Ivey ceremonially signs four key education bills
MONTGOMERY — Governor Kay Ivey this week held a bill signing ceremony for four major pieces of education legislation that were passed during the Alabama legislature’s 2019 regular session, with Friday marking two years since the governor unveiled her signature ‘Strong Start, Strong Finish’ education initiative.
The governor’s office in a statement emphasized that these four bills are major parts of implementing the policies espoused in the “Strong Start, Strong Finish” plan.
Ivey outlined that the two-year anniversary of the initiative’s roll-out sees education steadily heading in the right direction in the Yellowhammer State.
“For too long, our state has not seen the education results we want, and that should not be the case. Over the last two years, Alabama rallied behind ‘Strong Start, Strong Finish’ so that instead of being complacent, our state could take the lead in education,” Ivey said. “I am certainly proud of the groundwork that we have laid and look forward to our educators, students and workforce reaping the benefits of these labors.”
“Strong Start, Strong Finish” is comprised of three core components: Pre through Three; Computer Science for Alabama (CS4AL); and Advanced Training, Better Jobs.
The four education bills ceremonially signed this week, which make up this year’s “Strong Start, Strong Finish” legislative package, focus on those three phases of a student’s learning journey. The bills are House Bill 388, House Bill 216, House Bill 570 and Senate Bill 295 and all become effective September 1.
The governor’s office said that this is the most substantial education package a governor has signed into law since then-Governor Albert Brewer fifty years ago.
Pre through Three
The initial phase focuses on building a child’s foundation for their educational journey and beyond. To further this effort, Ivey this year signed into law HB 388, sponsored by State Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur). Known as the Alabama Literacy Act, HB 388 will ensure that all students enter the fourth grade reading proficiently.
“This legislation will focus on helping students improve their reading skills and will enable them to achieve better opportunities in all areas of life,” Collins said in a statement.
This law also refocuses the Alabama Reading Initiative by providing support for educator professional learning in reading and strengthens support for struggling readers.
Computer Science for Alabama (CS4AL)
Computer science education is critical in preparing Alabama’s students for the jobs of tomorrow, and is recognized as such through Ivey’s initiative. To put a greater emphasis on this subject matter, HB 216, known as the Computer Science for Alabama Act, was sponsored by State Rep. David Faulkner (R-Mountain Brook). The bill phases in requirements for public schools to offer courses in computer science.
“Every student in Alabama deserves the opportunity to take a computer science course that better prepares them to have success in a world that is constantly becoming more technology dependent,” Faulkner commented.
In addition to HB 216 providing funds for evidence-based computer science professional learning for K-12 computer science teachers, it also carves a better pathway for public school teachers to be properly trained and certified in computer science.
Advanced Training, Better Jobs
Finally, the governor has made it a priority of her administration to create world-class workforce development programs for Alabamians across the state.
“It is imperative that we continue to find ways to streamline the process for students who are entering the workforce in Alabama,” State Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville) emphasized.
Scofield added that both SB 295 and HB 570 represent “a great step in that direction.”
Sponsored by State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), SB 295 expands the Apprenticeship Alabama Tax Credit by providing an additional $500 for hiring in-school youth apprentices. Additionally, this bill modifies the Apprenticeship Alabama Tax Credit to increase the base tax credit from $1,000 to $1,250. SB 295 also increases the number of apprentices one employer may claim from 5 to 10, as well as the tax credit cap from $3 million to $7.5 million. Additionally, the legislation establishes the Alabama Office of Apprenticeship.
Regarding HB 570, State Rep. Alan Baker (R-Brewton) advised, “The AIRRAP Act will allow multiple state and local entities, as well as the private sector, to come together with a common goal of training our citizens to be productive participants in our state’s economy.”
SB 295 and HB 570 had strong bipartisan support.
“With the constantly changing economy, workforce development must continue to be a focus of the Legislature and our state agencies,” Rep. Rod Scott (D-Fairfield) said. “These bills, without a doubt, advance our efforts to have a 21st Century workforce that is not only equipped for the jobs that exist today, but is also prepared for the new jobs that will be created in the future.”
In addition to these four bills, Ivey supported SB 397 and SB 398 during the 2019 regular session.
Now, SB 397 is up for a referendum of the people on the March 2020 primary ballot.
Read more about the ongoing effort to raise support for that referendum here.
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn