Alabama House committee approves Marsh’s historic education proposal
MONTGOMERY — The Alabama House of Representatives’ Education Policy Committee on Wednesday gave a favorable report as amended to SB 397, a constitutional amendment sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) that would be a historic overhaul of the state school board.
Alabama’s public education system was ranked number 50 in the United States in a report published last week.
“Our current system is broken,” Marsh has said. “We need systemic changes to our education system and it starts at the top.”
Marsh was welcoming a new grandchild into the world on Wednesday so he could not attend the committee meeting in person. State Rep. Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa), the chairman of the House Ways and Means Education Committee, is carrying the bill in the House and handled the legislation during the committee meeting.
Poole spoke in adamant support of the legislation, as did State Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur), the Education Policy Committee chair.
SB 397 would replace the current elected State Board of Education with the Alabama Commission on Elementary and Secondary Education, members of which will be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the State Senate.
The legislation would also abolish the state superintendent position and replace it with a secretary of elementary and secondary education, appointed by the commission and subject to confirmation by the Senate.
Marsh advised, “Currently, one of the reasons that education is consistently the most pressing issue for most Alabamians is because our state school board is completely dysfunctional. We have had five State Superintendents in three years. Our teachers and students are the ones who suffer from this the most.”
Additionally, SB 397 would mandate that the newly formed commission replace Common Core in Alabama.
This comes in the wake of Marsh introducing a bill this session to replace Common Core in the state of Alabama. That bill stalled in the House Education Policy Committee after passing the Senate. Marsh also cited the state’s poor educational outcomes and ranking in bringing that Common Core repeal.
SB 398, a bill which ensures the legislative minority caucus would have input in the governor’s appointments to the new commission, was also approved Wednesday by the House committee. Marsh said this is an integral part of his overall proposal, along with the constitutional amendment.
SB 397 and SB 398 are now in the hands of the full House. As it was amended by the committee, SB 397 (if passed by the House) will need to go back to the Senate for concurrence or nonconcurrence.
Governor Kay Ivey has come out in adamant support of the proposal.
As a constitutional amendment, SB 397 (if passed by the Alabama legislature) would need to be approved by the people of the state in a referendum. This would occur on the March 2020 primary election date.
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn