Lesson in legislating
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Jan 22, 2013 | 2500 views |  0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley
A year ago, Gov. Robert Bentley and many Republican leaders in the state Legislature were promoting passage of a bill to create charter schools.

Charter schools allow organizations an opportunity to reach students through alternative methods of education with public money. Twelve months ago, creating charter schools in Alabama looked like low-hanging fruit for several reasons.

• The majority of states have some form of charter schools, which became fashionable about 20 years ago.

• The lessons for creating a system that works are well-established. Plenty of scholarship exists for best and worst practices.

• The Alabama Education Association, which theoretically was the idea’s biggest opponent, appeared to be in a weakened position since Republicans gained majorities in the state House and Senate in 2010.

By the end of the 2012 session, however, charter school legislation was dead-on-arrival. Hardly anyone wanted to claim the body. Bentley washed his hands of the whole exercise. In June, he said, “There was just very little support for the charter school bill, including among Republicans,” adding, “I don’t think it will do much better next year.”

Though Republican legislators have put some form of public school reform on their 2013 agenda, charters don’t appear a high priority. What a reversal from 2012.

There’s also a lesson in legislating that goes beyond the notion of Alabama charter schools, which this page still supports if their creation can be accomplished with the proper oversight and safeguards.

History shows us that regardless of the policy, turning a bill into a law frequently takes more than one speech, one draft of the legislation or one Statehouse session. This week’s Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday was more than a dozen years in the making. The creation of state-supported kindergarten in Mississippi 30 years ago took repeated efforts by then-Gov. William Winter. Closer to home, passage of toughened ethics rules for Alabama lawmakers was years in the making.

And on and on the examples go.

The point is that creating policy requires flexibility, salesmanship and persistence. Fail one year, then come back the next with a revised bill, a plan to reach out to constituents and more information to make your case. Shrugging after the first disappointment and dropping the matter like a hot potato is no way to govern.
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