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Alabama Senate passes charter schools bill

Published: Mar. 11, 2015 at 12:33 AM CDT|Updated: Mar. 19, 2015 at 1:09 AM CDT
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(Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News)

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Tuesday on the first day Alabama lawmakers could vote on new legislation during the 2015 session, the senate took up a bill that is dividing many Alabamians.

A bill that would allow public charter schools in Alabama passed Tuesday night in a 22-12 vote and will now move to the Alabama House of Representatives. All of the Democratic members of the senate voted against the bill.

The Republican led legislature hopes to pass the bill by the end of the month and become the 43rd state to allow public charter schools.

Some believe charter schools can tailor educational techniques to the needs of students. While others think the non-traditional schools drain much needed funds away from traditional public schools.

The heart of the debate on charter schools centers around the questions: are they an innovative way to teach or unproven alternatives that don't have to follow the same rules as regular public schools, all while getting public education dollars.

Montgomery based non-profit Whom It Concerns hosted a town hall meeting Tuesday night at the Fairview Farmers Market. Most of the people in attendance oppose charter schools. The primary opposition comes from charter schools receiving public education dollars. But there is also a lot of concern as to how the schools and the people who run them will be held accountable.

Karen Jones, the founder of Whom It Concerns, believes a black face is being put on a green problem.

"What we're hearing is our children will be left out. Black children will be left out, or black children will be used as a pawn to get money," Jones said. "The funding will follow the children who get accepted to these schools and it's a mechanism in which to re-segregate schools. Whether it's traditional schools or charter schools, because they have random selection as to how they will pick children."

There is also concern about how charter school teachers would be certified to teach and the length of time the nine members of a new Alabama Public Charter School Commission would serve. Right now the bill is proposing six-year terms.

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