The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

February 13, 2013

Tenure big issue in school flexibility bill

— MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The battle over legislation giving city and county schools systems more flexibility in dealing with state education laws is coming down to the issue of teacher tenure.

The bill is a priority for Republican Gov. Robert Bentley and the GOP leadership in the Legislature. But people within that group have different ideas about how to address tenure.

The Senate Education Committee approved the Senate version of the bill 9-0 Wednesday after adding amendments to protect the tenure rights of teachers and to make sure the legislation can't be used to create charter schools. The state teachers' organization, the Alabama Education Association, sought the amendment to protect tenure rights, and it passed 5-4.

A House committee approved a version of the bill last week without the tenure language. Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, hopes to get the House to pass that version Thursday, spokeswoman Rachel Adams said.

The governor said Wednesday he was fine with the Senate committee's amendments. He said he always wanted to be sure the legislation couldn't affect state laws about the salaries, retirement benefits, and fair dismissal procedures for teachers.

"I have been for that all along, so I have no problem with that," Bentley said.

A member of the Senate Education Committee, Trip Pittman, R-Daphne, said he voted to add the tenure amendment because the Legislature came up with revisions to Alabama's tenure law in 2011 that are working well. Protecting those changes, known as the "Students First Act," will make it easier to pass the school flexibility bill, Pittman said.

Last year, Bentley and the Legislature's GOP leadership pushed a bill to legalize charter schools, but AEA was able to block it.

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