Alabama lawmakers plan to consider school choice legislation
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - More people Google “school choice” during January than at any other point during the year, according to the National School Choice Week organization, and Monday marked the beginning of School Choice Week. This is when families receive money to send their students to a school of their choice.
Alabama is not a school choice state, but some lawmakers think this is the year to become one. There are some districts that allow out-of-district students to transfer in, but not all of them.
The state funds a majority of the Alabama public school systems. Sen. Arthur Orr chairs the Senate’s education budget committee.
“There are multiple varieties of school choice,” said Orr. “And I think Alabama’s got to figure out what variety makes the most sense for our state.”
There is extra money in the education budget that could be used to supplement what is lost, but the long-term financial impact is unsustainable.
“The argument then becomes should we concentrate more, focus more on those schools that have chronically underperformed rather than a voucher-type program?” said Orr.
Gov. Kay Ivey supports school choice.
“We need to have meaningful discussions about school choice in Alabama,” Ivey said during her 2023 inaugural address.
Rep. Terri Collins plans to sponsor a slightly different school choice bill than last year.
“It did not require local money following the students, and that wasn’t the intent at all,” said Collins. “And so we’ve always needed to work on that local funding.”
She said there are benefits besides a better education.
“Maybe their student or they personally were being bullied where they were and they just needed a fresh start,” said Collins.
House Democratic leader Rep. Anthony Daniels says he’s not ruling school choice out.
“I’m a realist. I’m one that compromises a whole lot,” said Daniels. “But at the same time we want to make certain that our constituents’ voices are heard, and we want to make certain that we make the best decision possible.”
A bill should be ready before the session starts, so school choice might be one of the first topics lawmakers tackle in March.
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