Alabama Legislature passes charter schools bill

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -The Alabama Legislature has given final approval to GOP-backed legislation to allow charter schools in the state.

The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed the bill 58-41. State senators voted 24-11 to go along with House changes. The bill goes to Gov. Robert Bentley for his signature. A spokeswoman for Bentley said the governor is supportive of charter schools and expects to sign the bill after a legal review.

Republicans have said charter schools will provide choices to families.  Democrats have argued the new schools would be a drain on limited education resources.

Charter schools are public schools that are exempted from some regulations. Alabama is one of eight states without charter schools.

The bill would allow for 10 new “startup” schools each year and unlimited conversions of existing schools.

The House bill’s sponsor, Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur) said the measure is designed to empower parents and expand school choice options.

“Every child in Alabama deserves a high quality education, and the School Choice and Student Opportunity Act empowers parents with another choice for their child’s education,” Collins said. “It is time for Alabama to join the other 42 states that provide this innovative option to educators, parents, and students.”

Alabama Senate Minority Leader Quinton Ross  (D-Montgomery) disagreed with the bill’s passage.

“I fundamentally and philosophically disagree with the passage of charter school legislation in the state of Alabama. I truly believe it is a setback for the schoolchildren as well as the citizens of the state,” said Senate Minority Leader Quinton T. Ross Jr. (D-Montgomery). “Every citizen needs to be aware of how their public dollars will be spent under the guise of education funding. I pray that the governor will think long and hard about the public schoolchildren and the taxpayers of the state of Alabama before signing this legislation.”