School board votes for charter schools

MONTGOMERY, AL (WBRC) - Gov. Bob Riley scored a victory on Thursday with his plan to institute charter schools in the state when the state school board voted in favor of the idea.

"This has the possibility to be so positive across this country," Riley said. "You are going to see more and more options given to local school boards."

Alabama stands to get $200 million in federal funds if the state legislature okays charter schools. Riley said the state stands a better chance of getting federal funds because of education reform programs already underway in Alabama, such as the reading initiative.

The governor says the federal dollars will only help those programs.

"It's to build a better program in math and science, a better program in technology, professional development for all of the teachers today," Riley said.

Despite the overwhelming vote by the school board, Riley still faces stiff opposition from the Alabama Education Association and the legislature.

"Charter schools tax taxpayers dollars," said Lance Hyche of the Alabama Education Association. "They don't have the same regulations.The same rules. We know it will only weaken public schools in Alabama."

"It's not going to pass," said Birmingham Rep. John Rogers. "You are going to take money when we can't pay for public schools right now."

Riley said he is not backing down. The governor said charter schools will allow students in failing schools to go elsewhere.

"This is a prelude to any grants that are going to come down from Washington," Riley said. "To say we don't want to participate, just doesn't make any sense."