Alabama Charter Schools Group Awarded $25 Million Federal Grant

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Morri Mordecai teaches in the first year of University Charter School in Sumter County.
Morri Mordecai teaches in the first year of University Charter School in Sumter County.

Sherrel Wheeler Stewart,WBHM

The U.S. Department of Education announced a $25 million grant today to support charter schools in Alabama.  The money will go to New Schools for Alabama, an organization that encourages the growth of charter schools.

Since the state legislature approved the establishment of charter schools in 2015, three have opened.

Tyler Barnett, executive director of New Schools for Alabama, told WBHM in an earlier interview the money will help fund 15 schools. He says the group will focus on serving educationally disadvantaged students.

“I think charter schools give us an opportunity to create a new system for kids who are mired in perpetually failing systems,” he says.

Birmingham’s first charter school – Legacy Prep – opened earlier this month. Earlier this week, organizers of the city’s second charter school – I-3 Academy, broke ground on its building in Woodlawn.

Richard Franklin, with the Birmingham chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, says federal dollars could be better spent on supporting academics and other students needs in traditional public schools.

Alabama does not adequately fund its traditional schools, and parents too often have to supply basic school needs like tissue and paper towels, he says.

Franklin also takes issue with charter schools’ emphasis on choice. He says students in Birmingham-area schools already have a full range of choices for academics, International Baccalaureate programs, the arts and vocations.