In Alabama, church schools — because of religious freedom concerns — are exempted from most government regulations that other schools in the state face.
But new legislation being debated in the state House and Senate in Montgomery would have the effect of more government control of church-based K-12 education.
The goal of the Educational Opportunities Act, according to bill text in the House and Senate, is to “clarify the autonomy of nonpublic schools, including church, parochial, and private schools offering instruction in grades K-12.”
But it would require these schools to register with the state and provide a directory of all students, among other new regulations.
The new changes have sparked protests. One vocal critic in Alabama, Stephanie Smith, told The Daily Caller that the legislation would have the effect of restricting “the religious freedom of tens of thousands of families.”
“So every church would be registering their ministry with the state,” Smith said of these church schools. “What?”
According to HomeSchool-Life.com, church schools in Alabama “are exempt from all state accreditation, teacher certification, and regulatory requirements. The only requirement is that the parent must submit a church school enrollment form to the local school district office indicating the church school in which the student is enrolled.”
The legislation defines a church school as being “operated as a ministry of a local church, group of churches, denomination, and/or association of churches which do not receive any state or federal funding.”
Under the proposed law, church schools would be required to provide the State
Superintendent of Education a directory information of the school and proof of compliance with the Child Protection Act of 1999 and the Alabama compulsory attendance laws. It also states that a church school cannot “operate within this state unless the school has first identified with the department.”
Lawmakers involved with the bill say, however, that parts of it are likely to change by the time it comes up for a vote.
“The intent of the bill and many amendments changed the bill so much that there will be a substitute bill sent to us this weekend,” state Rep. Terri Collins, a Republican, said in an email to TheDC.