Private concerns: Alabama Accountability Act hits another snag
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
May 02, 2013 | 4432 views |  0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The premise behind the tax-credit portion of the Alabama Accountability Act is offering educational alternatives to children stuck in “failing schools.” The imagination conjures up a student whose parents don’t have the money to pull little Johnny out of the bad public school and into a successful private school or non-failing public one. Montgomery’s solution is for Johnny to transfer to a private school that is paid for out of funds from the Accountability Act.

Three administrators from local private schools did serious damage to that notion during a visit to The Star last week.

If the goal is to rescue poor children from bad schools, then it appears the Alabama Accountability Act will almost certainly fail.

Frankly, it’s a shame that lawmakers, including Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, didn’t have a chance to hear the concerns of private school administrators before a vote on the bill was rushed through the state Legislature. Attention should have been paid to educators like Jan Hurd, president of The Donoho School, Robert L. Phillips, headmaster of Faith Christian School, and Charlie Maniscalco, principal of Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic School.

The trio told The Star last week that they didn’t expect to see a rush of students this fall from Anniston City Schools, one of the districts presumed to be on the state’s failing list. For starters, in almost all instances the act’s tax-credit won’t be enough to cover tuition parents would pay.

Of course, the act anticipated this dilemma by establishing scholarship pools to cover the extra costs assumed by needy students. Problem is, the administrators said, most private schools aren’t going to accept those funds.

The reason, they said, is that private schools are worried about the government strings that will almost certainly come attached to those dollars. The administrators told us the state’s major private school associations (as well as Alabama’s Catholic diocese) have advised member schools, in essence, to not touch state dollars.

So, that’s a substantial hole in the stated premise of the law, right? The prototypical child left behind in the Anniston district isn’t likely to go anywhere.

The administrators didn’t completely write off the act. The families with children already in their schools might be helped by receiving the $3,500 tax credit. For the parents struggling to make tuition payments, the act will almost certainly help. We can understand that perspective.

However, the act will likely miss the mark when it comes to poor children enrolled in failing public schools.
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