Things took an interesting turn in Montgomery today with the School Flexibility Bill – now know as the Accountability Act. The AEA filed a suit to block the bill from being transmitted from the House to the Governor for signature. Judge Price, a Montgomery Circuit Court judge issued a Temporary Restraining Order in favor of the AEA suit.
Now I’m no lawyer, but I do understand that our Founding Fathers established three branches of Government to ensure a balance of power. Simply put, Judge Price's actions are the equivalent of the legislature preventing a jury from rendering a verdict to the judge. Think of the precedence established here - can you imagine if a U.S. Judge blocked legislation from Congress before going to the President for signature? One may disagree with how a law was passed but the mechanism to address this – legal recourse – comes into play AFTER the bill becomes law, not before. I’ve discussed with several “gray beards” here in Montgomery, to include a former Supreme Court Justice, and everyone is in utter disbelief that Judge Price entertained the suit in his court, let alone rendered a Temporary Restraining Order.
Judge Price heard arguments this afternoon and then asked lawyers to reconvene at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday where he may provide an opinion. I'm told an immediate, expedited appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court is ready to go....this continues to evolve and I’ll provide updates as they become available.
School Calendar “Opt-Out”
The School Calendar “Opt-Out” bill will be in committee tomorrow morning and I have placed a win-win solution on the table that I’ll discuss in a moment. But first I’ll attempt to address a couple of common questions regarding this bill.
Why was the calendar opt-out not included in the Flexibility Bill? Short answer, we started working the original flexibility bill several months ago and garnered broad support. A dilemma discussed early on was whether or not to include the calendar opt-out. As this bill had just passed in the previous legislative session, it was seen as a possible sticking point for wide spread support – unnecessarily – in that the Calendar Bill automatically sunsets (expires) after the 2014 school year. I agreed to fight these battles separately and thus it was never considered in the original flex bill.
Why has it been stalled? While this bill may appear to have been stalled, fact is I remained focus on the importance of the flex bill and chose to place my energy behind that bill until it passed.
The Offer on the Table – This gets complicated and I’ll do my best to explain, please bear with me... The Act creating the mandatory, state-wide start/stop dates for the school calendar had two silver linings in it. One, the sunset provision that we were able to put on the bill before it passed which made the state-wide start/stop dates effective for only two school years, sun setting with the 2013 school year; and two, schools must be in session for 180 days but may use an “hourly equivalent of 180 days” to meet this requirement. This provision also sun sets with the 2013 school year.
Some systems really like the “hourly equivalent” clause and are now concerned they will lose that option in 2013...we now have new found interest, hence the offer on the table.
I have begun working with members to support an amended “opt-out” provision we are championing. This modified version saves the hourly equivalent provision by removing the sunset clause. In other words, the state-wide start/stop date becomes permanent, along with the hourly equivalent clause IF the “opt-out” provision is supported. If the “opt-out” provision fails, the current bill sunsets and so does the hourly equivalent portion.
Note we’ve yet to discuss the fiscal note – if you’ll recall this bill passed last year promising millions in increased revenue but that projection was removed in the final education budget. The current fiscal note continues to reflect no impact to state or local funding. I quote - Senate Bill 9 as introduced allows a local board of education to opt out of the temporary academic school calendar parameters. This bill will not affect state or local funding.
I have three committee meetings starting at 8:30 in the morning, and hopefully we'll see some movement with the Flex Bill - will the Alabama Supreme Court get involved, allowing the legislative process to continue...just another interesting day in Montgomery.
Semper Fi - Bill