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House Education chair wants to ‘broaden’ school choice

As House Education Policy chair, State Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur) has been a strong advocate in the Legislature for school choice.

Now, as she retains her position, the Decatur Republican is hopeful they will be able to expand it in the next session.

Thursday on WVNN’s “The Yaffee Program,” Collins discussed how the Legislature could add more school choice options in the Yellowhammer State.

“I would like to see us fund the school choice that we have and then broaden those avenues,” Collins said. “But I am looking forward to seeing what others bring to the table as well.”

The Alabama lawmaker wants to see more quality charter schools in the state, but said that would require more funding on the local level.

“When I say expanded, I would like to see quality charters that have been very successful in other communities and other states be willing to come in to communities,” she said. “But I don’t think that’s going to happen. Charters are always supposed to have all of the money that follows the child, follows those children that are going to a charter school, because a charter school is not a private school, a charter school is a public school. Those children are not paying anything to go there, but they need all of the money.

“The state money, the federal money, and what they’re not getting right now, that I hope that increases, is the local money. If a local parent decides to put their child in a charter school, that money should be following that child; that’s what I believe.”

Other states that have been able to expand school choice through education savings accounts, where the parents receive the money in those accounts instead of the dollars going straight to the school of their choice. Collins said she’s frustrated that Alabama has not been able to pass a similar program, but said it could still happen.

“(W)e’ve had legislation in the last eight years or so about education savings accounts,” she said. “We’ve tried to push it just for hard areas like foster children, military families that are travelling a lot, special needs, and we could not get it through. So I’m hopeful we may see some more avenues of choice that are available for families.”

Collins said it will depend on the newly elected lawmakers to get a school choice bill past the finish line in the upcoming session.

“I think it all depends on who’s coming in and what they’re willing to vote on,” she said. “Over the last decade, I’ve stood on the House floor and what I call crashed and burned with legislation to improve some of the choice options and even when I think I have the votes going in there, by the time I’ve gone on the floor, people worked against me and I no longer have the votes.

“So I’m anxious to see what the new group is willing to do.”

Yaffee is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts “The Yaffee Program” weekdays 9-11 a.m. on WVNN. You can follow him on Twitter @Yaffee

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