Al. House passes School flexibility act

Another concern for the AEA: qualified teachers would lose opportunities.

It could open the door for non-credentialed instructors to come and teach without any teaching experience," Thompson says.

Both Fincher and Holtzclaw contend the act includes strict safeguards. It requires waivers to be approved by both the local and state board of education and the state superintendent of education. Local school boards must also hold a public hearing before submitting proposals.

"You have to articulate how flexing out of that will benefit the academic standards of students as well as maximize the use of limited resources. So, some of the concerns I've heard, really don't fit that test," Holtzclaw says.

Jefferson County schools superintendent Stephen Nowlin says he already has ideas on how the act could help his district. For example, the district could move funding around to expand its career tech programs.

"We need to be able to change our degree programs, what we offer, what we require in a school day, how long our kids can be off campus, and working in apprentice programs, for example," Nowlin says.

However, AEA fears moving money to some local programs could hurt others.

To those fears, Holtzclaw says the act would only strengthen current laws.

"I think the process in place is limited in scope and does not involve parents," Holtzclaw says.

Fincher also added an amendment to the bill saying the proposals could not be used to form charter schools.

The act outlines certain rules that can not be waived, including federal laws related to the health and safety of students and employees, the open records and open meeting laws as well as financial and academic reporting.

Fincher also gave an example where a teacher would have the choice of giving up tenure in exchange for a contract with a higher salary. But he insisted that would be the teacher's choice. The AEA fears a choice option like that would give way to a series of lawsuits, and people would be persuaded to take opportunities that would go against their long-term interests.