BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Teachers and education leaders from across Alabama are in Birmingham for the seventh annual Opportunity Summit. They are talking about issues schools are facing and solutions.
Gov. Kay Ivey addressed the summit Friday, reiterating her goal for Alabama to be among the top 30 states for education outcomes by the end of her term.
In the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress report, Alabama fourth graders were 39th in reading and 40th in math.
A+ Education Partnership President Mark Dixon said he’s encouraged by the governor’s vision but knows the state has a way to go.
“We like the governor’s bold goal for education to be in the top 30 — that’s critical,” Dixon said. “If we’re going to get there, there’s a lot of work that we’ve got to do.”
Ivey outlined some of those steps in her speech, calling for the expansion of first-class Pre-K so that at least 70% of four-year-olds in the state have access to the program. She also said she supports a kindergarten completion requirement currently making its way through the legislature.
“It’s past time that we require our students to complete kindergarten,” Ivey said. “I support legislation this session to ensure our students entering kindergarten are fully ready for the first grade by the time they finish.”
House Education Policy Chair Terri Collins said that bill requiring kindergarten or demonstration of first-grade readiness is a top priority. She also said the state is considering school choice measures.
A bill was filed last week to create Education Savings Accounts for parents.
“I am for student choice,” Collins said. “I want families to have good choices, but I want them to know those choices are good, so I’m very strong on having the accountability part of it and transparency.”
Madison County special education teacher Heather Cleckler said she is leery of proposals that would divert funds from public schools.
“Our foundation needs to be our public schools,” Cleckler said. “That’s where every student deserves to have a quality public school they can go to, where you don’t have to apply for a scholarship to attend or you don’t have to go to a private school, so my goal for Alabama would be that. We’re on our way, but we have a lot of work to do.”
Another one of Ivey’s goals is better teacher pay. Her budget proposal includes a 2% pay raise, and she said she wants Alabama to have the highest starting salaries for teachers in the Southeast by the end of her term.