Supporters & critics line up on school flexibility - WFXG FOX54 Augusta - Your News One Hour Earlier

Supporters & critics line up on school flexibility

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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

Several key education and political groups have come out in favor of the pending school flexibility legislation in the Alabama Legislature.

"We started supporting this legislation in 2005 and we continue to now" said Eric Mackey, the Executive Director of the School Superintendents of Alabama Organization. 

Along with the Superintendents, the Alabama Department of Education is on the record in support of the bill, as well as the Business Council of Alabama and the Alabama Association of School Boards. 

Under the proposal, school districts could petition to the State Board of Education for waivers from some state regulations. It would be free reign for exemptions, supporters say. Districts would need approval from the board, as well as hold public hearings on whatever proposed changes have been made.

"We really like the transparency in it" Mackey said. 

The major player against the school flexibility legislation is the Alabama Education Association, the hundred thousand member teacher's union in Alabama that successfully defeated charter schools legislation during the 2012 legislative session. 

"We're for flexibility" Henry Mabry, AEA's Executive Secretary said at a press conference last week. "We never agreed to the language in this piece of legislation." 

The AEA contends that the waivers could be wide-ranging, leading to the elimination of tenure or even the change of the teacher pay matrix, the schedule of salaries for educators and support staff. 

"The main goal for this legislation is to strip employees, including teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria workers and nurses, to strip them of their protections." 

Mabry also argues that the bill could open the door for charter schools in Alabama, but supporters of the legislation strongly refute that. 

House Speaker Mike Hubbard said last week, "That's just not true." 

Another group that is in favor of school flexibility legislation in Alabama is the StudentsFirst Organization, a Californa-based group that champions education reforms. The group recently gave Alabama failing grades in a recent report grading education policies and practices in all fifty states. The report specifically mentioned Alabama's lack of school flexibility as a hindrance to student achievement 

Michelle Rhee, the former Washington DC Schools Chancellor and founder of StudentsFirst, is a registered lobbyist in Alabama according to the Alabama Ethics Commission. 

Rhee, a nationally known education reformer, favors charter schools and had several public battles with teachers unions when she was the DC Chancellor. 

Spokespeople for Rep. Hubbard and Governor Robert Bentley both said they have had no contact with Michelle Rhee or StudentsFirst representatives. 

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