Alabama voters will decide Nov. 4 whether to give new protections to public schools against unfunded mandates enacted by the Legislature.
Amendment Four requires that at least two-thirds of the Legislature must pass a law that causes city and county boards of education to collectively spend more than $50,000 in local funds if the state is not going to pay for the increased expense. Currently, that can be done by a majority vote.
The Alabama Education Association was once the unquestioned power in the Alabama statehouse. But that's changed since Republicans won a supermajority in the House and Senate in 2010.
Lawmakers around the country have made significant changes to teacher tenure, expanded charter schools and introduced different versions of voucher programs. But in Alabama, these kinds of changes have been part of a political upheaval not seen in most states.
Legislation that would allow city and county school systems to opt out of state education laws could come up for a final vote in the Senate next week.
A school flexibility bill cleared the House on Feb. 14 and was approved by the Senate Education Committee in a 5-3 vote Wednesday, with Republicans voting yes and Democrats voting no. A spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh says the bill is a priority and could come up for a vote as early as Tuesday.
Gov. Robert Bentley says he's ready to sign whatever version of the bill the Legislature passes.
Financial experts say the fiscal cliff agreement in Washington will cut funding for Alabama's public schools and colleges by at least $70 million annually.
The fiscal cliff settlement affects Alabama differently than most other states. That's because Alabama is one of the few states that provides its citizens with a state income tax deduction for the federal taxes paid. The federal settlement allowed a temporary reduction in payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare to expire. It also raised the tax rates on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans.
State officials are considering introducing a bill that would allow high school students to enroll in community college courses for free.
Community College System Chancellor Mark Heinrich says he is working with state lawmakers to draft a bill on the issue as early as the 2013 legislative session. Heinrich made the statement Tuesday at the Economic Development Association of Alabama's winter conference.
Gov. Robert Bentley is creating a task force aimed at helping students better prepare for successful careers.
The governor signed an executive order Tuesday in Columbiana forming the College and Career Ready Task Force. He says it will bring together representatives of K-12 schools, two-year and four-year colleges and the business community to help the state offer a more coordinated approach to workforce development.
State and federal education officials are recognizing five Alabama schools which have been designated Blue Ribbon Schools this year. Officials say the schools earned the distinction based on their overall academic excellence or for making progress in improving student academic achievement levels. U.S.