School flexibility legislation is much-needed

Published 11:00 pm Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Efforts to give local school districts more flexibility and control seem to be moving through the Alabama Legislature.

Last week, a House committee passed its version of the school flexibility bill, which was supported by a large coalition of education and business association and opposed primarily by the Alabama Association of Educators, the state’s largest teachers’ organization.

On Wednesday, the Senate Education Committee passed another version of the bill, this one including an amendment that protects tenure rights of teachers and seeks to ensure the bill isn’t used to create charter schools.

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This legislation, which would give local districts more flexibility in dealing with state education laws, is critically important. Whether it’s determine the best calendar for starting and ending the school year, setting local start times, or determining how schools will address shortfalls in standardized testing, local districts need the ability to meet local community needs. And while some state oversight and standards are important, it’s more valuable that our local districts be given both the responsibility and the opportunity to best use their resources to educate and prepare their students.

The legislation still has a long way to go before becoming law, but the concept has the support of the state’s Republican lawmakers and key education groups, including the A+ Education Partnership, the Association of School Boards and the state superintendent of education.

We hope the Alabama Legislature will take a bold step forward and pass a school flexibility bill this session. In doing so, we can start to return local control of our schools to the districts where teachers, administrators and parents are working to make a difference.