Public education in Alabama
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- 1 State agencies
- 2 Regional comparison
- 3 Demographics
- 4 Academic performance
- 5 Educational choice options
- 6 Education funding and expenditures
- 7 Organizations
- 8 Taxpayer-funded lobbying
- 9 Transparency
- 10 Studies and reports
- 11 Issues
- 12 School districts
- 13 Education ballot measures
- 14 See also
- 15 External links
- 16 Additional reading
- 17 References
List of school districts in Alabama
Public education in Alabama
School board elections portal
The mission statement of the Alabama State Board of Education reads:
|“||To provide a state system of education which is committed to academic excellence and which provides education of the highest quality to all Alabama students, preparing them for the 21st century.||”|
Common Core, or the Common Core State Standards Initiative, is an American education initiative that outlines quantifiable benchmarks in English and mathematics at each grade level from kindergarten through high school. The Alabama Department of Education adopted the standards on November 18, 2010. Full implementation is scheduled to be achieved in the 2014-2015 academic year.
- See also: General comparison table for education statistics in the 50 states
- See also: Education spending per pupil in all 50 states
The following chart shows how Alabama compares to three neighboring states with respect to number of students, schools, the number of teachers per pupil, and the number of administrators per pupil. Further comparisons between these states with respect to performance and financial information are given in other sections of this page.
|State||Schools||Districts||Students||Teachers||Teacher/pupil ratio||Administrator/pupil ratio||Per pupil spending|
| Sources: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), "State Nonfiscal Public Elementary/Secondary Education Survey", 2011-12 v.1a.
National Center for Education Statistics, Table 2. Number of operating public schools and districts, state enrollment, teacher and pupil/teacher ratio by state: School year 2011–12
The following table displays the ethnic distribution of students in Alabama as reported in the Common Core of Data for 2011-2012.
|Demographic information for Alabama's K-12 public school system compared with surrounding states|
|State||American Indian/Alaska Native||Asian/Pacific Islander||Black||Hispanic||White||Hawaiian Nat./Pacific Isl||Other|
|U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), "State Nonfiscal Public Elementary/Secondary Education Survey", 2011-12 v.1a.|
Enrollments by region type
A plurality of students in Alabama attend rural schools. More than 62 percent of the state's students attend rural or town schools, compared to approximately 38 percent who attend city or suburban schools.
|Student distribution by region type, 2011 - 2012 (as percents)|
|State||City schools||Suburban schools||Town schools||Rural Schools|
|Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD) (timed out)|
- See also: NAEP scores by state for a full comparison of all states
The National Center for Education Statistics provides state-by-state data on student achievement levels in mathematics and reading in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Compared to three neighboring states (Tennessee, Georgia, and Mississippi), Alabama'a eighth grade students fared the worst in mathematics, with only 20 percent scoring at or above proficient, according to the NAEP. See the table and chart below for a full comparison.
|Percent of students scoring at or above proficient, 2012-2013|
|Math - Grade 4||Math - Grade 8||Reading - Grade 4||Reading - Grade 8|
|Source: United States Department of Education, ED Data Express, "State Tables," accessed May 13, 2014|
|NAEP assessment data for all students 2012-2013|
Graduation rate and ACT/SAT scores
|Comparison table for graduation rates and test scores*|
|State||Graduation rate, 2012||Average ACT Composite, 2012||Average SAT Composite, 2013|
|Percent||Quintile ranking**||Score||Participation rate||Score||Participation rate|
| *Regulatory Adjusted Cohort Rate (except for Idaho, Kentucky, Oklahoma, which did not report “Regulatory Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate,” but instead used their own method of calculation).|
**Graduation rates for states in the first quintile ranked in the top 20 percent nationally. Similarly, graduation rates for states in the fifth quintile ranked in the bottom 20 percent nationally.
Source: United States Department of Education, ED Data Express
- See also: Public high school dropout rates by state for a full comparison of dropout rates by group in all states
The high school event dropout rate indicates the proportion of students who were enrolled at some time during the school year and were expected to be enrolled in grades 9–12 in the following school year but were not enrolled by October 1 of the following school year. Students who have graduated, transferred to another school, died, moved to another country, or who are out of school due to illness are not considered dropouts. The average public high school event dropout rate for the United States remained constant at 3.3 percent for both SY 2010–11 and SY 2011–12. The event dropout rate for Alabama was lower than the national average at 1.4 percent in the 2010-2011 school year, and 1.4 percent in the 2011-2012 school year.
Educational choice options
- See also: School choice in Alabama
School choice options in Alabama include: tax credits and online learning opportunities. The state is one of only eight that has not enacted charter school legislation. In addition, about 9.87 percent of school age children in the state attended private schools in the 2011-12 academic year, and an estimated 2.67 percent were homeschooled in 2012-13.
On March 14, 2013, Governor Robert Bentley signed into law the Alabama Accountability Act. The bill gives tax credits to parents who wish to transfer their children from a failing public school district to another public or private school. The state legislature, which was controlled by Republicans, passed the bill on February 28, 2014. After signing the bill, Bentley said, "For the first time ever, we're giving all public schools the flexibility they need to better serve their students."
Democrats and teacher advocacy groups contended that bill as passed had undergone significant alterations when it went to a conference committee, "transforming it from a measure allowing flexibility to school districts into a school choice bill." Political reporter Kyle Whitmire, from The Birmingham News, said that some were concerned the legislation could result in a "brain drain, that sort of concentrates your most challenged students in school systems that are already having problems. This could really create problems on both sides, for successful school systems that suddenly might be flooded with students and with failing school systems that already have problems."
On April 2, 2014, Alabama enacted Senate Bill 38, which expressly recognizes home instruction by someone other than a state-certified private tutor as an option for complying with the compulsory attendance requirements and redefines a church school to include either on-site or home programs. The legislation also forbids state higher education institutions from discriminating against home-schooled applicants, and states that nonpublic schools are not subject to licensure or regulation by the state or any of its political subdivisions, including the Alabama Department of Education.
Education funding and expenditures
- See also: Alabama state budget and finances
According to the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO), the state spent approximately 21 percent of its fiscal year 2012 budget on elementary and secondary education. As a share of the budget, this is up 7.2 percentage points, or 52.5 percent, from fiscal year 2008, when the state spent just under 14 percent of its budget on elementary and secondary education.
|Comparison of financial figures for school systems|
|State||Percent of budget (2012)||Per pupil spending (2011)||Revenue sources (2011)|
|Percent federal funds||Percent state funds||Percent local funds|
| Sources: NASBO, "State Expenditure Report," Table 8: Elementary and Secondary Education Expenditures As a Percent of Total Expenditures |
U.S. Census Bureau, "Public Education Finances: 2011,Governments Division Reports," issued May 2013
- See also: Public school system revenues in the U.S. to compare all states.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, public school system revenues totaled approximately $7.4 billion in fiscal year 2011. The table and chart below present further detail, including revenue sources, for Alabama and surrounding states.
|Revenues by source, FY 2011 (amounts in thousands)|
|Federal revenue||State revenue||Local revenue||Total revenue|
|Source: National Center for Education Statistics|
|Public school revenues by source, FY 2011 (as percents)|
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, public school system expenditures totaled approximately $7.4 billion in fiscal year 2011. The table and chart below present further detail, including expenditure types, for Alabama and surrounding states.
|Expenditures by type, FY 2011 (amounts in thousands)|
|Current expenditures||Capital outlay||Other||Total expenditures|
| **Funds spent operating local public schools and local education agencies, including such expenses as salaries for school personnel, student transportation, school books and materials, and energy costs, but excluding capital outlay, interest on school debt, payments to private schools, and payments to public charter schools.|
***Includes payments to state and local governments, payments to private schools, interest on school system indebtedness, and nonelementary-secondary expenditures, such as adult education and community services expenditures.
Source: National Center for Education Statistics
|Public school expenditures, FY 2011 (as percents)|
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average national salary for classroom teachers in public elementary and secondary schools has declined by 1.3 percent from the 1999-2000 school year to the 2012-2013 school year. During the same period in Alabama, the average salary declined by 4.4 percent.
|Estimated average salaries for teachers (in constant dollars**)|
|**"Constant dollars based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI), prepared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, adjusted to a school-year basis. The CPI does not account for differences in inflation rates from state to state."|
The following table details the fiscal year 2014 salary schedule for classroom teachers in Alabama. Salaries listed are the minimums for each pay grade and experience bracket.
|Minimum salary schedule, fiscal year 2014|
|Bachelor's degree||Master's degree||6-year degree||Doctoral degree||Non-degree|
|Less than 3 years||$36,867||$42,395||$45,714||$49,032||$36,867|
|3 - 6||$40,551||$46,634||$50,283||$53,935||$40,551|
|6 - 9||$42,327||$48,675||$52,499||$56,295||$42,327|
|9 - 12||$42,894||$49,329||$53,191||$57,051||$42,894|
|12 - 15||$43,674||$50,223||$54,155||$58,088||$43,674|
|15 - 18||$44,670||$51,371||$55,391||$59,409||$44,670|
|18 - 21||$45,247||$52,032||$56,105||$60,179||$45,247|
|21 - 24||$45,825||$52,699||$56,822||$60,947||$45,825|
|24 - 27||$46,370||$53,245||$57,370||$61,494||$46,370|
|More than 27||$46,917||$53,792||$57,916||$62,040||$46,917|
In 2012 the Fordham Institute and Education Reform Now assessed the power and influence of state teacher unions in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Their rankings were based on 37 different variables in five broad areas, including: resources and membership, involvement in politics, scope of bargaining, state policies and perceived influence. Alabama ranked 20th overall, or "strong," which was in the second of five tiers.
The main union related to the Alabama public school system is the Alabama Education Association (AEA), an affiliate of the National Education Association (NEA). For the 2003 tax period AEA had: $16.0 million in total revenue, $16.2 million in total expenses and $18.1 million in total assets.
List of local Alabama school unions:
- Alabama Education Association
- Birmingham Education Association
- Montgomery County Education Association
- Jefferson County Education Association
- American Federation of Teachers (Birmingham)
- Lawrence County Education Association
- Talladega City Education Association
- See also: Alabama government sector lobbying
The main education government sector lobbying organization is the Alabama School Boards Association.
Alabama Policy Institute (API), a non-profit organization, conducts research on education and transparency throughout the state. In 2007 the group published a piece called, "Alabama's Public Education Funding Dilemma: Does Funding Influence Outcomes?" The article focused on drawing a connection between state funding and education progress. The article analyzed dropout rates, readiness for the workforce and/or college and academic proficiency.
On February 11, 2009, Governor Bob Riley signed an Executive Order to create a state spending database. The order mandated that the site, to be operated by the state Department of Finance, be operational by March 1, 2009. The site can be accessed here.
Studies and reports
State Budget Solutions study
State Budget Solutions examined national trends in education from 2009 to 2011, including state-by-state analysis of education spending, graduation rates, and average ACT scores. The study showed that states that spent the most did not have the highest average ACT test scores, nor did they have the highest average graduation rates. A summary of the study is available here. The full report can be accessed here.
Quality Counts 2014
- See also: Quality Counts 2014 Report
Education Week, a publication that reports on many education issues throughout the country, began using an evaluation system in 1997 to grade each state on various elements of education performance. This system, called Quality Counts, uses official data on performance from each state to generate a report card for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The report card in 2014 used six different categories:
- Chance for success
- K-12 achievement
- Standards, assessments and accountability
- The teaching profession
- School finance
- Transitions and Alignment
Each of these six categories had a number of other elements that received individual scores. Those scores were then averaged and used to determine the final score in each category. Every state received two types of scores for each of the six major categories: A numerical score out of 100 and a letter grade based on that score. Education Week used the score for the first category, "chance for success," as the value for ranking each state and the District of Columbia. The average grade received in the entire country was 77.3, or a C+ average. The country's highest average score was in the category of "standards, assessments and accountability" at 85.3, or a B average. The lowest average score was in "K-12 achievement", at 70.2, or a C- average.
Alabama received a score of 72.0, or a C- average in the "chance for success" category. This was below the national average. The state's highest score was in standards, assessments and accountability at 92.2, or an A- average. This was nine points higher than the national average of 85.3. The lowest score was in K-12 achievement at 62.2, or a D- average. The chart below displays the scores of Alabama and its surrounding states.
Note: Click on a column heading to sort the data.
|Public education report cards, 2014|
|State||Chance for success||K-12 achievement||Standards, assessments and accountability||The teaching profession||School finance||Transitions and Alignment|
|Alabama||72.0 (C-)||62.2 (D-)||92.2 (A-)||74.8 (C)||71.1 (C-)||85.7 (B)|
|Tennessee||73.9 (C)||68.8 (D+)||90.0 (A-)||80.3 (B-)||64.5 (D)||92.9 (A)|
|Georgia||73.9 (C)||70.7 (C-)||91.1 (A-)||79.8 (B-)||71.6 (C-)||100.0 (A)|
|Mississippi||68.9 (D+)||57.1 (F)||92.8 (A)||66.5 (D)||64.9 (D)||75.0 (C)|
|United States Average||77.3 (C+)||70.2 (C-)||85.3 (B)||72.5 (C)||75.5 (C)||81.1 (B-)|
Source: Education Week, "Quality Counts 2014 report cards," accessed February 18, 2015
Starting with the 2013-2014 school year, the Alabama Department of Education replaced the No Child Left Behind Act with Plan 2020, a new way of measuring student achievement in the state. In addition to eliminating the Alabama High School Graduation Exam as the only path to graduation and switching to college and career readiness standards to judge student progress, Plan 2020 set achievement goals meant to close the achievement gap between students from different socioeconomic backgrounds. While the No Child Left Behind Act set the goal of having 100 percent of all students be proficient in math and reading, Plan 2020 set different proficiency goals for students based on subgroups. There are nine subgroups within the plan: American Indian, Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic, black, white, multi-race, English language learners, poverty and special education. Plan 2020 gave each subgroup an improvement goal for each year from its start in 2013 until 2020. Under the plan, all students will be at the same proficiency level by 2020.
Rev. Schmitt Moore, a member of the Tuscaloosa County Board of Education, said it was unfortunate that different groups of people were separated in academic performance but that Plan 2020 set goals for lower-performing subgroups in a fair way, starting with where they were and expecting them to improve from there. Tuscaloosa City Schools Board of Education Member James Minyard agreed with Moore, believing the plan was fair as long as it required every subgroup to reach the end proficiency goal at the same time.
Marvin Lucas, another member of the Tuscaloosa City Schools Board of Education, did not think the plan should set lower expectations for any child. Instead, he thought early intervention should be stressed, such as starting school earlier and working with children who are falling behind during the summer.
Harry Lee, another member of the Tuscaloosa City Schools Board of Education, expressed surprise by Plan 2020's separation of students based on subgroups, as he thought the state should be focused on teaching students all the same.
- See also: School board elections portal
Alabama has two main types of school districts: county school districts and city school districts. There are also a few schools that constitute their own school district, such as the Alabama School of Math & Science, the Alabama School of Fine Arts and the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind.
- See also: List of school districts in Alabama
|Student enrollment, 2011-2012||(ARMT) scores for 8th grade reading, 2011-2012||Per-pupil spending, 2011-2012|
|1.) Mobile County Public Schools||1.) Cullman City Schools||1.) Homewood City School District|
|2.) Jefferson County Schools||2.) Mountain Brook City Schools||2.) Sylacauga City Schools|
|3.) Montgomery Public Schools||3.) Arab City Schools||3.) Tuscaloosa County School System|
|4.) Baldwin County Public Schools||4.) Vestavia Hill City Schools||4.) Coosa County School District|
|5.) Shelby County Schools||5.) Madison City Schools||5.) Auburn City Schools|
|6.) Birmingham City Schools||6.) Winfield City Schools||6.) Vestavia Hills City Schools|
|7.) Huntsville City Schools||7.) Hoover City Schools||7.) Choctaw County School District|
|8.) Madison County Schools||8.) Demopolis City School District||8.) Hoover City Schools|
|9.) Tuscaloosa County School System||9.) Boaz City School District||9.) Mountain Brook City Schools|
|10.) Hoover City Schools||10.) Piedmont City School District||10.) Sheffield City Schools|
School board composition
Alabama school board members are generally elected by residents of the school district, although some school board members are appointed. School boards can have as few as five members or as many as 21. School board members serve four-year or six-year terms, depending on the district.
Alabama does not impose statewide term limits on school board members.
No top enrollment districts in Alabama are scheduled to hold elections in 2015.
Path to the ballot
To qualify as a school board candidate in Alabama, an individual must be:
- At least 18 years of age
- A U.S. citizen
- A registered voter
- A resident of the state for at least one day
- A resident of the school district that the candidate seeks to represent for at least one year prior to the election.
Alabama requires candidates to form campaign committees as soon as they become candidates. This can happen in one of two ways, either when they reach the disclosure threshold of $1,000 or by filing for office with the appropriate election official. Candidates are also required to file a Statement of Economic Interests form when they file as a candidate. Candidates who have not reached the disclosure threshold of $1,000 even after filing for office are not required to file campaign finance reports until they reach the threshold.
Education ballot measures
Ballotpedia has tracked the following statewide ballot measures relating to education.
- Alabama Amendment 1 (2003)
- Alabama Board of Education Expenditure Increase, Amendment 4 (2014)
- Alabama Excellence Initiative Fund, Amendment 1 (September 2003)
- Alabama Macon County Board of Education Elections, Amendment 3 (2006)
- Alabama Popular Election of City Boards of Education, Amendment 3 (1999)
- Alabama Popular Election of City Boards of Education, Amendment 3 (October 1999)
- Alabama School District Property Tax, Amendment 2 (2006)
- Alabama Segregation Reference Ban Amendment, Amendment 4 (2012)
- Alabama Separation of Schools, Amendment 2 (2004)
- Alabama Special County Educational Tax Amendment, Amendment 2 (2010)
- Alabama state budget and finances
- Alabama Department of Education
- List of school districts in Alabama
- Education Policy in the U.S.
- Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE)
- Alabama State Board of Education
- Alabama State Superintendent of Education
- ALSDE Annual Reports
- Alabama School Accountability Reporting System
- Alabama Policy Institute
- Times Daily, "School districts facing dilemma of replacing textbooks," September 1, 2009 (dead link)
- Associated Press, "Alabama Official Expects Another Drop In Ed Budget," August 28, 2009 (dead link)
- National Center for Education Statistics, "Table 2. Number of operating public schools and districts, state enrollment, teacher and pupil/teacher ratio by state: School year 2011–12," accessed March 18, 2014
- ED Data Express, "State Tables Report," accessed March 17, 2014 The site includes this disclaimer: "States converted to an adjusted cohort graduation rate [starting in the 2010-2011 school year], which may or may not be the same as the calculation they used in prior years. Due to the potential differences, caution should be used when comparing graduation rates across states."
- United States Census Bureau, "Public Education Finances: 2011," accessed March 18, 2014
- United States Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, "Common Core of Data (CCD); Table 2.—Number of operating public schools and districts, state enrollment, teacher and pupil/teacher ratio by state: School year 2011-12," accessed May 12, 2014
- Alabama State Department of Education, "Education Directory," accessed May 12, 2014
- Alabama State Board of Education, "Administrative Code: Chapter 290-010-010," accessed May 12, 2014
- Alabama State Department of Education, "Alabama's Education Report Card 2011-2012," accessed May 12, 2014
- Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
- Common Core State Standards Initiative, "Core Standards in your State,” accessed June 12, 2014
- Alabama Education News, "Raising Expectations: Common Core Standards in Alabama," January/February 2011
- United States Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, "Common Core of Data (CCD), State Nonfiscal Public Elementary/Secondary Education Survey, 2011-2012," accessed May 7, 2014
- U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), "State Nonfiscal Public Elementary/Secondary Education Survey", 2011-12 v.1a. accessed May 15, 2014
- National Association of State Budget Officers, "State Expenditure Report, 2011-2013," accessed February 21, 2014
- United States Department of Education, ED Data Express, "State Tables," accessed May 13, 2014
- ACT, "2012 ACT National and State Scores," accessed May 13, 2014
- Commonwealth Foundation, "SAT Scores by State 2013," October 10, 2013
- United States Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, "Common Core of Data (CCD), State Dropout and Graduation Rate Data File, School Year 2010-11, Provision Version 1a and School Year 2011-12, Preliminary Version 1a," accessed May 13, 2014
- NPR.org, "Alabama's Governor Signs Education Bill Allowing School Choice," March 14, 2013
- Home School Legal Defense Association, "New Law Recognizes Home Instruction," accessed May 22, 2104
- National Association of State Budget Officers, "State Expenditure Report, 2009-2011," accessed February 24, 2014
- National Association of State Budget Officers, "State Expenditures Report, 2010-2012," accessed February 24, 2014
- National Association of State Budget Officers, "State Expenditure Report, 2009," accessed February 24, 2014
- National Association of State Budget Officers, "State Expenditure Report, 2008," accessed February 24, 2014
- United States Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, "Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary School Districts: School Year 2010–11," accessed May 13, 2014
- Maciver Institute, "REPORT: How much are teachers really paid?," accessed October 29, 2014
- United States Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, "Table 211.60. Estimated average annual salary of teachers in public elementary and secondary schools, by state: Selected years, 1969-70 through 2012-13," accessed May 13, 2014
- Alabama State Department of Education, "State Minimum Salary Schedule - Classroom Teachers," accessed May 12, 2014
- Thomas E Fordham Institute, " How Strong Are U.S. Teacher Unions? A State-By-State Comparison," October 29, 2012
- Center for Union Facts, "Alabama Education Association," accessed September 2, 2009
- Center for Union Facts, "Alabama teachers unions," accessed September 2, 2009 (dead link)
- AL.com, "Ala. governor signs order on state spending," February 11, 2009
- Education Week "Quality Counts 2014 report cards," accessed February 19, 2015
- Tuscaloosa News, "Plan 2020 brings praise, criticism," July 3, 2013
- Cullman Times, "Education Revolution: How Plan 2020 Could Reshape Education in Alabama," December 9, 2012
- Alabama Association of School Boards, "Members: School Boards," accessed July 7, 2014
- Homesurfer, "School District Ranking Report," accessed August 9, 2013
- Alabama School Connection, "ARMT 2011-2012 Test Result Rankings – 8th Grade Reading," accessed July 7, 2014
- Alabama Secretary of State, "Minimum Qualifications for Public Office," accessed July 7, 2014
- Alabama Secretary of State, "Candidate Filing Guide Twelfth Edition," accessed July 7, 2014
State of Alabama
|State executive officers||
Governor | Attorney General | Secretary of State | Treasurer| Auditor| Superintendent of Education| Commissioner of Insurance| Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries| Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries| Commissioner of Labor| Public Service Commission|