Selma, Dallas County BOEs support Amendment 4

Published 7:08 pm Wednesday, October 22, 2014

With election season among us, each local school system is showing their support for Amendment 4 with board-approved resolutions.

Set to appear on the Nov. 4 general election ballot, the amendment provides local school boards with the same constitutional protection from unfunded state mandates given to other local government entities.

The Dallas County and Selma City School boards made unanimous decisions during their most recent meetings to approve a resolution that announces their support of the legislation.

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“When the state passes a law, they should provide the fund if its going to cost those entities money, or they shouldn’t pass it,” Acting Selma Superintendent of Education Larry DiChiara said during his board’s October meeting. “We’ve been burdened with 100 plus unfunded mandates over the last few years. Every time another piece of legislation passes, we brace ourselves, because we start calculating how much this is going to cost us now.”

Passed in 1998, the legislation originally included school boards as one of the entities to be protected from unfunded mandates, but the final passage was threatened in the Senate with an ultimatum that the bill would die if local boards remained on the bill, according to the Alabama Association of School Boards.

As a result, voters could only provide constitutional protection to counties and cities in Amendment 621 if they voted to approve it in 1999.

Amendment 621 requires lawmakers to pass by a 2/3 vote any legislation that would impose a new or increased expenditure of local funds more than $50,000, extending the same protection to schools, according to the AASB.

Dallas County Superintendent of Education Don Willingham said the resolution the board approved Tuesday gave them a chance to inform the public about legislation they may have known little about beforehand.

“Sometimes those amendments get grouped in, and no one really knows what they are voting for,” Willingham said. “They may vote for a particular person’s name, but they see all that little writing on the side, and they don’t understand too much.”

Willingham said the legislation does nothing more than support an entity that has been excluded for far too long.

“It’s not really controversial. It’s just one of those things that, for some reason, didn’t happen,” Willingham said. “You hate to not get active and show your opinion on it.”