LAMAR COUNTY, Ala. (WCBI) – Every parent wants the best possible education for their child. But not every family has enough money to leave a failing school in favor of a private institution. Last week, a bill moved through both houses of the Alabama legislature to make that move affordable, but it could come at the expense of public education.
The Alabama legislature wants to give tax credits to parents who leave failing public schools and enroll their children in private schools. Some public school officials are worried that this will cut into an already tight budget.
Lamar County Superintendent Garth Moss says the bill made its way through both state houses without a full discussion of what it contained.
“The legislature chose to go the backdoor route to push this HB-84 (bill) through which we feel is going to have a tremendous impact on education. Not necessarily all in a positive way, but some in a negative way as far as funding,” says Moss.
Governor Robert Bentley was expected to sign the bill into law Tuesday, but the Alabama Education Association filed a lawsuit late Monday night, and a Montgomery Circuit Judge has put the whole process on hold.
Moss says there are two important factors that could be detrimental to public education.
“Two major impacts that I think we’re going to feel, #1 will be the tax credit issue that will go to anybody that is in enrolled in a private school as well as transfers out of district. All of these funds will come out of the Education Trust fund which is already under-funded as it is. So that’s going to be the #1 issue. Then our 2nd issue is going to be transportation. If we have to offer transportation then that’s going to add an extended burden on our transportation system already. Once again, it’s not totally funded by our state so we’ll have to pick that up locally in order to meet the provisions of the new law,” says Moss.
Public school educators are also worried about their job security if students transfer to private schools.
“That’s the thing with the law. We don’t know the total impact that it’s going to have. Everything is just speculation right now and of course we don’t have a budget yet,” says Moss.
The bill defines failing schools as those ranking in the bottom 10 percent on statewide reading and math assessment scores.
The new Alabama tax credit bill would provide a scholarship program for parents who can’t afford to make the switch. We’ll keep a close eye on the process.