School flex bill heads to state senate

MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) — Despite some major opposition, an education bill is headed to the Alabama Senate.

The “School Flexibility Bill” passed the House of Representatives.

Leaders said the bill could reach the Alabama Senate floor as early as Tuesday, February 26.

"Its breaking the status quo when it comes to education,” said the bill’s sponsor Representative Chad Fincher.

Fincher pushed the bill through the House despite the Alabama Education Association’s opposition. Jesse McDaniel with the AEA said defeating this bill is top priority.

"AEA believes public education is under attack. This is an overt attack on public education and the rights of employees that work in public education,” said McDaniel.

The bill allows schools and school systems to apply to be “innovative schools.” That means they can “flex” certain state laws and policies. Retirement and minimum pay are a few things protected.

McDaniel said it opens the door to abuse.

"The devil's in the details, and that’s exactly the truth because there is no detail there it is just a blanket broad statement about being able to waive state laws and policies,” said McDaniel.

For example, leaders said a school system could apply to give teachers an alternate route when it comes to tenure. This means, if approved, a new teacher could opt out of tenure to earn a higher salary.

"What you would, in essence, have here are some higher paid employees who that would not be on a tenure track. And that would create a real morale problem in schools," McDaniel said.

But Fincher said this is an example of the bill putting the power in the hands of the schools and not the state.

"I feel like the way the system operates, we're dictating that to them. We're not giving them that option or ability to choose,” said Fincher.

Fincher said the real goal of the bill is to give schools access to innovative teaching tools and to be able to have flexibility when it comes to budgets.

Fincher said the way the application process is set up, only waivers will be handed out to those trying to improve education and can be taken away at any time.

"If the results aren’t proven, that waiver is revoked," Fincher said.

The AEA said it would like to see the bill amended to specifically address its concerns.

Mobile County Public School Superintendant Martha Peak said she supports the bill.

Copyright 2014 WALA TV. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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Alabama (change)

Known as the “Heart of Dixie,” Alabama has a population of over 4.6 million residents. Montgomery is the capital city. Other major cities include Birmingham, Mobile, and Huntsville.
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Governor: Robert Bentley
Lieutenant Governor: Kay Ivey
Attorney General: Luther Strange
State Treasurer: Young Boozer
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