Alabama Senate passes bill to remove school board elections

Alabama Senate passes bill to remove school board elections
Alabamians currently vote for their state school board members who make critical decisions regarding Alabama K-12 public schools. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Alabamians currently vote for their state school board members who make critical decisions regarding Alabama K-12 public schools.

The Alabama state Senate passed a bill 30 to 0 Thursday that would scrap school board member elections and make it an appointed seat. Alabama Senators echoed how they were fed up with seeing low rankings, including the recent U.S. and World news report ranking Alabama’s education 50th in the country.

If it passed the state legislature, it would need to go to the voters for approval since it is a constitutional amendment.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, sponsored the bill and said better education begins with new governance. Marsh’s spokesperson said Alabama is one of six states that has a fully elected board.

“It’s our job, if the people go this route, to get competent state school board members through this process of appointments and confirmations where we ask those hard questions and make sure we are on the same page,” Marsh said.

The bill would change the current board’s name to the Alabama Commission of Elementary and Secondary Education and make the members appointed by the governor. The current state superintendent’s title would be changed to the Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education who would be appointed by the board.

Gov. Kay Ivey praised the Senate for passing the bill.

“Since day one, I have sought out the best ways for Alabama to offer the highest quality educational opportunities for every student across the state," said Ivey. “We need a bold plan that works for Alabama, which is exactly what this constitutional amendment will provide our students.”

Marsh said minorities could have a bigger seat at the table. The bill outlines that the governor would need to make sure that all commission members reflect the gender and racial diversity of students.

“I think what is important is that the board makes up the state of Alabama, and we all that have a stake in education should participate in that," said Marsh. “Everybody can say they have equal representation at the table.”

Yvette Richardson is a current board member and has worked with the Fairfield City School System in various leadership roles for 29 years.

“The satisfaction of this proposed amendment is that it will go before the voters," said Richardson. "So it gives them the opportunity to if it is perhaps best to have someone appointed by Gov. Ivey, or if they choose that it would be more democratic for them to choose who represents them on the Alabama state Board of Education.”

School Superintendents of Alabama said they are neutral on the bill and would support what the voters decide.

The Alabama Association of School Boards supports the proposed legislation.

“Fundamentally, we believe it is important the people of Alabama have an opportunity to vote on this dramatic change and that such change is needed to drive significant, sustained improvement in our schools across the state," the AASB said in a statement.

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