• 73°

Superintendent responds to recent education legislation

Several new pieces of education-centered legislation passed during Alabama’s 2019 legislative session, including measures revolving around the annual budget, teacher pay, school security and the State Board of Education.

EDUCATION TRUST FUND BUDGET

Notable examples of legislation passed was the $7.1 billion budget — the largest in the state’s history according to Gov. Kay Ivey’s office, not adjusted for inflation — and another bill to give a four percent raise to teachers as part of the Education Trust Fund. The raise follows last year’s 2.5 percent raise.

The minimum salary for a public school teacher in Alabama varies based on education and experience, with teachers with bachelor’s degrees and less than three years of experience making at least $40,873 per year and teachers with doctorates and over 27 years of experience making no less than $68,780.

Though Kallhoff is pleased with the raise for teachers, he said it still doesn’t provide enough compensation for their duties.

“It’s not nearly enough for the work that they do, but every step up is a good step,” he said.

ALABAMA

LITERACY ACT

Legislatures also passed the Alabama Literacy Act, allowing educators to hold back third-graders who have not achieved appropriate reading proficiency from the fourth grade.

The DCSS has already taken multiple steps to increase literacy in the school system, such as individualized additional instruction and a summer reading camp. A state task force will be formed to oversee implementation of the Alabama Literacy Act.

“I am working hard to get someone from Demopolis on that task force,” Kallhoff said.

RETIRED OFFICERS FOR SCHOOL SECURITY

Kallhoff also disagreed with the recent bill that allows school boards to hire and arm retired police officers in order to provide security for schools if the officers possess at least 25 years of experience, have completed active shooter and use of non-lethal weapons training and annually completes firearm requalification.

He said that the school resource officers the system currently uses, which are provided by the Demopolis Police Department, do make campus safer for students and faculty, but they have special training to deal with students in a school setting that retired officers may not, even with the other requirements for hire.

GOVERNOR-APPOINTED SCHOOL BOARD

Kallhoff’s strongest opinions were related to a bill that will end the elected State Board of Education and form the Alabama Commission on Elementary and Secondary Education, the members of which will be appointed by the governor, should it be approved by voters on the next ballot.

It will also do away with the state superintendent’s position in favor of a Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education. Similar to the state superintendent being appointed by the school board, the Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education will be appointed by the commission.

In a June press release from the governor’s office, the state describes it as an effort to solve some of Alabama’s educational shortcomings by creating a more effective school board, with Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh saying “I believe students learn best when innovation is allowed to take place in the classroom. If we have a school board that is made up of qualified individuals who are held accountable, we can increase local control, reduce the amount of time the Legislature spends on education reform and put the power back where it belongs, in the hands of educators.”

However, Kallhoff sees it as an avenue for political ambition to come before Alabama’s schoolchildren, especially if a future governor does not have education as a priority.

“I think it’s going down the wrong road,” he said, further posing the questions “Who’s on this committee? What is their political ambition? What are they trying to get done?”

While the state has cited other states that have governor-appointed boards and their success as a reason to make this move, Kallhoff said demographics, funding and other legislative support for education have bigger roles in the states’ education success than just the board.

Kallhoff urge voters in Marengo County to vote against the governor-appointed school board in the next election.

“You’re voting to take your right to vote away,” he said, instead suggesting the voters use their power to replace any elected school board members that do not meet expectations.

The proposed constitutional amendment will be up for vote in March 2020.

(This article originally appeared in the Wednesday, July 17 issue of the Demopolis Times.)