Education funding, school choice biggest wins this session, say lawmakers

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According to House and Senate leaders, education reform and school choice were the brightest spots of the 2015 legislative session.

In separate radio interviews on Friday, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh and House Speaker Mike Hubbard both said that investing in classrooms, expanding school choice, and supporting workforce readiness for community college students were among the biggest accomplishments by lawmakers this year.

The $6 billion state education budget includes a $13 million increase for textbooks and more than $10 million for the Alabama’s nationally acclaimed Pre-K program.

“I think this year’s education budget is the largest it’s ever been,” Marsh said.

Marsh and Hubbard also pointed to the bill to authorize Alabama’s first charter schools as an accomplishment this session, calling it a step forward for students and parents. The new law creates public schools with the ability to develop curriculum and select teachers bound by contracts instead of regulations set by the state. Before this session, Alabama was one of only eight states without charter schools, according to the Alabama Coalition for Public Charter Schools.

“We passed the charter school bill, which I think is a huge step forward for the state of Alabama,” Hubbard said. “And the budget that we passed for education puts more money in the classrooms.”

Speaker Hubbard added that the biggest accomplishments weren’t only in the K-12 classrooms, adding that the state’s first commission to oversee Alabama’s 25 community and technical colleges could make a difference to future workforce prospects.

“The change of governance for the two-year school system I think is a huge game changer for the state long term,” Hubbard said. “I think we’re putting more of a focus in the community colleges on workforce development and getting them out from underneath the K-12 school board — they have enough to worry about themselves. Getting a board that is business oriented that will support the chancellor and the mission of the two-year system in terms of creating the skills that we need in the state of Alabama.”

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