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SPLC Policy Brief Urges Equity, Access, and Accountability in Alabama Charter Schools

MONTOGMERY, Ala. – A report by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) released today outlines recommendations to strengthen Alabama’s charter school law. 

The report defines public charter schools and describes how they operate in Alabama under state law. The recommendations are provided to ensure that all Alabama charter schools meet standards for equity, access, and accountability, the report states. 

“Efforts to expand charter schools in Alabama are currently experiencing some bumps as a result of poor planning and management,” said Michael Tafelski, SPLC senior supervising attorney. “These issues erode public trust and undermine an already struggling public school system. If charter schools are going to take public money to operate new schools, it is the responsibility of government to ensure that their operations are consistent with the principles we outline in this brief and do not harm existing public schools.” 

Passed in 2015, the Alabama School Choice and Student Opportunity Act allows private operators to establish and manage start-up and conversion charter schools that are funded by tax dollars. Charter schools have drawn sharp criticism from local community members who want to ensure valuable public funds first go to fully resourcing existing public schools to be successful and thriving.

Charter schools can be authorized by the Alabama Public Charter School Commission, which consists of 11 appointed members, or a local school board. 

The report’s recommendations include requiring local elected school boards, not appointed state officials, serve as authorizers for all charter schools. It also states that charter schools in the state should provide a net benefit to local school districts to justify their use of tax dollars. The application and approval process should also be transparent and involve community input, according to the report. 

Other recommendations include requiring the approval of high-quality charter schools that are inclusive of all students and employ evidence-based practices and sound instructional strategies that ensure positive student outcomes. 

A copy of the report can be viewed at: https://www.splcenter.org/20200205/alabama-charter-schools-principles-ensuring-equity-and-access.