The Alabama Senate approved a bill that would provide some additional flexibility to school districts across the state. Senators passed SB 84 on a 26-7 vote.
The House of Representatives approved the bill two weeks ago with some bipartisan support as well.
"I think it's the best of both worlds" said. Sen. Quinton Ross, D – Montgomery. Ross had been outspoken during the committee stage saying he felt there weren't enough protections built in for tenure and employee benefits.
"We still have a little bit of a hurdle to clear, but I'm confident" said Sen. Bill Holtzclaw, R – Madison, who sponsored the bill.
Senate Republicans later signed off on an amendment that would prohibit school systems from opting out of the state's tenure laws with any other employment terms. The House sponsor, Rep. Chad Fincher, said he didn't agree with that change.
The hurdle Holtzclaw referred to is the looming conference committee. The Alabama House non-concurred with changes the Senate made to the bill, sending the measure to a meeting with appointed House and Senate members tasked with hammering out the final version of the bill for passage in both the House and Senate.
Under the school flexibility bill local superintendents can petition to the Alabama State Board of Education for waivers from some state regulations and policies. If a superintendent wants such a waiver, then he must get approval from the local school board and hold public hearings in the district for any feedback on the measure.
The Alabama Education Association is the only major education group against the measure. The Superintendents of Alabama, the Alabama School Boards Association and the Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools are among the groups that support the bill.
A conference committee will meet later Thursday to flesh out what the final version will look like.
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