-enrollment is a no-brainer.

“If Alabama is to continue to attract the aerospace, automobile and rocket manufacturing facilities that have made us the envy of our sister southeastern states and the rest of the nation, and if we are going to foster our rapidly growing biotech, high-tech and research industries into our economy of tomorrow, Alabama must provide our children the education and skills that those jobs demand,” Canary said.

The Business Council of Alabama is Alabama’s foremost voice for business. The BCA is a non-partisan statewide business association representing the interests and concerns of nearly 1 million working Alabamians through its member companies and its partnership with the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama. BCA is Alabama’s exclusive affiliate to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 4, 2015

Contact: Nancy Wall Hewston or Dana Beyerle (334) 834-6000

About Nancy Hewston

Nancy Hewston
Vice President of Communications, Strategic Information and Federal Affairs
334-240-8725 | Fax: 334-241-5984
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