School Flexibility Bill on the Goal Line

The Senate today after a brief filibuster and a successful cloture petition passed HB 84, the Local Control School Flexibility Act sponsored by Rep. Chad Fincher, R-Semmes. The bipartisan vote was 26-7, but the Senate-amended bill was returned to the House where it originated for consideration. Fincher opposed the Senate amendment and asked the House to non-concur and send the bill to a conference committee.

The House voted 61-31 to non-concur, and House Speaker Mike Hubbard appointed Fincher, Rep. Jay Love, R-Montgomery, and Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville, to the conference committee. The Senate recessed without dealing with the House action.

The Senate amendment would preserve tenure but wouldn’t give local teachers and local school systems the ability to voluntarily waive tenure, Fincher said. “We’re not taking anything away,” Fincher said. “All we’re doing is providing the school system the option to do it. We’re not forcing them.”

The Business Council of Alabama supports the school flexibility bill. “This legislation is a giant step forward that will enhance our education and skills delivery system,” BCA President and CEO William J. Canary said. “Educators and local school systems need the flexibility to match each unique education environment with the needs of the students.”

The bill was on the legislative leadership’s agenda for the 2013 legislative session. In addition to the BCA, major state education groups and State School Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice support the bill. The state’s largest teacher’s union opposes it.

The bill will give local school systems, after a strict approval process, operational flexibility from certain state laws, rules, and regulations governing schools. “We want to do everything to provide that ability to take it to the next level,” Fincher said.

Opponents said the bill that will dismantle tenure laws that protect teachers, a contention that bill supporters say is not true. “It’s not a good bill that came out of the House,” said Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham. “It is wrong, wrong, wrong.”

– Dana Beyerle