Privatizing public schools: Alabama Accountability Act could create all sorts of problems
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Apr 12, 2013 | 5801 views |  0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Among the supporters of the Alabama Accountability Act is a group called the Black Alliance for Educational Options.

Never heard of it? Soon, you might. The Washington-based organization that seeks to give parents more choice in where their children go to school has an Alabama chapter that has started weighing in on the Accountability Act. The president of the Alabama chapter, Ken Campbell, likes the new law as far as it goes. But he rightly points out that while students in failing public schools in urban areas have a number of private schools to which they can send their children, in rural counties, especially in the Black Belt, that option is not open.

Campbell proposes that the act might be amended to encourage more private schools to open in rural areas.

Some critics of the act have raised the possibility that fly-by-night operations might come in and open for-profit schools that the state will support through the act’s tax credits. However, the law wisely (a word this page has not often associated with the Accountably Act) requires that a private school be regionally accredited and have been in operation for three years in order for parents to receive tax credits.

That would appear to prevent private schools from popping up and operating with state money.

However, what is there to prevent wealthy donors from underwriting those first three years so that private schools can get started and be running when the state money starts coming in?

As best we can tell, nothing.

The Black Alliance has just such donors. Two of its largest contributors are the Walton Foundation and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, both of which have contributed to efforts to privatize public education. We wonder if, and when, Alabama has been added to their agenda?

Interestingly, Campbell is also calling “income restrictions” on who gets tax credits. “People who have money,” he said, “have choice,” so he would favor stopping subsidies to affluent families.

It makes one wonder if the goal of the Black Alliance and its allies is the creation of state subsidized private schools for poor children in areas where public schools are by some standard judged as failing.

It is an interesting idea; however, the end result in many Black Belt counties would be three state-subsidized school systems. There would be the white school private school that came into being when the schools were integrated. There would be the new private school for the less affluent (mostly black) students that would be created under Campbell’s plan. And there would be the public school, if by that time a public school still existed.

It would be a twisted trail to follow, but if it came to pass (a very big “if”) it would accomplish the goal of those who are putting money into the Black Alliance. It would privatize public education.
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