Blue lockers seen in a school hallway. (Getty)
The chair of the Alabama House’s education budget committee wants local school districts to clearly state their open enrollment policies.
Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville, has filed a bill that would require local school districts and charter schools to make their open enrollment policies public by July 31, 2024, or create a policy if none current exists.
Garrett’s bill comes amid growing legislative discussion of charter schools and education saving accounts, both of which could draw students out of Alabama public schools or alter enrollment policies.
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The representative said in an interview Friday said that most school districts have policies already. He said he believes that public schools, as public institutions, should make their policies public.
“To me, this was just kind of as a baseline, let’s see where we are,” Garrett said.
The bill does not require districts and schools to allow open enrollment. They just need their policies on the issue public.
“A district may decide that ‘We’ll open enrollment for everybody,’” Garrett said. “A district could decide ‘We will open enrollment on a case by case basis.’ A district may decide ‘We don’t do open enrollment.’”
Ryan Hollingsworth, executive director of the School Superintendents of Alabama, said in a phone interview Friday that they support the bill. He said that they are in support of the “local control” that the bill provides.
“The board having to have policies in place to address those and to communicate those policies to the public, I think are certainly something that we support,” he said.
Hollingsworth said that the actions of school boards are public, and he supports the required publication of policies. He said that the public should understand how students can move within a district.
“It just makes it clear within that district, and it makes it clear to the public the enrollment and movement of children within that district,” he said.
Alabama Association of School Boards Executive Director Sally Smith also said they supported the bill.
“AASB supports the sponsor’s intent with this legislation and believes requiring school boards to post their policies on accepting student transfers will promote better understanding of the choice options that may be available in our public schools,” she wrote in an emailed statement.
In her State of the State address on March 7, Gov. Kay Ivey indicated she would push for changes to the state’s charter school law, including the use of public money to start charter schools; changes to the governance of the board that oversees charter schools in Alabama, and changes to the 2013 Alabama Accountability Act.
The Alabama Accountability Act allows public school students to transfer out of the bottom 6% of schools based on the state’s standardized assessments. Students are only eligible to transfer into qualifying public and non-public schools.
Sen. Larry Stutts, R-Tuscumbia, has said he is also planning to file a bill this session that allows students to transfer to another school, with average funding per student, roughly $6,000 a year, following the pupil. Stutts’ bill would allow schools to opt out of the program.
The Alabama Legislature’s regular session will resume on Tuesday.
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