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2015 April 19 - 11:49 am

Ala. Senate Votes To Create Board To Oversee Community Colleges

State School Board Unanimously Approves Resolution in Opposition

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Alabama Senate voted to create a new appointed board to oversee the state’s two-year college system.

The proposal would take control of the state’s communitycollege system away from the elected state school board and put it in the hands of a new board appointed by the governor. Members of the board would have to be approved by the state Senate, similar to university trustees.

The state school board opposes the change, which senators linked to an effort to improve workforce readiness by students enrolled in the two-year college system.

“We are trying to get people ready to go to work to be able to earn a living, and in a lot of cases the schools are not as effective as they need to be in dealing with this preparation,” said Republican Sen. Trip Pittman.

Pittman said the two-year college system would be better served by a board focused exclusively on its needs, to ensure “the resources are there to get the students ready for the jobs that are there.”

State school board members last week unanimously approved a resolution opposing the change.

“It places unprecedented power in the hands of one individual, the governor,” school board member Stephanie Bell said. “I think it is a step in the wrong direction. It means more bureaucracy and less representation.” The community college system consists of more than 25 institutions scattered across the state.

Senators passed the bill 27-5. It now moves to the Alabama House of Representatives.

Opposed lawmakers said the two-year college system should be controlled by an elected board.

“I think the people of the state of Alabama should choose them,” said Sen. Bobby Singleton, a Democrat.

The Senate approved an amendment proposed by Singleton that would prohibit the governor from choosing campaign donors as board members.

Singleton said he was also concerned all of the emphasis on job training and workforce development would cause academics to “get lost in the shuffle.”

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said academics are important, but the system had veered some from its core function.

“I think you have to ask yourself what’s the mission of the postsecondary system. I think the mission originally was workforce development,” he said.

Prior to passing the bill, senators held a lengthy debate over whether the appointed board would inject more, or less, politics into the two-year college system.

“They will want their buddy as president. They are going to pull that current president out. That is what is getting ready to happen,” said Democratic Sen. Rodger Smitherman.

“That’s probably happened once or twice with an elected board too, don’t you think?” Pittman responded.

Also from KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press

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