Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said Thursday the families of children trapped in failing schools need the option of school choice now.
"We've worked too hard between both chambers of this Legislature to make school choice a reality and I refuse to kick the can down the road," he said.
The Republican majority in the Legislature passed the Alabama Accountability Act on Feb. 28, and Republican Gov. Robert Bentley signed it into law. Marsh was the chief designer of one part of the law that provides an annual tax break of about $3,500 for families who send a child to private school rather than a public school rated as failing.
Bentley announced Wednesday that he will ask the Legislature on its final meeting day Monday to pass his proposal delaying the tax breaks until 2015. He said that would give failing schools time to try to improve and would give the state time to pay back a $423 million debt before the tax breaks reduce state tax receipts by $40 million to $65 million annually. The debt is due in 2015.
Marsh said he will either try to get the Legislature to vote to reject the governor's proposal or never bring it up for a vote. Either way, the tax credits would take effect when school starts in August.
"We only have one constituency when it comes to education in Alabama, and that's the children. For too long, students in failing schools have been stuck with the status quo and denied opportunities they deserve," he said.
The governor's press secretary, Jennifer Ardis, said Bentley has received positive feedback from legislators and the public about a delay.
"We must pay back the Rainy Day Fund by 2015 and the governor's executive amendment allows us time to pay back the money while giving failing schools the flexibility to improve," she said Thursday.
Marsh said cost-saving measures enacted by the Legislature will allow the state to repay the $423 million on time while beginning the tax breaks this summer.