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Lawmakers, school leaders collaborate before legislative session

Meeting delegates included Sen. Bill Holtzclaw, from left, Rep. Jim Patterson, Rep. Howard Sanderford, Madison Board of Education member Connie Spears, Madison superintendent Dr. Dee Fowler and Madison City Council of PTAs President Sonja Griffith. (CONTRIBUTED)
Meeting delegates included Sen. Bill Holtzclaw, from left, Rep. Jim Patterson, Rep. Howard Sanderford, Madison Board of Education member Connie Spears, Madison superintendent Dr. Dee Fowler and Madison City Council of PTAs President Sonja Griffith. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – Administrators with Madison City and Madison County schools expressed their districts’ needs to area legislators on Jan. 9.

The 2014 legislative session convened during the week of Jan. 13.

Sparkman High School hosted the joint breakfast meeting for the legislators, city and county superintendents Dr. Dee Fowler and David Copeland, their staffs, school board members and PTA representatives.

“It was a healthy exchange. The half-dozen or so local lawmakers listened intently to concerns while sharing budget challenges facing the legislature,” John Peck said. Pecks works as public relations manager for Madison City Schools.

Fowler told legislators he appreciates their willingness to communicate regularly, whether by phone from the Senate floor or in community meetings.

School officials lobbied to award per-pupil allocations more on real-time enrollment instead of in arrears. The current procedures punish fast-growing districts like Madison, which spent $2.5 million in local funds over the last two years, Peck said.

“Current teaching units” were based on previous year enrollments while Madison grew by more than 300 students in each year, Peck said.

To rally widespread legislative support, lawmakers urged local school leaders to band with other mushrooming school systems, like Hoover, Auburn and Shelby County.

School leaders argued that transportation expenses are not covered fully by “Other Current Expenses” funds. Fowler said districts like Madison City, Huntsville and Madison County “do more to support education with local money yet do not get the state funding needed to meet their growth needs.” Lawmakers agreed.

Other educator concerns are choosing technology initiatives that work best for their respective district and securing additional funding for gifted programs, Peck said.

Educators want legislators’ support for Alabama College and Career Ready standards, the state’s version of Common Core. Speaking for the other lawmakers, Sen. Bill Holtzclaw (R-Madison) said they won’t support repeal if state and local school boards — not the federal government — control curriculum and textbooks.

Madison County school leaders asked for legislation to change the county superintendent from an elected to an appointed position.

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