There were smiles a yard wide in the education community when reporters tweeted two night ago that Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh was “shelving” the PREP bill for this session. One of those smiles belonged to me. But at the same time, I remember in 2013 when a conference committee of the legislature went into session carrying a small cherry tomato only to emerge a few hours later with a giant watermelon called the Alabama Accountability Act.
This bill was also the handiwork of the same Senator Marsh.
So perhaps we have heard the last of PREP this session. But never take anything at face value with the crowd now running the statehouse.
This bill should be dead. In fact, it should have never come to life. It was bad from the beginning and stayed that way through change after change. Not only were most of the ideas it wanted to implement weak and not backed by sound research, it was sloppily crafted and left too many questions to be answered.
For example: the bill sets up the Alabama Teacher Recruitment Fund and appropriates $5 million to it. This would be used for $1,000 per year bonuses for teachers in a number of situations. One being a teacher in a school with 80 percent of more free-reduced lunch students.. We had 364 such schools in 2014 according to data from the state department of education. They have about 130,000 students and more than 6,000 teachers. A $1,000 bonus for each would require $6 million. This is more than the appropriation.
Had this bill been turned in as a class assignment by any high school student in Alabama, chances are they would have gotten an F for their grade.
But then, what do you expect when people with no education credentials are writing education policy?
And this was the REAL issue about RAISE/PREP from the beginning. Senator Marsh choice to surround himself with “experts” who were not that at all; instead of real, bonafide education professionals. It was as if he asked some folks who don’t know how to cook to write him a cookbook.
On the bright side of all of this is the fact that for the first time in a long time, the education community pushed back. Hard. Senators got the message loud and clear from teachers, superintendents and concerned citizens that PREP was bad legislation and the public was watching carefully to see who would support it and put politics above the welfare of public school students.
Senator Marsh was apparently surprised by the resistance and attempted to castigate those who disagreed with him, such as the School Superintendents of Alabama. But his argument that superintendents do not want accountability for their systems or their teachers is ridiculous. He might as well have said that a car dealer doesn’t care how many cars he sells. Every superintendent in the state is doing everything within their power to improve both their teachers and their schools. And they know that the last thing they need is a piece of legislation that takes away their flexibility to make the changes and adjustments they need and locks them into going to Montgomery with their hat in their hand to beg permission from the Legislature to do so.
Maybe PREP really is dead for this session. Let’s hope so. And maybe Senator Marsh has realized that educators want to be at the table when education policy is being made–not just on the menu as they have been in recent years.
I have no doubt that educators will be more than happy to sit down with Senator Marsh in the future and partner on policy that makes sense and will actually benefit our students. But that is a decision only he can make.