Rural Education Advocacy Group Speaks Out on Charters

Last Updated: February 25, 2010

This article appeared in the February 2010 Rural Policy Matters.

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Save Alabama’s Small Schools (SASS) took a stand earlier this month in response to the controversial provision in the federal Race to the Top (RTT) grant program that states endorse charter schools. Alabama is one of ten states that do not have charter laws. The other states are Kentucky, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, West Virginia, and Vermont.

Several states held special legislative sessions early in January, ahead of the RTT’s first-round application deadline, to address the charter issue. Others are expected to address it in their current regular session.

SASS issued the following press release expressing their concerns. Two days later the House Education Appropriations Committee voted to kill a plan that would have allowed local school boards to approve charter schools in their school systems.

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Non-profit Group Wants Lawmakers to Say No to Charter Schools and Citizens to Understand the Drawbacks of Introducing Charter Schools to Alabama

February 8, 2010 — Save Alabama’s Small Schools is urging Alabama lawmakers to say no to allowing charter schools in Alabama after state school board members passed a resolution supporting the idea. The group states that allowing charter schools into Alabama will simply funnel much-needed funds and human resources away from already struggling public schools.

Save Alabama’s Small Schools understands that Alabama lawmakers are working to make the State more competitive for the “Race to the Top Grants” offered by the U.S. Department of Education. The group contends, however, that charter schools are only one of the many ways that Alabama must demonstrate innovation in education in its application for the grant, and, in fact, only 40 points out of 500 will be lost if Alabama does not have charter schools. The grant application must also demonstrate education funding as a priority in the state, a statewide longitudinal data system, and a process for improving teacher and principal effectiveness based on performance among other requirements.

The group holds that Alabama’s public schools could be as effective as the charter schools that are being touted for their successes and points out that all charter schools do not achieve above average success. In fact, many charter schools fail due to mismanagement. “Charter schools will have to face the same issues our public schools face except they can face them with more freedom in hiring, with innovative curricula not allowed in public schools, and with students from outside any one school zone,” points out Save Alabama’s Small Schools' president, Samuel L. Brewer, a retired school administrator. Jackie Posey, the group’s vice president and retired educator, adds, “If our community public schools were allowed the freedom and creativity to operate as charter schools will be, think about what changes we could make in the lives of our children without taking money and teachers away from our current schools.”

Save Alabama’s Small Schools hopes that Alabama citizens will become more informed about the topic of charter schools and contact their legislators asking them to make all our public schools the best that they can be. The group’s opposition falls in line with the opinions of the Alabama Education Association and the Alabama School Board Association.

Save Alabama’s Small Schools is a non-profit, volunteer organization whose mission is to save, improve and advocate for small, rural schools and communities in Alabama. The group is made up of retired and veteran educators and education supporters who believe in the value of small, community schools. You can find Save Alabama’s Small Schools on the web at

Read more from the February 2010 Rural Policy Matters.