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Alabama Lawmakers Reject Gov. Riley's Charter School Bid

The lure of Race to the Top money was enough to compel lawmakers in some states to rewrite old--and create new--education laws to give themselves a competitive edge in the contest for $4 billion. Legislators in Illinois and Tennessee, for example, revamped laws to make their states more charter school-friendly.

But in Alabama, the potential to win $180 million in RTTT grants has so far failed to move lawmakers to approve legislation that would establish charter schools.

Yesterday, a House education committee effectively killed the measure that Gov. Bob Riley, a Republican, has been pushing. Mr. Riley couldn't even round up all the Republican members of that panel to vote for it.

Alabama's shunning of the charter legislation reminded me to look at the other hold-out states to see if the appeal of RTTT cash was changing their minds.

In fact, none of the 11 states that currently prohibit charter schools has acted yet to allow them, although Mississippi might be getting close. States with charter-friendly laws can earn up to 40 points out of a total of 500 in the RTTT scoring rubric. Of course, six of the non-charter states, including Mississippi, didn't even bother to apply for Round One of RTTT.

Gov. Riley met last week with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and is counting on the nation's schools chief to make a more persuasive case when he travels next month to Alabama for a previously scheduled event. But Mr. Duncan, in an interview with the Birmingham News, may have undercut the governor's argument that allowing charter schools is key to a competitive RTTT application.

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