Currently, Alabama’s House Education Policy Committee is pondering HB245, an amendment to our charter school law, sponsored by Rep. Terri Collins. As a matter of fact, they just ‘Fast Tracked’ it by putting it on the committee’s calendar for a vote tomorrow, Thurs. March 9th, which is not their regular day/time. (I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that Rep. Collins scheduled the meeting at a time when Rep. Ed Henry, who is a NO vote, cannot be there!) This way they can do both; vote it out of committee AND read it a second time on the floor of the House. The House could easily read it for a third time and vote on it as early as Tuesday, March 14th. Fast tracking like this is a way to make sure the public would have little time to react and contact their legislators with their concerns.
That’s why I am writing, I want to urge everyone to contact their Representative now and tell them to insist that a portion of the bill is removed before they vote.
From what I’ve been hearing there were some REALLY upset folks in Montgomery when Birmingham City Schools denied the two charter school applications that were submitted to them based on, in part, the fact the applicants did not provide the type of school BCS requested in its Request for Proposals.
Yup. Really. Upset.
So upset in fact they got busy writing what I call the ‘Birmingham Clause’. This is the part of HB245 that would take away Birmingham’s ability to ever deny a charter application again based on, even in part, the type of charter school they felt they, BCS, needed in their own community. Well, not just Birmingham of course. Every charter school authorizer in the state would lose the ability to control their own Request for Proposal. Basically, it has reduced the RFP to a mere suggestion. What if RFPs for capital improvements worked that way? A school system would ask for proposals to build a new school and the contractor would be like, nope, I’m gonna build you a storage facility.
As a side note, I would be remiss if I did not remind everyone that former House member, Rep. Mike Hubbard, was convicted of taking kickbacks concerning charter schools in Alabama. Plus, former House member, and House Education Policy Committee member, Rep. Oliver Robinson sat on a charter school board while sitting on the House Education Policy Committee. What’s really interesting about that is the fact that the charter school board he sat on was one of the charter schools that is being denied by Birmingham, the Star Academy.
And now, another House member brings us the ‘Birmingham Clause’.
You see, Birmingham City Schools has done everything ‘by the book’ as an authorizer. They have met all the deadlines and provided all the information needed to those that wish to open a charter school, including writing the Request for Proposals. In that request, they specified they wanted a Dual Language Spanish Immersion School.
THAT is what has some folks in Montgomery SO UPSET.
I wonder if they have even looked into the Dual Language Immersion schools that are all around this country, do they not REALIZE that dual language immersion is a GOOD thing? Check out this article by Tara Williams Fortune of the Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition. It says, in part, “Without question, the issue investigated most often in research on language immersion education is students’ ability to perform academically on standardized tests administered in English. This question emerges again and again in direct response to stakeholder concerns that development of a language other than English not jeopardize basic schooling goals, high levels of oral and written communication skills in English, and grade-appropriate academic achievement. The research response to this question is longstanding and consistent. English proficient immersion students are capable of achieving as well as, and in some cases better than, non-immersion peers on standardized measures of reading and math”
Since a majority of the Legislature has decided that Alabama must have charter schools, Birmingham has decided that Spanish Dual Language Immersion is right for them. For some reason, however, that does not seem to matter to Rep. Terri Collins. She simply does not want Birmingham to have one.
I’m beginning to wonder if the problem is not that the dual immersion model doesn’t fit Birmingham’s needs….It’s that it does not fit the needs of certain members, and former members, of the House.
Contact your House Representative NOW and tell them to stand up for local control and insist that the ‘Birmingham Clause’ be removed from this amendment. This clause may be aimed at Birmingham, but it will affect the RFP of every authorizer, now and in the future, in the state. They must not take away local control!!
Follow this link and click on ‘find my legislator’ if you do not know who your Representative is or you need contact information. Please CALL AND WRITE!!!
House Education Committee contact information can be found here, simply click on the member’s name.