MONTGOMERY — Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) on Thursday introduced a proposal that would be a historic overhaul of the state school board.
The proposal was first reported on by Yellowhammer News on Wednesday.
“Over the past year I have met with every entity involved with public education in the state of Alabama. Our current system is broken,” Marsh said in a statement. “We need systemic changes to our education system and it starts at the top.”
Marsh filed SB 397 and SB 398 on Thursday. SB 397 is a constitutional amendment to 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 has 20 Senate cosponsors — all Republicans.
“We started looking at the states who have the highest ranked education systems and all of them have an appointed school board,” Marsh explained.
He outlined, “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. If the voters approve this plan, we will have more input from our local leaders, educators, and superintendents.”
Governor Kay Ivey has come out in adamant support of the proposal. Marsh told reporters at the State House that State Rep. Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa), the powerful chair of the House Ways and Means Education Committee, will carry the legislation in that chamber.
“I look forward to working with the Governor and my colleagues in the Legislature as well as those with an interest in our education system to get this bill out for a vote of the people. I also want to thank Governor Ivey for her support. The taxpayers want more accountability, stability and improved schools across our state and this is the best way to achieve that goal,” Marsh said, calling SB 397 his “premier bill of this session.”
He also told reporters the proposal was “nothing personal” against any of the current elected state school board members.
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.
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Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn