Gov. Kay Ivey is starting a campaign to remake the Alabama Board of Education, but the final decision will rest with voters in 2020.
Ivey on Monday urged voters to approve a proposal to abolish the elected state school board and replace it with an appointed commission.
The governor said she is urging every Alabamian to support the constitutional amendment, which will go before voters next year. Her office called the effort the “Take the Lead, Alabama” initiative, saying it “will shake up how we do things in our state to improve educational outcomes for students in every region.”
“As a former teacher, I recognize that strong leadership and a strong plan are necessary components to improving our education system,” Ivey said in a statement.
The Legislature passed the measure, which will go before voters on March 3.
While lawmakers gave a strong push to support Ivey’s plan, some critics are concerned about voters not being able to select state school board members. However, Alabama is one of the few states remaining with elected state school boards.
“It will come down to a vote of the people. I know the governor has been concerned about making progress in education, and looking at what other states have done successfully by having people with the background and knowledge in education in those positions seems to have made a difference,” said state Sen. Garlan Gudger, R-Cullman.
Gudger said Alabama has areas that perform well in education, while others continue to slide downward.
“A few years ago, money was put into a reading program, which the state school board said was needed, but there were no results,” Gudger said. “We need the right people in the right places. There’s no sense in Alabama being at the bottom or near the bottom in education.”
Cullman County School Superintendent Shane Barnette said he is cautious in what to expect, he also said struggles continue in public education that need to be addressed.
Barnette said he supports the efforts and abilities of state Superintendent of Eduction Eric Mackey, who only started 14 months ago.
“I really believe in our state superintendent,” Barnette said. “I think he has the best interest of students at heart. I also think he have a strong representative for our district on the school board in Dr. Cynthia McCarty. She has the background and I think has been working hard. I know there needs to be changes made for the benefit of our students, but I have been pleased with Dr. Mackey and Dr. McCarty.”
Under the governor’s plan, education commission members would serve six-year staggered terms.
The proposal says the governor “shall ensure” that the commission membership reflects the geographical, gender, and racial diversity of the public school enrollment. Ivey on Monday signed related legislation that says the governor must consult with minority legislative caucuses when appointing minority commission members.
According to the National Association of State Boards of Education, as of last year Alabama was one of seven states with an elected board. Another state has a board that is partially elected and partially appointed.
The proposal before voters also includes a directive for the new commission to set new study standards to replace Common Core curriculum standards.
Common Core is a set of standards delineating what benchmarks students must reach in math and English at the completion of each grade level.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.