Charter Schools Bill Moving Forward

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Could charter schools be one step closer to reality in Alabama?

State lawmakers appear to be moving in that direction, with a major hearing on the charter issue scheduled for later this week.

State Rep. Phil Williams (R) of Huntsville is sponsoring House Bill 541, also known as the Education Options Act of 2012. If passed, it would allow local school boards to approve applications for state-funded charter schools, while also allowing school superintendents to get waivers on state regulations they find encumbersome.

Williams told WHNT News 19 that some local companies have already expressed interest in sponsoring charters, which are publicly funded but privately run. A public hearing on the measure will be held Wednesday at the state capitol.

"If you're a parent in Alabama, this bill could bring you options and choices that you've never had before," said Rep. Williams, who believes there are enough votes in both legislative chambers to pass the bill. "We have schools in the city of Huntsville that are not doing so well. Would a charter school help in that area? I think it would. Those parents should not be trapped by their zip code."

Proponents of the bill say charter schools would have the most impact on students who attend underperforming districts, and point to test results in charter school friendly states like Tennessee and Louisiana.

The Alabama Education Association is opposed to the charter school measure. The Business Council of Alabama has endorsed it.