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Alabama Governor Releases School-Reform Legislation

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Gov. James E. Folsom Jr. of Alabama has released his draft legislation for overhauling the state's public schools.

Adhering closely to the recommendations contained in an October report from the Governor's task force on education reform, the bill, unveiled late last month, calls for:

  • An independent state office of school accountability to monitor student and school performance;
  • A high school core-academic curriculum without tracking;
  • The authority for schools to require student attendance at before- and after-school, Saturday, and summer sessions;
  • Teacher salaries at least at the average level of the Southeastern states;
  • No tenure for newly hired principals;
  • School-based decisionmaking in which school councils, administrators, and school boards work together; and
  • Safe, adequate buildings and buses and current textbooks.

The draft legislation does not address how the changes would be funded. A separate bill on reform financing is expected to be released in about a week.

The legislature is to consider the bill in its regular session in January. Last month, Mr. Folsom said he would not call a special session to address education reform. (See Education Week, Dec. 1, 1993.)

No 'Toothless Tigers'

Sandra Sims-deGraffenried, the executive director of the Alabama Association of School Boards, said last week she was pleased that the draft bill strengthens school boards' authority compared to that outlined in the task-force plan, which made them "toothless tigers.''

The content of the draft bill is still somewhat in limbo.

Last week the Governor's task force began reviewing the draft, although one member said he did not expect any major changes.

In its first meeting last week, the panel decided to do away with the draft bill's requirement that schools implement site-based decisionmaking, as long as those schools meet performance standards.

"I thought that was a plus for local school boards,'' Ms. Sims-deGraffenried said.

Bill Smith, a task-force member and the chairman of the grassroots education-reform group A-Plus, said last week that the task force was also going to make more than one kind of model "pilot'' program available to schools that phase in school-based decisionmaking. The draft bill calls for one model.

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