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Boothe: No to charter schools

A bill that would allow for the creation of charter schools in the state could come up for vote in the legislature as early as next week.

The Alabama Innovative Charter Schools Act would establish the grounds for creating charter schools within the state, but local Rep. Alan Boothe, D-Troy, said the bill leaves too much unanswered to make it by with his support.

“There’s a lot of unknowns out there, and until I know more about it, I can’t support something like that,” Boothe said.

The bill would mandate local boards of education meet approval at the state level to have authority to authorize charter schools, and if passed, could open doors for new schools to be established in Pike County.

“It would have to be approved by the Pike County Board of Education or the Troy City Board,” Boothe said.

But, these schools, which are state funded schools but do not fall under the same umbrella of state curriculum or state set standards of education.

“…A charter school is not subject to state education law or any state or local rule, regulation, policy or procedure relating to non-charter public schools,” the bill reads.

“Who do they work for?” Boothe said. “That’s not clear to me.”

A charter school also would not be required to follow the state minimum salary schedule other non-charter public schools use for employees.

What concerns Boothe the most about the current bill is that charter schools could take funding from current public schools, which are already difficult for the state to fund.

“There’s a pot of money for these schools. That’s well and good, but what happens when they decide not to fund it?” Boothe said.

“You could possibly fund other school systems, and we don’t have enough money now to fund what we’ve got. It could wind up being a very costly thing.”

Boothe said he’s also concerned less money would go to already existing public schools.

“Each school district gets so much state funding based on the number of kids the school has enrolled,” he said. “That money would follow the child.”

So, if 50 students left one school for a charter school, the funding would go with them, in other words.

“That does not reduce one bit the cost of maintenance for that school. You still have to maintain the same number to support the people you do have,” Boothe said.

Boothe said in discussions over the bill, some areas of the state have expressed a distaste for their public schools, and that’s why they would want to start charter schools.

“It was not proven to me in those hearings that it is infact the right thing to do. (If there are problems) they need to address it on a county by county or city by city basis and not put that burden of cost on the state,” Boothe said.

There is an identical bill also in the state Senate, but local Sen. Wendell Mitchell, D-Luverne, could not be reached for comment.