At Monday’s inauguration, Alabama’s highest-ranking state offices suggested school choice could be a priority in the near future.
School choice has been in public conversation for years. Alabama’s poor national performance in reading, math and science has led many to consider schools other than those in which they are currently zoned.
On Monday, Jan. 16, newly elected members of Alabama’s constitutional offices took their oaths at a large inaugural ceremony held in front of the capitol building in Montgomery.
The last to take their oath of office was Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth, followed by Gov. Kay Ivey, both of whom exalted school choice as a priority moving into the next quadrennium.
“We must assure that the quality of education our children receive isn’t determined by the ZIP code in which they live,” Ainsworth said. “With the authorization and continuing expansion of charter schools and school choice across the state, we have given parents a measure of decision-making power over how their children are taught. But we must keep working to improve, reform and fully fund the public education opportunities that Alabama provides.”
Ivey spoke to the crowd after Ainsworth, also hinting at the possibility of furthering school choice and charter school availability.
“We need to have meaningful discussions about school choice in Alabama,” Ivey said. “And I believe that begins with making new reforms to our charter school option. We cannot let our students continue to struggle and rob them of a chance to achieve their dreams. I pledge to you that we will no longer accept the existence of a failing elementary school in our state. The two major components are ensuring we improve the way we teach, and that we ensure our students continue to learn at a high level.”
Ivey also announced an executive order to create the Alabama Commission on Teaching and Learning.
“This group of folks will have boots on the ground and help advise us on big changes we can make to recruit, retain and prepare the teacher of tomorrow,” Ivey said. “…Ensuring every Alabama student receives a high-quality education will be my No. 1 focus. We will build upon the foundation we have laid so that by the end of my term, Alabama will rank in the top 30 states for the first time in our history in reading and math.”
School choice was a fiery issue in the 2022 regular session. State Sen. Del Marsh (R-Anniston) introduced a bill in tandem with former State Rep. Charlotte Meadows (R-Montgomery), which never received any House deliberation after passing the Senate.
Since then, several lawmakers, freshman and seasoned, have expressed a desire to make school choice a legislative priority.
In recent months, Ivey, Ainsworth, House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) and newly elected House District 7 State Rep. Ernie Yarbrough (R-Trinity) have all said education will be at the top of the list next session.
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