MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — Gov. Kay Ivey has proclaimed this week Alabama School Choice Week, as Republican state officials call for parents to have more say in their child’s education.
Freshman Rep. Susan DuBose says she thinks there could be enough support in the legislature this session to pass a school choice bill.
“I have heard from almost every new legislator that they are for school choice. I’ve heard from our speaker of the House Nathaniel Ledbetter that he’s for school choice,” DuBose (R- Hoover) said. “I think it’s the year.”
DuBose says she’s considering being a sponsor or co-sponsor for school choice legislation. She says the goal is to “let the money follow the student” by putting parents’ tax dollars in the district they choose for their child rather than the one they live in.
DuBose notes that in part of her district in Jefferson County, there are 17 schools performing in the bottom 6% of the state.
“That’s not fair to those students,” DuBose said. “They are surrounded by districts that have very, very high performing schools. So those students should have an opportunity to go to a school and get the best education possible.”
DuBose says she hopes school choice will create competition that ultimately helps all schools succeed. But it’s not competition schools need, according to Rep. Barbara Drummond.
Drummond says it’s equity and resources that need to go to the schools struggling most before any funds are diverted.
“Because what will happen to the teachers that are left behind? What will happen to the students?” Drummond (D-Mobile) said. “We would not have fixed the problem. We will only divert or shift the problem.”
Drummond says to move funding away from one school to another simply puts a Band-Aid on educational disparities instead of seeking to fix the problem.
She says she’d like to see more support and funding for public schools, and for initiatives like the Literacy and Numeracy Act — pointing out that the state has seen improvement in public school scores this year, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
“We’ve got to go and heal ourselves from within,” Drummond said. “Because then that way we’ll create a better workforce. We’ll create economic opportunities for our state, and we’ll create better students in our education system.”
Chair of the House Education Policy Committee Terri Collins also weighed in on the likelihood of a school choice bill passing this session, despite failed attempts in recent years.
She says she hasn’t seen any bills officially brought up yet but thinks there’s going to be a “different temperament” in the assembly this year.